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6 min read

8 Ways Volunteering Helps You Learn and Grow at Any Age

Aug 11, 2020

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COVID-19 has changed the way we live, from many schools and colleges going fully or partially virtual to many jobs shifting to remote and a job market that’s in flux. Additionally, people who are retired are seeking ways to do something fulfilling and continue to grow personally, while staying safe. Whether you're looking for your first job, recently retired, or somewhere in between, volunteering can help you feel fulfilled wherever you are now.

1. Advance Your Skills and Your Career

When you volunteer, you are building skills, your resume, and your network-- all of which contributes to advancing your career and increasing your chances of finding a job. According to research by the Corporation for National and Community Service:

  • Volunteers have a 27% higher likelihood of finding a job, after being out of work than non-volunteers
  • Those living in rural areas have a 55% higher likelihood of finding employment

Additionally, the Deloitte Developing Leadership Skills through Volunteerism survey showed that of those who had direct or indirect influence over hiring decisions:

  • 82% of them said they would be more likely to choose a candidate with volunteer experience on their résumé.
  • 80% of respondents said that active volunteers move more easily into leadership roles.

You can give your time around something that you truly believe in, while also moving you forward on your career and leadership goals.

BONUS: You also have the opportunity to volunteer in a variety of roles and explore your passions, while gaining the experience needed for a career change.

With over 60% of volunteering opportunities identified as skills-based and opportunities in every US zip code in the VolunteerMatch Network, you can find a variety of ways to advance your knowledge and experience, just by selecting the skills on the search filter. Here are a few opportunities to get started:

2. Change Your Outlook on Life

We all know that doing good within our communities improves the lives of others, but it can also improve your outlook on life as well. VolunteerMatch did a study with UnitedHealthcare in 2017, The Doing Good is Good for You Study, and it showed the mental and emotional benefits of volunteering:

  • 93% reporting an improved mood
  • 79% reporting lower stress levels
  • 88% reporting increased self-esteem by giving back

Another recent study from Journal of Happiness Studies shows that volunteering makes people happier:

  • Those who had volunteered in the past year had higher levels of satisfaction in their lives and had rated their health overall as better in comparison with those who didn’t volunteer.
  • People who volunteered at a minimum of once a month reported better mental health compared to those that occasionally volunteered or not at all.
  • People who began to volunteer became happier over time.

With 29 cause areas on VolunteerMatch, you have a variety of options to start bringing in more positivity in your life.

3. Increase Your Empathy

By volunteering you gain a deeper understanding of how others live. Helen Riess, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School and chief scientist of Empathetics described this in the New York Times article by saying, “Don’t just stand in someone else’s shoes, as the saying goes, but take a walk in them.” You can do this by helping out the homeless or fighting hunger in your communities.

4. Improve Your Memory

Learning new skills helps your memory and to prevent dementia according to a study, which was published in the journal Psychological Science. This is done through “strengthening connections in between parts of your brain," explains cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman. Participating in challenging activities will strengthen entire networks in the brain. Maybe you can give back to your communities and pick a new hobby like quilting, sewing, gardening, cooking, or photography.

5. Unlock Lifelong Lessons for Children

You may be one of many parents who are seeking fresh ways to teach your children something new while they are at home physically distancing and participating in virtual learning. One of the best ways to show children how rewarding and fun it is to help others is through volunteering. If you are looking for creative ways to engage your kids in community service, here are some cool ideas to get you started.

6. Build Community Leaders of Tomorrow

As teens are doing more things at home and many are participating in e-learning for school, you may be like many parents who are looking to fill their time with meaningful activities that help them develop new skills and perspectives. Volunteering not only gives teens the opportunity to gain a better understanding of their interests that could help them in selecting their careers in the future, but also provides them with first hand experience working with others from a variety of backgrounds.

BONUS: It is also a great way to develop those leadership skills that look so great on college applications.

Currently, there are over 12,000 volunteers needed, including ones for America On Track Emerging Leaders for Civic Engagement Program and for starting a chapter of PASTA, (Peers And Students Taking Action).

7. Explore Your Passions During a Gap Year

If you are taking a year to explore various passions before committing to a single college or major, volunteering gives you the freedom to immerse yourself in meaningful work, to get out of your comfort zone, and do some self-exploration. With over 4.5 million volunteers needed in-person and 1.1 million needed virtually, you could volunteer at a variety of nonprofits throughout the year that align with causes you love and discover what you are passionate about.

8. Add More Purpose to Your Life During Retirement

After years of working, volunteering can fill up some of the free time that opens up for you as a retiree, while adding more purpose to your life. Added benefits are continuous new experiences, on-going learning, and social connection. Below are some possible ways you can give back:

Volunteering Gives You So Many Opportunities to Grow

Volunteering provides you with incredible growth opportunities. You not only learn new skills and gain you new perspectives, but you also feel more connected to your communities and find a deeper meaning and purpose in your life.


 

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Darcy Hughes

Written by Darcy Hughes

Darcy Hughes is a Business Development and Marketing Coordinator at VolunteerMatch. Her background includes coordinating projects at an arts institution and consulting with a company that advises nonprofits. She has a liberal arts education, majoring in English at Trinity College. In her free time, Darcy loves to read, travel, and make art in her studio.

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