Volunteering: Furthering Your Professional and Personal Goals

they also look like turkeys.

they also look like turkeys.

Editor’s note: As the majority of you sit down to share a meal with your family and loved ones, and give thanks for what you have in your life, remember to consider those less fortunate, and check out HelpGuide.org.  Happy Thanksgiving clevers. 

Last Saturday afternoon I spent an hour at the Union Rescue Mission, in the heart of downtown Los Angeles’ Skid Row, distributing backpacks with toiletries to the homeless. While the event was brief, the experience inspired me to volunteer more. Seeing momentary relief on the faces of the shelter visitors made me feel useful – even if I was merely part of an assembly line of volunteers.

I’ve volunteered for various charities in high school, and dedicated two college Spring Breaks to civic service – the first, removing debris from the Manzanar National Historic Site – a former WWII internment camp, and the other as a soup kitchen helper in Salinas, California. Since then, however, I’ve been so involved with my own needs that I’ve neglected to aid the underserved. Last Saturday reminded me of the euphoria I experience with volunteering – my sense of community was solidified, and I had a renewed hope in humanity.

Recently, I discovered that not only is volunteering beneficial to the individuals you help, but volunteers also receive unintended and lasting personal and professional rewards.

Personal benefits:

About 96% of people who volunteered in the past 12 months said that volunteering improved their overall mood, according to a 2013 study by UnitedHealth Group (UG) titled “Doing Good is Good for You.” The aforementioned study also found that 78% of volunteers reported lower stress levels. Furthermore, nearly 25% of study volunteers said that volunteering helped them manage a chronic illness.

Regarding sense of purpose and quality of life, the UG study found that 96% of the individuals who volunteered in the past 12 months relayed that volunteering enriched “their sense of purpose,” and 95% of volunteers felt that they helped to “make their communities a better place.”

Some people argue that volunteering is a selfish act – the egocentric helping others solely to help themselves. Admittedly, that is one way to view volunteering. However, a 2012 study in Health Journal may refute the naysaying perspective. The 2012 study found that the mortality risk for volunteers surveyed was lower than non-volunteers, but only if the volunteers were motivated to perform such acts exclusively for altruistic reasons. Thus, if you volunteer for selfish reasons, you don’t reap said health benefits. Fair enough.

Professional benefits:

Those who volunteer have a 27% higher chance of employment as compared to non-volunteers, according to a June 2013 study conducted by the Corporation for National and Community Service, Office of Research and Evaluation. The study found that volunteering increased both: 1) social capital – namely, professional contacts, durable networks, employment leads, and social relationships; and 2) human capital, comprised of knowledge, skills, abilities, leadership opportunities, and work experience.

Listing your volunteering experience and causes on your LinkedIn profile can also distinguish you from other similarly-qualified job candidates, according to an Official LinkedIn Blog post.

Another Official LinkedIn Blog post featured the following volunteering-related statistics:

  • 41% of LinkedIn members “consider volunteer work equally as valuable as paid work experience when evaluating candidates,” and
  • One in five U.S. hiring managers “have hired a candidate because of their volunteer experience.”

Are you ready to create and sustain positive change in the lives of others? Great! But before dedicating your time, consider what causes you’re most passionate about, what types of skills you have to offer an organization, and consult HelpGuide.org to help you find a fitting organization.

+ Leave a Reply