According to a recent study released by the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, volunteering in the United States has recently hit a ten-year low. In spite of the general decline, this still means that 62.6 million people spent time volunteering in the last year. While some people may not see the benefit of volunteering, I certainly believe that volunteering can change the outcomes for not just the population being served, but for the volunteer as well. For that reason, I have compiled a list of five ways in which the volunteer benefits from volunteering.

1. Volunteering connects you to other people and to your community.

Whether it is serving meals at a local soup kitchen or reading stories to underprivileged youth, volunteering helps you feel a larger sense of community and the world around you. Instead of staying in your lane with work, socializing, and your own family, you can gain a sense of the lives of those in your community are like via volunteering.

2. Volunteering gives you a perspective unavailable elsewhere.

While I tend to think of volunteering and non-profit work as a very serious business, the fact of the matter is that people do it because of the emotional appeal. And, by appealing to their own emotions, volunteers are able to open up and learn about life in a way that was previously closed. For example, if you are down on yourself because you cannot quite land the job you want, volunteering at a homeless shelter might make you realize that the job is not everything, nor is it even really all that significant. In fact, volunteering will show that what is valuable is regular old kindness and appreciation.

3. Volunteering looks great on a resume.

Now that I’ve mentioned careers and landing the right job, I must point out that volunteerism really can help you land the job you want. If you volunteer long enough on a repeat basis at an organization you care about, that will show up on resume as dedication to a cause that is above yourself. Think about it: an potential employer spends a ton of their time leafing through resumes that show only how potential employers closed XX account or created YY widget. But how many employers would be impressed by consistent dedication to solving major social ills? Many, is my guess.

4. Volunteering actually improves your health.

According to a Carnegie Mellon University study, volunteering may not only help your mind, but it may also actually benefit your body. This is especially true for volunteers over age 50. The study in question showed that, of those over aged 50, people who volunteered consistently had lower blood pressure than those who did not. And specific types of volunteering have specific help benefits as well. For example, in older adults, tutoring children helps memory and cognitive function, and activities that require a lot of movement (think of the soup kitchen again) help cardiovascular issue such as blood pressure.

5. Volunteering helps you develop new skills.

Maybe you ended up as an investment banker when you really had a knack for teaching. Or maybe you are a nurse who really has a knack for building houses. Whatever the case may be, volunteering can help you find skills you did not know you have. The only way to find out whether or not you are good at something is to do it consistently, and, if your career path at the moment does not include the area in which you think you need to grow, consider volunteering in that area. It could do a lot of good.

For those who have been persuaded to volunteer, visit volunteermatch.org or idealist.org to find an opportunity in your community. You won’t regret it.

Featured photo credit: Volunte/All Hands Volunteers via flickr.com

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