Whether you live in your hometown or just moved to a new city, are looking to start your career or have already jumped in with both feet, volunteering is a great opportunity to learn, network, and find personal gratification in connecting with your neighborhood in a meaningful way. Community service may be difficult to balance with your career and other passions, but here are some reasons why you may want to make the time for it.
It’s good for your health
Volunteering is a great way to help others and make a difference. It can also be an avenue to meet new people, network, discover a new city or rediscover your hometown, all while having the satisfaction that you’re doing something with purpose.
Researchers at the London School of Economics found that the more people volunteered, the happier they were. And studies have shown that volunteering helps stave off loneliness and depression by feeling more socially connected. Many people also find that volunteer work helps to reduce their stress levels.
But the benefits of volunteering may go beyond mental and emotional to include physical health, as well. Seventy-six percent of people who volunteered in the past year said that volunteering makes them feel healthier. And it’s a great hobby to continue into adulthood, too: A recent study found that older adults who volunteer live longer than those who do not.
It’s good for your career
It may sound cliché, but some of the most important lessons in life are learned outside the classroom. When you’re looking for a job, potential employers may consider extracurricular activities, such as volunteering, to be just as important as your GPA. Volunteering can provide you with hands-on experience that may make you slightly more attractive as an employee than another candidate who has a similar educational or work résumé. Additionally, showing that you’re hardworking and motivated — particularly in a volunteer, unpaid role — can indicate you would be a valuable employee.
If you’ve been unable to break into your career of choice yet, volunteering is a great way to use your existing skills to build meaningful experience. Working toward a career in web design? Volunteer to help a nonprofit with their website. Interested in the culinary arts? Devote a few hours of your time each month at a soup kitchen. Volunteering can also expose you to new skill sets and different career fields and can enable you to test the waters a bit if you’re looking to branch out or are considering a change. The Corporation for National & Community Service found that unemployed job seekers had a 27% greater chance of getting hired just by having volunteer experience.