How Does Volunteering Benefit You?

Co-Authors:  Amanda Sharpe & Sarah Picciotto

Have you ever found yourself wondering on a personal level “why should I volunteer?” We all know that volunteering has a positive effect upon communities and is something we should do. But when the reasons are explained to us it’s usually in terms of how volunteering is beneficial to others. We’re here to help answer: how exactly does volunteering benefit YOU?

Picture11. Volunteers live longer and are healthier.
Evidence has shown that volunteers are happier and healthier than non-volunteers. Volunteer activities give people a sense of purpose and accomplishment that can counter depression, buffer stress, and reduce disease risk. Later in life, volunteering is actually more beneficial to you than exercising! Older people who volunteer remain physically functional longer, have a greater likelihood of maintaining psychological well-being, and have longer lifespans. In order to reap these health benefits, younger people need to start volunteering now to establish good habits. After all, older people who volunteer are almost always people who volunteered earlier in life!

Picture22. Volunteering establishes strong relationships.
With the advent of technology like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. it’s become easier than ever to follow your friends’ lives without interacting at all. To learn what happened last night you just open the newsfeed and scroll. Despite all of these social media resources, people are actually lonelier now than ever before. While online connections are helpful in maintaining already existing relationships, they aren’t very helpful in creating new, lasting relationships. Working alongside people who feel as strongly as you do about supporting a particular cause creates a path to developing strong relationships with others. Volunteers are also exposed to people outside their normal social circles allowing them the opportunity to expand their connections and build networking skills.

Picture33. Volunteering is good for your career.
People who volunteer are more likely to:

– Know what career will make them happy
– Have developed real world skills
– Get the job they want
– Make more money
– Advance their careers

Why? Because volunteer experience is valued by employers. Volunteering can help develop vital skills like collaboration, communication, innovation, leadership, and problem solving. Including volunteer experience on your resume helps you stand out from the crowd. Having the volunteer experience allows you to perform better in interviews and, once you have the job, allows you greater access to advancement opportunities.

If there are all these benefits, why aren’t we volunteering? Do any of these phrases sound familiar?

“I’m already working a second job to pay my student loans. I just don’t have time to volunteer.”

“I work for a small company and I’m not making the connections that I want to. I think I need to focus on networking rather than spending my time volunteering…”

Like finding time to clean or exercise (resolutions anyone?), it’s easy to make excuses, procrastinate and avoid volunteering. Contributing to society and the greater good is laudable, but when you’re personally faced with other obstacles it’s really easy to allow yourself to put it off. But now you know that volunteering actually helps you with other goals, too!

Here’s some feedback from real RYP volunteers:

“I enjoy meeting fresh new people and getting out of the social media box, being involved, and learning new things that I can apply to my own world both professionally and personally.” – Sandy

“I love volunteering, but sometimes I need a boost to get involved. RYP volunteering has given me the opportunity to give back to my community on a more regular basis. I always have a great time and meet a lot of wonderful, new people.” – Arian

So the next time you’re about to sit on the couch for an entire weekend to Netflix and chill or play Fallout 4, consider taking a break from that marathon for 3-4 hours to help paint area markers at Mount Hope Cemetery or blow up balloons for a Boys & Girls Club fundraiser. Not only will you be helping others, but you’ll have the opportunity to make connections that can help advance your career, improve your social life, and even your health.

Visit RYP to learn about upcoming volunteering events facilitated through Rochester Young Professionals, email us at volunteering@r-y-p.org, or go directly to these resources for help finding other opportunities:

United Way: http://www.unitedway.org/get-involved/volunteer
Volunteer Match: http://www.volunteermatch.org/
LinkedIn: https://volunteer.linkedin.com/

 

Sources:
https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-secret-weapon-most-job-hunters-dont-know-about
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-third-age/201403/5-reasons-why-you-should-volunteer
“The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research”, which can be downloaded at www.nationalservice.org.