Think your volunteering days are over and done once you leave your post-secondary behind? Or believe that volunteering seems more up the alley of a junior professional? That’s a misconception that’ll lead you to miss out on the many benefits voluntary opportunities have to offer. The professional landscape is shifting and with it, there’s many ways to be involved and make an impact as a volunteer. Why not dive in, gain experience and potentially learn new skills while giving back to the community?
One of the top benefits of volunteering lies at its core: by giving back to a great cause, you’re an essential part of community building. That’s social reciprocity 101. If there’s one thing to be said about the aftereffects of the pandemic, it’s the importance of supporting organizations and communities who need it the most.
During the early days of the pandemic, for instance, Food Banks Canada (FBC)¸ “saw an 80% decline in volunteers” until they were able to find new partnerships to help fill the gap. Toronto Public Library was one organization that stepped in to meet the challenge. This is just one of the many amazing stories where organizations leaned on each other and that also showcases the impact of volunteers. Volunteers are at the heart of many initiatives and without them, delays and shortcomings are bound to arise. That said, that’s not the kind of world that many of us want to live in.
Now that Canada is on its way to the finish line with restrictions lifting, there will be a call for volunteer work. When deciding where you want to lend your efforts, remember first and foremost, that it should be for a cause that resonates with you. You’re giving away your time after all and this sense of purpose will give you the pep in your step when it’s time to put yourself forward.
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. — Full Gandhi
Where do you start finding your volunteer opportunity? Let us map out some options for you:
Getting involved with the community is going to bring you up close and personal with, well, a community. It’s the perfect chance for you to meet like-minded individuals and build new connections. From your fellow volunteers to your volunteer supervisor, you’ll walk away from the experience with new names and places to add to your network.
So get ready to flex your networking skills and practice those social skills that may have gone dormant these last few months. These interactions are a great way to evaluate your communication skills and develop them further.
Always been nervous about asking someone for a virtual coffee or want to learn more about a particular industry from a fellow volunteer? Or looking to test out your leadership skills and see a volunteer opportunity that’s right up your alley? Go for it and you might surprise yourself with how well you can connect to others and drive change.
Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless. — Sherry Anderson
Committing your time allows you to immerse yourself in that purpose, that organization and even industry. If you’re interested in a certain industry that’s fascinated you from afar, volunteering is one of the best ways to sate your curiosity. It’s not a one-sided experience either; being involved equates to industry experience. How do you make that connection?
The obvious step is to add it to your resume. Learning how to speak to that section places you as a front runner in any job application. Here are a few questions and leads to help you formulate your response to “Tell me about your work experience?”
If you’re able to explain to a friend why you’re working for free, then you’ll be able to do the same in an interview.
Last but not least, let’s not forget about the mental health benefits of volunteering. As you’re putting in your time, energy and expertise, you’re connected to something greater than yourself. All that is going to give you a dose of serotonin sure to boost your mood. With research backing this up, it’s no wonder that one of the top motivatorsfor volunteers getting involved is to improve their mental wellbeing.
When you’re feeling fulfilled, that sense of contentment can make it easy to appreciate what you have from the small stuff to the big stuff. This perspective will lead you to assess what you can give in your volunteering efforts, making you more aware of your skillset. In volunteer work, you’re finding your stride in being the best version of yourself for the greater good. That leaves you walking away with confidence and the impact you want to make in today’s world. What employer wouldn’t want that person on their team?