by Sarah Wilkinson, Class of ’17
Thanks to LEAD, it’s likely that you’re no stranger to being a volunteer. There’s a reason it’s a LEAD requirement, you know (and it’s not just to annoy you, we promise!). There’s actually a lot of reasons why volunteering is good in general and good specifically for your career.
General reasons to volunteer:
- It helps your community. You may be lucky enough to not need help raking your leafs or to feed your family, but others aren’t. The difference cooking dinner at a soup kitchen or cleaning up the city can make in someone’s life is more than you can possibly quantify. If your community didn’t have volunteer programs, there would be no one to run the social programs, and that means those most in need would suffer the most.
- Find a purpose. It’s happened before and it will happen again: someone volunteers for the first time and realize as they’re making a difference that it’s what they want to do with their lives. Even if volunteering doesn’t give you that epiphany, it can still show you what you believe in, what you find important, and you might even learn that you like helping people. Any insight about yourself you can get while you’re young is important; why else would people tell you to try new things?
- Feel involved. It’s not just coincidence. People who are more involved in the community feel more involved, which contributes to a feeling of a belonging. College students, moving away from home and living in a new house each year or semester, are particularly susceptible to feeling out of place. What if your homesickness or feelings of disbelonging could be calmed with some simple, regular volunteer work? You could find your tribe of “like” people in those who also enjoy volunteering.
The list of reasons to volunteer goes on and on: explore new areas of interest, expand your horizons, impress your mom, feel better about yourself. But the benefits of volunteering go beyond even all of these reasons. In fact, volunteering could help you get a job.
- Meet new networking contacts. Any activity that puts you into contact with new people could potentially introduce you to valuable networking contacts. If you like volunteering, then you and this group of new people most likely have that in common, and having something in common is a great way to connect with someone. Keep in touch with people you meet along the way, especially if you think they could prove to be a valuable contact down the road.
- Gain new skills. If you’ve never had a job especially, volunteering can give you skills and experience to list on your resume. Even if you’ve had a job before, maybe you’ve never had to go door to door to ask for donations before or some other task that teaches you something new (like in this case, how to ask people for money). Any skill learned is valuable; never say no to learning a new one.
- You will seem more approachable. When you list volunteer work on your resume, it immediately gives hiring managers a picture of you as a good person, someone willing to donate their time and efforts and most likely invested in the goodwill of others. People like to be around people who will make them strive to be better themselves, and your volunteering will draw people to you.
- Get a full-time job. Volunteering can lead to full-time work in a number of ways. You could meet someone who works at the company you want to work for, and they may refer you or give you insider tips. You may fall in love with non-profits and volunteer so often with the same organization that eventually, they’re interested in hiring you. Or maybe volunteering will just show you what kind of work you want to be doing and lead you on that path. Maybe having “volunteering” listed on your resume could be what gives you an edge over another candidate.
Have I convinced you yet? Volunteering is well worth your time and effort, if only to help others and positively contribute to your community. And if that’s not enough, luckily there are a lot of personal and career benefits as well.