While I was in college, a professor of mine told me that volunteer work doesn’t count if the volunteer is getting something in return for their services. However, I don’t think there is any form of volunteering that doesn’t give the volunteer something in return. As a volunteer I can’t think of one volunteer opportunity where I didn’t get something out of what I was doing. Many times I end up taking away much more than I feel that I have given through my work. For every child who has touched my heart at the Boys & Girls Club, to the heart wrenching eye opening experience that is serving as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for Abused and Neglected Children (CASA), to the recognition that my employer gives to associates who volunteer their time — I can say that I have definitely walked away with something from each and every volunteer experience I have had.
I think we need to reframe our perspective on volunteer work and embrace the selfish reasons one might have as to why they volunteer. Because frankly, I don’t care what someone’s motivation is to volunteer, the important thing in my mind is that they are out there, giving back, improving their community and making a difference no matter what the reasoning is behind their decision to do so. If a selfish reason is the driving motivation to get someone off the couch and into a soup kitchen, I am all for it. I have compiled a list of 5 selfish reasons to volunteer for those who do not feel compelled to volunteer but might be motivated if they knew what was in it for them.
1. Network And Socialize With Others
It’s not very often that we get opportunities as adults to get out of our main social circle and into different social spheres within our community. Volunteering offers the perfect opportunity for doing just that. The other great aspect of this is that those who are volunteering are often ambitious, caring, and proactive individuals and often leaders within their own field or the community. These people are amazing and like you, they want to make a difference. I can’t think of better company to surround yourself with than those who have decided to be the change. Odds are if they are proactive in the community, they are proactive at work, and proactive in their relationships. These are the movers-and-shakers.
2. You Need It
Many times we think we sign up to volunteer because others are in need but the biggest thing I’ve learned about volunteering is how much I was in need of them. How much I needed to be needed. How much more I received from giving than I could have ever imagined. When I first began working as a CASA I was assigned to a little girl who was 10 years old and living with a mother who was schizoaffective and looking back I almost feel guilty because I am pretty sure she helped me more than I helped her. I have received overwhelming thanks for my assistance in her case, and her parents have told me how much I mean to her but still this does not compare to what she has done for me. I can’t even put into words how much she has changed my life. This is hard to explain but you’ll know it when you experience it. You’ll look back at your time as a volunteer and realize that you had no idea how much you needed to be needed.
3. Career Benefits
It looks good on the résumé. Some companies even make it part of their company culture to the point that it’s an unwritten rule that you need to be a pillar in the community in order to advance in their company. It can also address a gap in your employment history if you find yourself unemployed for a period of time. Some have found that being a volunteer can lead to employment with an organization that you are volunteering with. Volunteers have a 27% higher likelihood of finding a job after being out of work than non-volunteers according to the Corporation for National & Community Service.
4. Gain Experience Or Find An Outlet For Your Passion
Often times we can gain experience as a volunteer that we’ve always wanted but don’t have the opportunity to pursue in our current jobs. This leads to outlets for freelance work/hobbies we have or interests that are not contemplated in our day to day work. Some examples include: assisting a nonprofit in designing posters through graphic design, photography, mentoring, grant writing, childcare, cooking, etc. So many organizations need volunteers not just for cleaning up a park or filling soup bowls, but to do real work that they would otherwise have to hire for but can fill if they find the right volunteer talent. This can also lead to opportunities to gain leadership or management experience that we may not be qualified for yet in our day jobs but can have the opportunity to pursue and test through volunteer work.
5. Improve Your Vision
Your eyes will be opened. What you were once blind to you will now be able to see with exceptional clarity. You may not change your mind on political beliefs, you may not change your mind on certain issues (although I am guessing you might) but one thing will be sure, you won’t be able to not notice those in need. You will no longer be able to turn the other cheek or not see someone in need of help. You can’t un-see what you are about to see. While this can be taxing, a little scary, and can lead to volunteer burnout or fatigue, it will be wonderful. With a clear vision comes new preparedness to recognize opportunities. Oh the difference you will make now that you can see what needs to be done.
6. Fulfill Your Potential
Real growth happens when we do something that scares us. Opportunities are all around us, calling our name, waiting for us to act. I am not asking you to donate money while The Arms of An Angel blares in the background (unless you feel compelled to do so), what I am asking is that you look for the little opportunities (or the big opportunities) to make a difference. I know that many people would say that they aren’t entirely happy with their job but at the end of the day we have to pay the bills somehow. I often wonder whether or not I am doing what I was destined to do but one thing I don’t have to wonder about is my volunteer work. Whenever I am volunteering I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
This story was originally published on Thought Catalog, and is authored by Avolyn Fisher.
To find volunteering opportunities close to you, get connected now at www.connectfor.org.