Volunteering in activities that strengthen the community can provide you with opportunities to explore new career paths, gain job-related skills, develop leadership abilities and network with community and business leaders. If you are a recent college graduate, looking for a job, or changing careers, volunteering is a great way to gain experience in a new field or “test drive” a new career without having to make a long-term commitment.
Volunteering is a great way to gain experience before beginning a job hunt. Doing so is one of the best way to avoid holes in the timeline of your resume. And beyond that, volunteer experience speaks volumes about your commitment to your community and your drive to be productive. It can also lead to professional networking and career enhancement opportunities, meeting and connecting with like-minded individuals.
Volunteering could be your entry point into organizations or internships that could advance your career. According to a report from The Corporation for National and Community Service, volunteers are 27 percent more likely to find a job than non-volunteers. The report also found that volunteers without a high school diploma are 51 percent more likely to find a job, and volunteers living in rural areas are 55 percent more likely to be employed.
Health and Wellbeing
A review of recent research by the Corporation for National and Community Service, titled The Health Benefits of Volunteering, cites data from the Americans’ Changing Lives Survey. The report shows that volunteers experience greater life satisfaction and overall better health than non-volunteers. It asserts that the more time older individuals spend volunteering, the more their life satisfaction and health improve. Those who spend about 100 hours per year volunteering show signs of positive health changes. Furthermore, Research by the University of Exeter indicates that volunteers have a greater ability to cope with stress, greater resilience for recovering from health problems, lower rates of depression, and longer, happier lives.
These results are further bolstered by data from the Longitudinal Study of Aging which found that people who volunteer have lower mortality rates than non-volunteers, even when the data is adjusted to exclude physical health factors. According to the study, 16 percent of participants 70 years or older who volunteered in 1984 were less likely to have died by 1988 than people who did not volunteer.
Other studies have found that people who volunteer at younger ages are less likely to suffer from ill health later in life. A comparison of data collected from interviews of women in 1956 and then in 1986 found that those who had volunteer experience from the time they were married until age 55 had greater functional ability than non-volunteers. The volunteers were also more likely to be integrated socially in their communities.
An analysis of adults over the age of 70 who volunteered at least 100 hours during 1993 found that, by the year 2000, had higher levels of functional ability and lower levels of depression and mortality than people who did not volunteer during the same period.
The positive impact on the health of volunteers contributes to an overall positive impact on quality of life. Those who give more of themselves reap the benefits of knowing they are doing good, and many opportunities have a physical component that tell the brain that real work has been done. This also translates to what sociologists call “social integration theory” which seeks to explain how social connections provide meaning in one’s life. Social integration is not assimilation. Rather, it is the process by which individuals find a place within a group and peacefully blend with the community. This might help to explain why those who pursue philanthropic endeavors display a higher sense of self-worth. They feel as if their time is well-spent, and they believe they are leaving a good legacy.