The hard slog of exams has finally come to an end and summer is upon you – time to kick back and relax, catch up with your loved ones and soak in the stress-free period. A couple of months go by, you’ve run out of Netflix series to binge on, you’re bored of your favourite snacks, and you start to twiddle your thumbs… the honeymoon of summer is over, and it’s time to reflect. “Could I have used this time better?”
The simple answer is yes, and the solution is even more simple – you could have been doing voluntary work instead.
What is Volunteering?
Volunteering is when people work on projects that aim to help make the world a better place. These can be projects that specifically help improve lives, our surroundings or the future of our planet, some common examples of this are:
- Running educational workshops
- Beach clean-ups
- Helping out at homeless shelters
Associated with acts of kindness and selflessness, volunteers dedicate their free time to being involved in such projects that help make an impact. But there’s a catch, voluntary work is often unpaid work, so the project relies heavily on the generosity of others to make ideas become a successful reality.
But don’t let the unpaid persona of voluntary work steer you clear of it. There are many benefits of volunteering that are sure to help you get to where you want to be later in life.
Advantages of Voluntary Work
So why volunteer? The benefits of volunteering are endless, but the main benefits to you personally, from getting involved in voluntary work, are; that it improves your mental health and wellbeing, gives you a sense of pride and can lead to new friendships and opportunities. Studies have shown that those who engage in volunteering are provided with a sense of purpose and achievement, which is a great way to combat depression and maintain mental stability.
Much more appealing than the repercussions of your Netflix binge, right?
But volunteering doesn’t just have to be a summer commitment. Many people choose to fit voluntary work around their daily lives. It adds a lifelong direction, structure and interest to your life, helping improve your confidence and self-esteem amongst many other things.
That’s why you shouldn’t be surprised if you work alongside a volunteer who is twice or three times your age. Many people make volunteering a way of life, and it’s not just because of the personal benefits. It can help you professionally too.
The benefits of voluntary work haven’t always been obviously linked to the future of your career, as some publications reiterate. But this is notably shifting.
Including volunteering experience on your CV is, in fact, a great way to attract employer attention. Candidates who can show they have volunteered showcase soft skills and qualities such as empathy, dedication and willingness to go the extra mile, which will undoubtedly earn you a few brownie points in a job interview!
Some voluntary organisations also offer voluntary work in areas that you may be considering a career in, later down the line – such as marketing, social media management and business development. Showing you have volunteered also fills in any suspicious gaps in your CV, which employers may ask questions about during interviews.
Benefits of Volunteering for the wider community
Offering a helping hand through volunteering also helps bring a community together and can create lifelong partnerships, something that is also highly valued by employers and can help you in your career.
Though most examples of voluntary work highlight global NGO’s such as Redcross or Oxfam, there are also many smaller-scale charities and projects that warmly welcome local volunteers, and this can be an easier onboarding process, as you will usually be working amongst a smaller and more personal team.
The long term positive impact on society is a core reason why volunteering is a fantastic way to make your voice heard and contribute to helping improve people’s lives now and in the future.
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As with every golden opportunity, there are undoubtedly some challenges and misconceptions along the way, and this is no different for voluntary work.
There are the obvious pitfalls like time commitment and lack of pay, then there other unpredictable factors like personality clashes and the volunteering role may not teach you skills for your desired future career.
But you can easily overcome these challenges. It is good to be mindful about any hurdles you may face and be prepared if you have to jump over them. When an opportunity like volunteering arises, it’s key to see the positive side of it and give it a go, or else you may never know. Having a positive mindset will not only ensure that you can reap the benefits of volunteering, but it will also make the experience more enjoyable, and you will perform your role better, meaning that you will make a more significant impact on the world and your future.
So, what can you do now?
Sold on whether to volunteer yet? We thought so.
It’s never too soon or too late to get started; there are countless numbers of projects and organisations that are waiting for your application whether it’s for now, next month or next year. It’s a common saying, but getting started really can be the hardest part, so we have included a few top tips to help set you on the right path to your volunteer journey:
- Research areas that have a high demand for volunteers as organisations in these areas are more likely to be offering voluntary work.
- Taking this into account, work out what you’re passionate about changing, and what skills you would like to offer or improve through volunteering. This will help you decide on the area you want to volunteer in.
- Prepare your CV and some background information on why you could help the organisation you are interested in volunteering for. Although most organisations don’t have a formal application or interview process, they will still look for candidates with experience, and they will want to know that you are reliable and are genuinely passionate about the voluntary work they are doing.
- Contact people in your local community and larger NGO’s to see how you can help and start your volunteering journey.
You can also find organisations and charities listed on our Instagram, including food banks, homeless shelters and other local organisations.
We hope you enjoyed learning about this alternative career opportunity and the many benefits that volunteering offers for your future career!
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