Be Selfish, Volunteer
Volunteering is often heralded as an act of selflessness—a way of serving your community. Give of your time and make the world around you better! On many levels, this is true. Of course, we should do what we can to help others in need and contribute to our community. But what mustn’t be overlooked are the secondary benefits of volunteering — self-improvement and personal growth.
What's in it for me?
Volunteering is a way to give back to your community, build relationships, and improve your well-being. It can also provide personal development and growth; volunteering can be a tremendous building block, personally and professionally.
Additionally, if you are an organization that relies on volunteers, you should be conscious of the personal benefits of volunteering. The volunteer retention rate is significantly higher when individual volunteers are engaged personally, focusing on their skills and interests.
Three benefits to the volunteer
Some individuals spend their whole lives in search of meaning and purpose. The ultimate question then becomes — where do you find it? Are you fulfilled by your job and success in your career? Do purpose and fulfillment come from family or community? Do you derive purpose from a religious belief? Research suggests that in the same way we find fulfillment at work, we can find personal fulfillment and meaning through volunteering (Caraveo, 2022). If you are considering volunteering or wondering where to serve, consider the things that provide you with personal fulfillment and look for an opportunity to serve in a related area.
Have you ever tried to get a job that requires more experience than you have? How are you meant to obtain said experience? Volunteering is the answer. In a Deloitte survey, 86% of respondents stated that putting volunteer activities on your resume improves your chance of getting hired.
Even if you’re not looking to bolster your resume, if you are a person committed to life-long learning and growth, volunteering can be an excellent tool for personal development. Research on skill-based volunteering tells us two things — volunteers are more fulfilled when they serve based on their skill set, and there is an opportunity in volunteering to learn or develop more skills. (Dempsey-Branch & Shantz 2022).
If you are part of a friend group, religious group, or co-workers who have volunteered together, you understand the camaraderie of serving together. If you want to find a community or make friends, volunteering can be the perfect place. If you want to spend time helping at an organization you are passionate about, the odds are high that you will meet someone there with like-minded passions and interests. Meeting new people can also provide an opportunity to grow your professional circle. You never know whom you are going to meet when you volunteer.
The privilege of finding purpose
Remembering that we volunteer out of a position of privilege is important. Not only do we volunteer out of our spare time, but we can also seek meaning, purpose, and community through these activities because we can meet our basic daily needs. Because we don’t lack the necessary support to help us meet certain responsibilities. Because we don’t live under the threat of famine and war. We must understand that it’s out of privilege that we can seek out and ponder the answers to these existential questions of self-fulfillment and growth.
So next time you want to better yourself, learn a new skill, or make a new friend, consider finding a place to volunteer and do some good in the process.