I volunteered for a local organization for two years, doing art projects with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I went to the organization’s learning center once a week, which gave me time to still work full-time as a graphic designer. Over time, I realized that I loved my volunteer work more than my paid work, and took a year to be an employee of the organization. During this time, I actually worked as the volunteer coordinator! I had such a passion for the organization as well as volunteering that the job was a perfect fit. Since then, I’ve met so many people – potential volunteers, lifelong volunteers, and other coordinators – who share this passion. And now I’d like to share some of the benefits of voluntary work, in hopes you’ll seek out organizations in your community that can benefit from your care and passion.

1. You get to network and socialize with others.

When you volunteer at organizations in your community, you meet a lot of people you might not otherwise get to know. For example, I’ve always worked as a graphic designer, so I knew a certain type of people. Yet when I volunteered, not only did I meet a variety of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, I also met employees and volunteers from other walks of life. If I had stayed cocooned in my 9 to 5 life, I never would have met these people! Now they’re some of my closest friends, and they’ve helped me expand my social life, as well as led to many important professional contacts. Getting outside of your usual circle really helps expand your life.

2. There are great career benefits.

I got a great career benefit from volunteering, which was getting hired by the organization I volunteered for! This is actually very common, and other volunteers were hired during the time I worked there. It was because employees got to see how good the volunteers were when they worked for free, and knew they would be hard-working employees. Even if you don’t want to work at the organizations you volunteer for, there are still great benefits to volunteer work in general. You can list volunteer work on your resume just like it was a job – include how long you were there, what duties you did, and what you got out of it. Any employer would be happy to see that you’re the type of giving person who will work just for the good of it, and that will give you talking points in job interviews.

3. You gain experience.

Voluntary work will give you a variety of experience, whether you’re doing something you’ve never done before, or even if you’re using your everyday skills for a new purpose. Never be afraid to ask questions or ask for help when you’re a volunteer. Make sure you understand what you’re expected to do so you can get the most out of it, as well as help the most you can. Then you’ll have experience that you can use the more you volunteer at the organization, or take it with you when you volunteer elsewhere, or even take it back to your regular job.

4. You find an outlet for your passion.

When I was a volunteer, I helped out with a weekly art class. I love art, even though I’m not especially artistic. This was a great way for me to find an outlet for my passion. I’m not good enough to become a famous painter or anything on my own, but since I loved it, that passion came through when I worked with the adults with disabilities, and that was enough for them. They didn’t expect anything from me except care and enthusiasm, so it was the perfect outlet for me! What passions do you have that you can share with others? You don’t have to be incredibly talented, as long as you have the desire to help others and share your drive. Think about what you love and who might benefit from your passions, and you’ll easily be able to make a list of organizations that would love to have you as a volunteer.

5. You improve your vision.

Volunteering in a new field helps you improve your vision. Voluntary work usually involves non-profits, which means you’re helping people less fortunate than you. Even the most charitable, caring people often get too wrapped up in their daily lives to think of those who have less than us. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, because it’s normal. But volunteering means you’re around people you wouldn’t usually be around, so you’re exposed to different walks of life. This helps you understand your own life and path that much more. You might find that you’re in the wrong field altogether, and change the direction of your life!

6. You fulfill your potential.

Just like following your passion, voluntary work can help you fulfill your potential. Getting paid to do certain duties is one thing, but do you leave your job every day feeling like you’re tapped out, that you’ve done all you can do, and that you’ve helped others? It’s rare to feel that fulfilled from a paid position. Volunteer work helps you be more well-rounded, which means you can still work full-time at one position while doing something different for a local organization. Doing a variety of different things will help you feel like you’re using your full potential.

7. You get satisfaction.

Voluntary work is about helping others, but it’s ok to feel good about what you do. You should get satisfaction from helping others. Make sure you allow yourself to accept thanks and compliments from the organization you volunteer for, and let yourself feel proud of your hard work. You’re going above and beyond by helping out for nothing in return, so soak up that appreciation and pat yourself on the back!

8. You help others.

It’s obvious, right? Volunteering is about helping others. But it’s a great reason to do voluntary work. It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily grind, getting swept away by small problems that seem important to you but don’t really matter in the scheme of things. But helping others out of the good in your heart is an amazing reason to do anything, and hopefully this reason alone will inspire you to go out and volunteer today!

Featured photo credit: BluEyedA73 via flickr.com

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