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8 Reasons To Start To Do Voluntary Work Now

8 Reasons To Start To Do Voluntary Work Now

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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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