Why Do People Volunteer? Why the Work? Why the Sweat? Why the Sacrifice?

Why Do People Volunteer? 
For These 7 

By Guest Author Eric Weir

Why do people volunteer? A great question, and one that many clients have asked me - they want to know what are the specific volunteering benefits, whether they are long-time residents going through a major career transition or new immigrants trying to settle in a new country.

There are many reasons to volunteer, and I’ll explain below toyou’re your volunteering - even just a few hours each week – very positively and directly impacts both your career development and job search success.

It’s just totally amazing to me every time how much getting involved in some volunteer work can help everyone with building their careers, regardless of whether that volunteer role relates directly to their chosen profession or is simply their way of staying connected professionally through one or even several community service agencies within their neighborhood or local community. It often works very well either way.

But wait, there’s more!

Volunteering also helps us tremendously in maintaining a positive attitude while we job search, and quite naturally bolsters our health, self-esteem and joy of life.

Of course, volunteering also touches other people’s lives besides our own. We change other people’s lives while we also help ourselves at the same time. And it’s totally magical - almost unbelievable in fact - how much each volunteer benefits as a reward for or result of his or her volunteer commitments and activities.

Why Do People Volunteer?:

1) How Volunteer Work 
Can Benefit Your Job Search

When we offer to volunteer, we will often create a “pull” and therefore much more easily attract to ourselves the resources and various other forms of assistance we need to help us in our job search goals. First we give, and then we naturally receive as a result.

I know that you may want to volunteer strictly only because you feel a natural, healthy desire to help others, and I totally relate to that. However, most unfortunately for us self-sacrificing humanitarian types, we just can’t help getting something back in return no matter how hard we may try to make the “giving-and-taking thing” a one-way street! .-)

The most important thing that we need to comprehend about the power of volunteering to help in our job search and career is the fact that giving always begets receiving.

We don’t know exactly how we’re going to be rewarded for our acts of giving. And we don’t know who’s going to come into our lives to help us in return for the help we’re offering to the community.

But rest assured, help us they will, and often before we even know it and in ways that we never would’ve imagined or expected.

In fact, if anything, we as the “givers” benefit more – sometimes a lot more – than the “receivers” as a result of this give-receive feedback loop.

And that’s why your act of giving through volunteer work activities often has such a profoundly positive impact on all areas of your life.

For example, let’s start with how volunteering can improve your health:

Why Do People Volunteer?:

2) If You 
Want to Live Longer, Volunteer!

One answer to the question, “Why do people volunteer?” is better health, and I mean on all levels.

Giving back to the local community may slow down the aging process in ways that at least generally lead to a higher quality of life.

The physical health benefits of doing good things for others through volunteering are similar to those experienced by any of us who do yoga regularly, or practice another spiritual discipline such as meditation. In other words, volunteering can actually slow down your heart rate and reduce your blood pressure.

Of course, improved health creates a positive feedback loop into all areas of your life that need it, and sometimes in very profound ways. Among other ways, this includes enhanced motivation and more of that positive energy you absolutely need to carry into your job search and career development activities.

Why Do People Volunteer?:

3) Forget Drugs – You Can 
Get a Natural High from Volunteering!

Here's yet another reason why people like to volunteer: The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) commissioned a research study which stated that volunteers report a kind of helpers’ high - a physical and psychological “feel good” sensation linked to physiological changes.

In my own words, volunteering often has the effect of raising your energy, something hard to measure scientifically, but that is nevertheless very effective and real.

Perhaps our voluntary work operates at a higher “spiritual energy” and when we participate in it then we receive more of that good energy. It then lifts us up more, helping us to persevere in our job search despite feelings of personal insecurity and financial worries.

Also, because the people we’re helping in our volunteer work are quite often considerably worse off than we are, it helps us to feel relatively better about our own life situation which is often comparatively simple.

We come to the realization through relating to these other fallible humans that all is not lost, and that really we’re still doing relatively well even though we’re currently unemployed or otherwise feeling a sense of lack in life.

