Adulthood sure comes with its fair share of stressors: job loss, financial instability, health concerns and interpersonal difficulties, to name a few. This has some of us feeling like we’re perpetually one bad hair day away from experiencing a nervous breakdown.
However, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation suggests an easy way we can boost our overall happiness and combat stress. You guessed it: by treating others kindly.
Though small acts of selflessness here and there are a great way to get started, adding them to our routine in the form of regular community service or volunteering can be impactful.
In this article, we’ll look at the ways in which volunteering can make our lives healthier and more fulfilling, both on a personal and a professional level. Without further ado, here are the top 15 benefits of volunteering!
1. You work in a field that interests you
“Can’t get a job without experience; can’t get experience without a job”.
If you’ve been using social media for a while, you’ve probably seen dozens of memes inspired by this infamous vicious cycle. A good solution to this problem is to gain work experience through volunteerism.
If you’re unsure where to start, there are thankfully countless opportunities listed online. Thanks to the internet, volunteering from your home is also possible, so distances are no longer a forbidding factor.
2. You acquire new skills
Volunteering is an excellent way to acquire time management, problem-solving and social skills. The latter is an umbrella term that encompasses abilities like communication, leadership and teamwork, which are highly desired by employers in all industries.
For students and recent graduates especially, building a strong set of skills before officially entering the job market is a great idea.
3. You combat stress and depression
That’s right: volunteer work can reduce stress and anxiety, boosting overall happiness. That’s because, during rewarding experiences, the brain releases “happy” chemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin. The more accomplished you feel, and the more connected to those around you, the higher the levels of these mood-boosting hormones in your system.
If your day job makes you stressed, a volunteer activity in the evenings or weekends can take the edge off and help you regain your balance.
If you suspect you may have depression, seek immediate professional help.
4. You develop a job search strategy
When you’re fresh out of high school or college, you’re more prone to making mistakes in your job search. These can include applying to positions that don’t suit your skillset, forgetting to tailor your résumé to your target position, or showing up to the interview unprepared.
As finding and landing a volunteer position will require some research on your part, sending in an application and potentially attending an interview, it can benefit your approach to job hunting in general.
5. You become more employable
Besides allowing you to strengthen existing skills and develop new ones, your volunteer experience can tell your prospective employers a bit about your personality, too.
Adding volunteer work to your résumé shows hiring managers that you’re a driven individual who is able to take initiative, make commitments and work well in a team.
6. You broaden your network
Volunteering is a great way to meet new people who share common interests with you. Besides allowing you to make new friends, it strengthens existing relationships, too, both of which are beneficial when it comes to networking.
Expanding your network through volunteering can lead to some exciting opportunities in the future. The people you meet this way hold similar values as you, so they’re more likely to remember you than someone who’s met you in an impersonal setting.
7. You get new references
As references can be used by hiring managers to assess your credibility, work ethic and performance, you’ll want to pick people who really know you.
Thankfully, volunteerism can highlight the best parts of you: your caring, team-playing, hard-working sides. So, the more connections you form through your volunteer work, the more choices you’ll have when asking for references for work.
8. You learn more about yourself
Hands-on experience can help you see yourself in a new light. You find out what type of work motivates you and what disinterests you; what things you’re good at and what skills you could improve on.
Dedicating your time and effort to a cause can also help you find joy and a sense of purpose in the most unexpected of places. And the more you understand yourself, the more focused your job search can become.
9. You become more confident
When the work you do gives you satisfaction and has a visible impact on those around you, you feel good about yourself. And when you’re feeling good, you’re less likely to limit yourself — you may start setting goals and chasing dreams you otherwise wouldn’t have.
As volunteering can also equip you with a new set of technical and interpersonal skills, you end up with a renewed sense of faith in your abilities.
10. You strengthen existing skills
Time management, problem-solving, computer skills, communication… No matter what kind of volunteer opportunity you go after, you’re bound to get to practice some of your existing skills. The more demonstrable experience you acquire, the more chances you’ll have for landing your dream job in the future.
Even if the field you’re volunteering in is different to the industry you’d like to work in, many skills are transferable and no work experience is ever wasted.
11. You improve your physical health
Did you know that volunteering offers multiple health benefits? That’s because it requires us to get out more, walk more, and do selfless work, which reduces our stress levels. As a result, volunteering can lower blood pressure and protect against heart disease, improving mortality rates in older adults.
In a society that keeps getting collectively more stressed, volunteering can provide a solution to those who want to take better care of themselves and those around them.
12. You gain perspective
Selfless community service can teach us humility, empathy and gratitude, all of which are characteristics of emotional maturity. They’re also some of the personal qualities that hiring managers keep an eye out for.
The reason for this is because gaining a healthy sense of perspective can make you more tolerant to different views and less prone to passing judgment, minimizing workplace conflict and improving teamwork.
13. You step outside your comfort zone
Volunteering might require you to do things you’ve never done before, such as public speaking, traveling to new locations and interacting with strangers. While some of these things may come easy, you may find other ones intimidating — and that’s a good thing!
Doing things that make you uncomfortable can teach you self-reliance and boost your confidence, which is vital for career advancement. Time to negotiate a raise, anyone?
14. You become more positive
Humankind’s survival relied on community for thousands of years — that’s why our wellbeing is closely tied to feelings of belonging. It’s only logical then that we feel good when we join groups of people who strive to make a difference!
When a happier side of us surfaces, it can often act as a shield against unpleasant situations, regardless our surroundings. So, if you’ve been looking for an “antidote” to your gossiping coworkers and mean boss, this may be it.
15. You make a real difference
Have you ever heard of the term “bullsh*t jobs”, coined by anthropologist David Graeber? Even if you haven’t, statistically, it’s likely that you consider your own job to be a “bullsh*t” one, or fairly meaningless.
If changing careers isn’t an option for you right now, you can make a real impact in your own time through volunteering. This can have a positive impact on how you feel about your day job and give you some much-needed motivation.
As we’ve seen, the benefits of community service are numerous, both in our personal and professional lives. When you spend time helping others, you activate the reward pathways in the brain that are responsible for feelings of euphoria.
Unlike instant gratification, which is the kind of short-lived pleasure you get from watching cat videos, volunteering offers a genuine sense of joy that’s sustainable in the long run. The more you do it, the stronger it gets!
Have you ever done volunteer work before? Let us know what your experience was like in the comments section.
Originally published on April 4, 2017.