What is volunteering? When people volunteer, they are aiming to help others and/or the community without looking for any material or financial gain while doing so. It is often purely altruistic as the intention of the volunteer is simply to improve the quality of life. For some, volunteering is a means to learn skills without the long term commitment of employment.
Regardless of the reason for volunteering, anyone who willingly does so can gain a number of benefits through it. When you look at it, the benefits of volunteering can be divided into 3 major categories: Social benefits, health benefits, and career benefits.
The social benefits of volunteering are numerous. For the community, it helps people become more united, promoting trust between each other to grow as they work together for the good of the many. For the volunteers, it helps them create a larger social network. As volunteers, people meet new friends, particularly people who share their interests and passions. This also broadens the number of people in their support group. Meeting new people and learning to work with them enables one to also develop and practice social skills. People who are often shy or timid can learn to become more open and confident in conversing with others. Enhanced social skills also result in higher self-esteem, making volunteers more happy with themselves and able to go about with confidence in their capabilities.
The health benefits of volunteering are surprising yet true. There have been studies made that showed how helping others can make a person healthier. One of the mental health benefits is lower rates of depression especially among volunteers aged 65 and above. Depression is often a result of social isolation. When you volunteer, you often find yourself engaged in activities with others and surrounded by like-minded people. Another mental health benefit is the increase in the person’s sense of purpose and life satisfaction. People who volunteer feel that they create a greater purpose in their life by serving others. They also feel more satisfied with life in general. Aside from being mentally healthy, volunteers are also more physically healthy. Studies have found that those who experience chronic illnesses or heart disease often feel lesser symptoms after joining a volunteer program. Volunteering also makes one physically active, enabling people to have a greater functional ability. Lower mortality rates have also been seen among volunteers, especially those that have been in the business of volunteering since they were young.
Volunteers also gain benefits to their career. Newly grads can volunteer to learn more skills related to their field of choice. Some volunteer programs require training that can be useful to graduates seeking to get a jumpstart to their career. Volunteering can also expose you to skills often utilized in the workplace. These include working with a team, planning projects, time and task management, and problem solving. As a volunteer, you are also likely to meet contacts and potential employers that can help you start your career. Lastly, employers are more impressed with applicants who have volunteer work listed in their resume.