Established in 1974, National Volunteer Week is about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to give back. It’s about working together to take action, encouraging individuals and their communities to be a catalyst for social change. This week (April 15 – April 21, 2012) is a time to celebrate volunteers and share ideas, practices, and stories – wherever they happen – that help shape social impact!
Volunteering is more than just a great way to help out in the community. Here we’ve outlined six benefits of volunteering that are sure to get you pumped about giving back!
1.) It can help you professionally. Volunteering improves your chances of nabbing a great job! Organizations want to hire people who can help them inspire a culture of giving back. In an article published by World Volunteer Web, a survey from TimeBank showed that 73% of employers will recruit someone with volunteer experience over someone who doesn’t have any. Taking time to volunteer shows companies you are a person of initiative that spends your time caring for others & improving the community.
2.) Internal satisfaction. By helping build a home for a family stricken by poverty, serving free lunch in a soup kitchen, or running a community event, you trigger a pleasure center in your brain called the mesolimbic reward pathway, the same pathway triggered when you have sex or eat food. Essentially, you generate feelings of pleasure & self-accomplishment which scientists call the “helpers high.” It’s pleasurable to know your existence in life has made a difference in someone else’s life.
3.) Become a better communicator. In a report published by the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy, 79% of respondents said volunteering helped them develop better interpersonal skills. Communication skills are essential to success in almost every aspect of life, so whether your goal is to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or to simply have more enjoyable interactions with family members, volunteering can help you get there. The benefit of excellent interpersonal skills to one’s life goes beyond measure, so of all the advantages of volunteering this may be the greatest.
4.) Boost your social life & form new meaningful connections. Meeting others in a service-based environment helps you connect more comfortably than in casual day-to-day interactions. It’s a great way to meet community leaders and new people who share your values and interests. In this light, local volunteerism is sure to expand your social network, which can lead to professional and social opportunities alike. We’ve all had the next-door-neighbor crush, but not all of us can say we scored a date with that mysterious hottie. So trust us: when you’re both wearing hairnets at the soup kitchen or sweating buckets at the river cleanup in mid-July, all those walls of shyness come crashing down. Regardless of potential love connections, working with fellow volunteers – people who, like you, are giving their time to make a difference they care about – guarantees that whatever connections you make are sure to be positive, strong, and unquestionably rewarding.
5.) Develop new skills. If you decide to volunteer with an organization where the majority of tasks have nothing to do with your college degree or prior experience, like Habitat for Humanity – flooring and putting up drywall come to mind – you learn skills beyond those picked up at work or in school. Just don’t be surprised by dropped jaws when you bust out your new skills at home or in the office. Mom and Dad might have known you were tutoring English to foreign student, but they might not realize you’ve become fluent in Spanish until you start chatting up the locals on your family vacation to Mexico.
6.) Discover passions you never knew you had. Imagine you volunteer to teach a Sunday school class. After several weeks, you realize teaching children isn’t just a way to give back – it’s something you love to do! Others may see this and comment on how well you work as a teacher. The experience could lead you to discover a new passion and, hopefully in this case, a career doing something you truly enjoy. Finding hidden passions & talent gives you the confidence to take on new challenges and may alter the course of your life in a deeply positive way.
So as you look out at the world around you this National Volunteer week – and in the future – when you see the opportunity to help others, remember you will likely find an experience that enriches you and the population you’re serving in more ways than one.
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