7 Reasons Why You Should Do Volunteer Work

With balancing school, homework, jobs, family and a social life, many teenagers struggle to find even a few free minutes in their day. However, committing just a couple hours a month to volunteer work will provide benefits for years to come.

Why Should I Spend Time Volunteering?

The Corporation for National & Community Service reports about one in four Americans donated their time and energy to nonprofit causes in 2016. As a country, we managed to log a cumulative 7.8 billion hours of community service last year.

That seems like an impressive number, but unfortunately it still falls a bit short of our country’s needs. In fact, the number of Americans engaged in volunteerism declined by about one-quarter in recent years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

At the same time, the amount of money and resources available to help people in need gets slimmer each year. Now more than at any time in living memory, our country relies on young, able-bodied people willing to help make the world a better place.

While improving your community is a worthy effort on its own, there’s more to it than that. Whether you’re help out at a local animal shelter, library, park or community center, you’re also helping set yourself up for future success.

Below are just a few of the reasons why you should consider donating your time before graduation, and then continue to do so even beyond high school.

1. Improve Your College Application

Remember that colleges have a limited number of spots available each year; they won’t admit everyone who applies.

Because you’re competing against thousands of other applicants for one of those spots, you’ll want to take advantage of any opportunity that helps you stand out from the competition.

Extracurricular activities are a tried-and-tested method of improving your application—this includes not just school sports and clubs, but serving the community as well.

College admissions boards regard volunteer work very highly, giving you an advantage over students who do not have any extracurriculars on their record.

2. Earn Scholarships

Some scholarships are awarded based on certain personal criteria, including background, ethnicity and income, but many others are based on students’ academic and extracurricular performance. There are tens of millions of dollars offered every semester for students who are willing to help their communities—just check out this list of community service awards from Scholarships.com.

3. Improve Your Resume

The job market in most fields is highly-competitive, and it will only continue to get more challenging in the coming years. Once you’re ready to take that first step into your career, you’ll find that having some previous experience will be a big help.

Many employers actively look for candidates with volunteering experience. According to a survey by the Global Volunteer Network, 87% of employers say that volunteering has a positive impact on career development, and most agree it makes for excellent employees.

Therefore, having this experience on your resume will set you apart from those going in with limited employment history, and will lead employers to see you as a more qualified candidate.

4. Develop Useful Skills

Just because you’re not paid in cash when you donate your time, that doesn’t mean you’re not being paid in other ways—namely, the skills you’ll need to be successful as you move into adulthood.

You can develop and refine many of the same skills you’ll use in your career through organized volunteer work, such as effective communication, teamwork, dependability, and more.

The benefit is compounded if you get involved in an organization related to your future plans in life; for example, volunteering at an assisted living facility can help prepare for the demands of the medical field. Similarly, helping at an afterschool childcare program is a great way to develop the skills you’ll need if you plan to go into early childhood education.

Think of volunteer work as part of a continued education that will give you a big advantage when it comes time to find a job.

5. Network and Develop Connections

“Networking” refers to meeting and developing contacts with people who can help you grow your skills and advance your career. It is building relationships with mentors, coworkers and clients to give yourself a step-up to the next level of success.

Just about any field you choose to go into will require you to build a professional network. Fortunately, you can lay the foundation of your network and hit the ground running by offering your time to an organization in need while still a student.

If you’re a reliable and dedicated worker, your supervisors and fellow volunteers would probably be happy to vouch for you later on as you transition into a professional role. Therefore, you’ll want to nourish those connections and maintain positive relationships with people, as they are the ones who will help lift you onto the first rung of the career ladder. From there, you will add more connections and expand your network, enabling you to advance your career faster and faster, while your peers are still trying to catch up.

6. Improve Communication Skills

You can’t overlook the importance of developing solid communication and interpersonal skills. No matter your goals in life, learning to communicate effectively with other people is essential. Volunteering can help you do that, because relating to people is a key component of effective communication.

Working closely with those who need assistance helps you build empathy, making you more capable of understanding and relating to other people. It will help you understand different peoples’ perspectives, making it easier to relate to things outside of your own experience.

7. Achieve Personal Fulfillment

Above all else, you can’t overlook one simple fact—volunteering feels good!

Giving your time to help improve the lives of others in your community and seeing the real impact of your actions first-hand gives you a positive sense of self.

Many people first engage in volunteer work for the sake of developing their resume or building upon their roster of skills, but after a while, they find that they really enjoy the activities. After you start performing charitable work, you might find that you have a genuine passion for the work.

How Can I Make the Most of My Volunteer Efforts?

Of course, reaping the rewards of performing charitable work requires more than simply showing up. So, what exactly is necessary to make the most of the potential benefits offered by volunteering?

Focus on Responsibility

The professional world can be pretty tough, and very few people are ready to jump in feet-first straight out of school. However, you can polish-up the skills you will need ahead of time by engaging in volunteer work.

Nonprofit work will teach you how to conduct yourself in a business environment ahead of time so you are ready right from day one. This includes:

  • Showing up on time. First impressions are hugely important, and few things create a negative impression right off-the-bat like tardiness.
  • Keeping commitments. When you say you’ll do something, don’t flake on it—follow through. People will hesitate to trust you if you can’t keep your word.
  • Working hard. Invest your energy and attention into the task at hand. You will end up with a better result, and people will respect and take notice of your effort.

Get a Recommendation

If you follow all the above advice and demonstrate how reliable and consistent your work is, the people around you will probably be happy to recommend you to college officers and potential employers.

You may not realize it, but a letter of recommendation can carry a lot of weight—by writing one of these letters, the author is putting their reputation on the line to say that you’re a good worker. So, when college admissions officials, employers and others see that someone took the time to write a letter of recommendation on your behalf, that has a great deal of symbolic significance.

Over the course of your volunteer work, you’ll want to form positive relationships with your volunteer coordinators. That way, they’ll be happy to write you a letter of recommendation once you’re ready to move on.

Ready to Get Involved?

On a basic level, volunteerism should be its own reward. The feeling of having personally made the world a better place is something that you really can’t get any other way—there just happens to be a bunch of other great benefits as well!

Whether you’re able to tutor younger students, share food with the homeless, or run a community center, everyone has something they can contribute, and there’s no time like the present!