Have you ever noticed that some of the happiest and most fulfilled people are those who spend time giving back? Volunteering isn’t only about the impact that you make in the lives of those less fortunate and in one’s community; it also teaches you a lot about who you are and helps you improve certain life skills. You may discover that you’ve become more patient, open-minded, less judgmental, and more compassionate. I’m not talking about volunteering so you can toss that board membership title on your LinkedIn Profile – this isn’t Quid Pro Quo – this is just giving for the sake of giving.
You might be thinking that with a full-time job, kids, pets, and a social life, how can you even manage to add one more thing to the to-do list. First, there is always time and when you find something you are passionate about, it’s not a chore. It brings you joy, it becomes a hobby of sorts. I also encourage you to involve the family – especially children. Teaching them the art of giving without getting at an early age will go a long way. Trust me, I have my Dad hat on now.
As I mentioned, the unexpected rewards are plentiful! Here are my personal experiences and those of my family:
- New life experiences. So many of us live in a bubble. We only experience our little world, our circle of friends, our neighbors and our work cohorts. We’ve never experienced different cultures or have little understanding how those in different socioeconomic backgrounds live. Giving your time to the local soup kitchen or an international organization will change you – forever. You may even find yourself traveling or joining the Peace Corp! If you missed me telling the story of my son and his adventures – take a minute and read it here.
- Boost self-confidence. It’s true, people who volunteer have more self-confidence because they have moved outside their comfort zone and have a sense of accomplishment for helping others. Regardless of where you are, there is always someone in need. Knowing YOU made a difference matters, and it feels great
- Improved mental health. Volunteering, making a difference, and giving back are great ways to combat anxiety and depression. Many people don’t feel like they are a part of something anymore, and volunteering provides a sense of community. You can find support that you may not have known you needed just by helping others.
- New connections. You get to meet some really cool people when you step outside of your normal social circle. You might even build some lasting friendships or find some new networking connections for your career. Expanding your horizons will help your personal brand. Don’t do it for this reason though! The branding needs to happen organically.
- Challenge yourself. You will no doubt be working with a variety of different people. Some of which could have very different political, religious, or cultural stances than you. And that’s OK, you are all focused on a common cause. You don’t need to all have the same views as long as you can work together, but you will probably find that you become more tolerant, patient, and open to other’s ideas and thoughts. You might not have any life changing epiphanies, but you’ll learn a lot about yourself in the process and meet people from all walks of life who will each impact your life in different ways.
- Career Boost. We all know how competitive the job market is and in a world were 10 or 20 other people are just as qualified for a position as you, volunteering can make the difference in whether you get hired or passed over. It shows prospective employers that you can take initiative and are willing to give your own time to better the world while having gained vital skills that could be applied to your new role. It shows you care and you are a team player.
I’ve been known to sing the praises of Junior Achievement, and it’s not just because I’m on the Board of Directors. I am a regular when it comes to teaching full-day classes at the elementary school level. I’ve mainly worked in lower income schools that may be short on resources but are chock full of enthusiastic students and teachers. And that’s what keeps me coming back – the student and the staff. I’ve learned just as much from them as they may have learned from me. It’s taught me a lot about who I am as a person and it just feels good to give back to the community and be a part of something so much bigger than myself. If you aren’t involved with your local community, please take some time to think about the list above. There’s so much to gain from the experience.Tags: networking, voluteer