In fact, volunteering can be a great way to develop skills, learn more about career options, make friends, garner new professional contacts, get exercise, spend time outdoors/with animals/with kids, or even just shake up your routine.
Yet volunteers rarely speak of the benefits of volunteering to themselves — maybe it feels a bit too self-centered, or too far from the altruistic vision of the selfless volunteer.
But who says that doing good and enjoying yourself while meeting your own personal/professional goals can't happen at the same time?
Part of finding the right volunteer opportunity is being honest about what you hope to learn and accomplish.
If in the process of meeting your personal and professional goals, you are also serving as an effective volunteer, helping to meet the goals of your particular volunteer project or role, and/or helping to move an organization's mission forward, it's a win-win situation.
With that in mind, here are some of the personal and professional benefits one can gain from volunteering:
Always wanted to learn about sustainability and conservation methods? Have experience creating podcasts and would like to try using them as an advocacy tool for a nonprofit? Volunteering helps you learn new skills, keep skills sharp, or use existing skills in new ways.
Regardless of your age or career level, volunteering will introduce you to new professional paths.
Volunteering can be an excellent way to learn more about a particular role or sector (particularly if you are |coming from a for-profit job and hoping to switch to nonprofit or government), workplace or office culture, or cause.
Also, never underestimate the power of networking; volunteering offers the opportunity to cross paths—as well as, in many cases, quickly bond—with people from across your community, including many with whom you may otherwise not have had contact.
Lifelong learning includes hands-on experiences as a volunteer which can teach you about issues ranging from adult literacy to public health to animal welfare.
Need a break from your day-to-day life? Recharge by walking dogs, playing basketball with kids, or taking tickets at a film festival. Need to work off some stress? Consider some of the more labor-intensive roles like helping to remove invasive species or chopping out non-native trees and bushes.
Lastly, don't forget that sometimes it just feels good to be valued; as a volunteer you can contribute unique skills, experiences, and perspectives. For example, you might be great at using online sites like MySpace and Facebook.
Many organizations are looking to branch out into social networking to help connect with new audiences; as a volunteer, you can be the in-house expert to get them started.
In addition to professional networking, volunteering can be a fun, meaningful way to make new friends. New to the community? Looking to branch out socially? Simply looking for something to do with new people? Volunteer and get to know others who care about the same issues that you do.
Last but most certainly not least, volunteering is one of the best ways we know of to make a difference in your community. Whatever your passion, however you get involved, volunteering offers a way to have a real and lasting impact on the world.
Interested in learning more about the benefits of volunteering? Check out these links: