Volunteering has long been touted as a great way to “give back” and make a positive contribution to the world. And while all that is true, numerous studies have shown that people who do volunteer work for 2 or more hours per week have lower rates of depression and heart disease, live happier more fulfilled lives, have greater self-esteem and greater function ability, especially for older adults.
And as if all of that isn’t enough, volunteering can also boost your resume and your job search. Here are some specific ways and whys that volunteering can help you.
- For those who are unemployed or retired either by choice or circumstances, volunteering can give you a sense of purpose. It can give structure to your day/week and a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
- When you focus on helping others, you are less likely to focus on your own troubles. And if your volunteer work happens to be with people who are ill, disabled or underprivileged, it can put challenges in your own life in perspective.
- You can build a great support system through volunteering. Studies have shown that staying socially connected is related to good physical and emotional health, especially for senior citizens.
- Volunteer activities can even provide respite by getting you out of the house and helping to break a monotonous or uninspired routine.
- Volunteering is a great way to hone business/professional skills you already have and to learn new ones. This can be especially beneficial if you are new in a profession or if you want to learn new skills. For example, you might ask to work on fundraising, writing, or computer projects if you want to expand or showcase those skills.
- If you’re currently unemployed, volunteering is a great way to gain recent relevant experience, make professional contacts, and beef up your resume.
- Working with others through volunteering can improve your communication, conflict management, and leadership skills.
- Volunteering is a way to get your foot in the door somewhere you’d like to work. And volunteering often leads to paid employment.
Where and How to Find Opportunities
- Consider volunteer opportunities at: Local libraries, schools, senior centers, soup kitchens, hospitals and nursing homes, animal shelters, hospice agencies, centers/schools for kids and adults with developmental disabilities, a museum or music hall, and the American Red Cross, just to name a few. Contact any agency, entity, or establishment that holds interest for you and inquire about volunteer activities there.
- If you or a family member have a chronic illness such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or if you are a cancer survivor, consider volunteering for a local chapter of a related organization such as the National Multiple Sclerosis Society or the American Cancer Society to help support others with the same challenges.
- Use the yellow pages of your phone book and look under “Social Service Organizations” or other categories of interest to give you some ideas of where to volunteer and to get you started.
- Go to www.volunteer.gov to look for opportunities in your area.