People do volunteer work for a variety of reasons. Many of them do it because, simply put, they feel the need to do so. It just comes naturally to people sometimes—the need to help. When they walk down the street in their communities, they see homeless people begging for change or scraps of food. When they go online, they see on social media photos of women and children experiencing drought and lack of food in places like Africa. So they get up, reach out to nonprofit organizations, and offer their time and efforts, free of charge.
Doing volunteer work easily fuels our desire to help. Thus, it can lead to many mental health and social benefits. It can literally make us feel better about ourselves. But we shouldn’t forget that it can also lead to many professional benefits. Here’s how volunteer work can help in jump-starting and advancing our careers.
Exploring Interests and Gaining Skills
We can study, acquire graduate and postgraduate degrees, and write dissertations as much as we can at school. They will lead to many rewards for our career. But, truth be told, nothing could compare to the training we would get when we’re on the job. Internships in actual offices and corporations help, of course. But again it’s different once we’re on the field, actually dealing with clients, and representing our companies. But what if we’re not really sure yet of the career path that we want to take? Well, doing volunteer work can help with that.
By doing volunteer work, we can explore new interests and gain new skills in a low-stakes situation. Because the work is unpaid, there’s no pressure that we would get when we’re starting actual jobs. We’re free to explore different nonprofit organizations. Do we want to help in feeding the hungry? Well, we could volunteer at a soup kitchen and learn how to cook food. Perhaps, in that work, we would realize our calling to work as a cook at a restaurant.
And the great thing about doing volunteer work is that it can make it easier for us to look for recognition of prior learning (RPL) courses. This would lead to an RPL certification that is widely recognized by different fields. So when we start looking for jobs, we would have the headstart that our fellow applicants might not have.
A Chance to Build Our Network
The hard truth about advancing our careers in any field is that we need connections. We need to rub elbows with the right people who can help us get the jobs or projects that we want and deserve. This doesn’t mean that our skills, qualifications, and experience don’t matter. They do. But knowing the right people to reach out to will also give us a headstart.
Fortunately, doing volunteer work helps with networking. Another great thing about it is that the people we may be working with come from different backgrounds. Some of them may be just like us, looking to explore our interests and gain new skills. But some of them are already accomplished managers, CEOs, artists, doctors, researchers, etc. These are the people who can train us and give us an intro to the fields we’re interested in. Keeping their contact info in our back pocket may be essential for our chosen careers. They’re there to help the beneficiaries of the nonprofit that we’re all working for. But they’re also there to share their tips, lessons, and expertise.
Exposure to the World
Arguably, the most important part of doing volunteer work is exposure to the world. Say, we volunteered at a nonprofit that gathers trash from bodies of water. This would help us truly see how plastic and other forms of waste have affected the health of marine life. We’ll gain a deeper understanding of the issue of water pollution. We’ll understand what causes it and what are the best solutions for it.
Volunteer work opens our eyes to the social, environmental, and economic issues that our world faces. And this, in turn, would help us with our career. It gives us a more nuanced perspective about the purpose of our work. Because we know all about, say, water pollution, we’ll be more inspired to come up with ways to lessen the waste that goes into the water. We’ll be more encouraged to come up with innovative solutions that could make our careers soar.
Doing volunteer work can lead to many rewards. But the professional rewards are among the important ones that we shouldn’t forget. So, should we encounter someone in the future who’s hesitant to do some volunteer work, we can tell them all about these benefits. Perhaps, then, they’ll be encouraged to work with nonprofits as well.