The old adage goes, “there is no such thing as true altruism.” Whatever your thoughts are on this, when it comes to volunteer work, who cares why you’re doing it? Putting in any time and effort to help those in need or make the world a little more polished is the whole point and nothing but the point. Whether you are doing it to get into a good college or trying to casually impress your date, we’ll take it.
The truth is, volunteer work can be both personally rewarding and highlight your work ethic on a resume. Your schedule probably feels packed, but here are three reasons why you should consider adding some volunteer hours to your week (or month, or year – whatever time you can reliably commit to).
1. Volunteering highlights what matters to you. What better way to demonstrate what matters to you most than doing it for free? Your volunteer work is unique to you, demonstrates that you care about the larger community, and indicates an autonomy and maturity that goes above and beyond what high school sets in front of you. Volunteer work says a lot about who you are, so choose carefully. What makes you happy? What are you lacking in your own life? Does the dealth penalty get you down? Look for ways to contribute to Amnesty International or participate in local politics. Are you a feminist? Look no further than your local Planned Parenthood chapter. Parents never got you a puppy? Be a dog shelter pup-petter-pooper-scooper. Whatever you choose, your volunteer work will bring your resume to life, impress future employers, and reveal a little bit about who you are outside of the confines of a transcript.
2. Volunteering demonstrates your mad time-management skills. Everyone knows you’re busy. Incorporating community service into your life in some way is a huge signal to colleges or potential employers that you can multitask, set priorities, and keep a lot of plates spinning at once. Can you get your volunteer organization to write you a letter of recommendation? Even better. Keep in mind that quality accounts for much more than quantity, though. Don’t spread yourself thin: your important day to day tasks should not suffer as a result of taking too much on. Consider your schedule and capabilities, including time for yourself, and decide if a weekly, monthly, or even spring-break-ly (think: Habitat for Humanity) commitment is more realistic right now.
3. Volunteering exposes you to new people, skills, and ideas. We all follow our little mouse trails from day to day, seeing and listening to the same people in a world that feels safe and comfortable. One of the perks of volunteering is that it offers us a chance to meet new people (including networking connections) and encounter new experiences. Forming new connections and interacting with people outside of your regular routine is important to developing a sense of the world around you and learning how to engage with diversity. While there may be no such thing as true altruism, people who explore outside of their immediate lives and comfort zones are more interesting, empathic, and emotionally intelligent people.
If you can handle one more activity in your life, even if it’s during a vacation week here and there, volunteering is investment in yourself and your community. You might enjoy yourself – or you might not – but you’ll definitely have an interesting story to tell and make a few people smile.
Visit www.VolunteenNation.org to learn more about current opportunities to give back in your area.