Or better still, we take it a step further and end up completely forgetting about our own troubles because we become so busy helping others with theirs! Then, we stop feeling so sorry for ourselves and can once again focus in on our most pressing responsibilities within our own lives, which include preparing for upcoming job interviews and networking opportunities if we are out of work.

Why Do People Volunteer?:

4) Volunteering Reduces 
Isolation, Loneliness, Frustration and Depression

When clients ask me, "Why do people volunteer?" I sometimes prefer to focus on the social aspect of volunteering.

For example, by far the toughest aspect of job searching is the loneliness and isolation which easily turns into frequent frustration with ourselves and others. We can also suffer from related harsh self-criticism and eventually even moderate or severe depression.

Some unfortunate people even start to get thoughts of self-harm or suicide when they’re out of work or money and have no ideas left about where to turn.

Even if we’re surrounded by a lot of loving and supportive family and friends at night and on the weekends, those seemingly-unending, long solitary weekdays can take their toll on health, self-esteem and happiness.

A lot of us rely at least somewhat on our co-workers to meet at least some social needs, and this balance between home and work keeps us from relying too much on any one particular person.

Humans are social beings! Much of our social enjoyment comes out of our daily work. Volunteering temporarily takes the place of meeting those social needs while we’re job searching, thus eliminating or at least reducing our isolation.

Mind you, volunteering isn’t just about keeping busy through hanging out or chatting with other people. It’s also about using our time wisely, by keeping ourselves busy in a way that’s meaningful and productive.

Through our volunteer work. we make a really significant contribution, remain an active participant in life, and often enhance our work skills.

Volunteer activity is also about giving time and organizational structure to our week and day, and that’s very helpful even it it’s only a 4-hour-per-week volunteer shift that we commit ourselves to. Even that few hours is a lot better than spending all of your long weekdays alone and stuck in front of your old computer.

These are things we can’t otherwise do nearly as easily when we’re out of work. Volunteering fills that rather awkward gap very nicely thank you very much, and helps us to stay more on track in our job search.

Why Do People Volunteer?:

5) Volunteering Offers Us 
Many New Professional Contacts

When the PHAC study asked why do people volunteer, it also showed that our social participation through volunteering is a very important element of integrate, healthy and secure communities.

People with strong support networks and increased social contacts experience lower premature death rates along with less heart disease and also fewer health risk factors.

In addition, it found that volunteering helps people form interpersonal ties and develop their social networks.

In other words, you can make many new friends and both professional and personal acquaintances, or expand your professional and social networks.

Q: Okay, so how exactly does this happen?

A: It happens as a natural consequence of you being around others in the volunteer workplace – staff along with other volunteers. You are no longer on the outside of the door looking in. No! You’re on the inside now!

You introduce yourself to all these fascinating new people, and then you start to have chats with them whenever you’re on your volunteer shift there.

As you continue your volunteering there and some of these people get to know you better, your conversations naturally lead to career development and job search referrals and related “golden nuggets” of information, and this often happens without you even asking or expecting it to happen!

If you help an agency’s staff, they will quite naturally want to help you back, and often do. Once you’ve “given of yourself,” your volunteer supervisor and others on your team there will seek to help you in return.

Similarly, volunteering is great for meeting people to do informational interviews or information gathering interviews with. You may want to arrange a formal or more structured information gathering interview, or simply ask questions more gradually or over a longer period of time as you talk to and get to know people at the agency.

In addition to various social service agencies, you can also volunteer for your professional group or association to assist them with job fairs, conferences or other special events as well as to participate on active working committees.

In fact, merely offering to volunteer at your professional association is often more than enough to attract further networking contacts.

Why Do People Volunteer?:

Demonstrates Your Leadership Skills

Volunteers gain interpersonal, communication, organizational, managerial and leadership skills through practical experience and on- the-job training. This improves both our professional and personal growth.

Specific benefits for teen and youth volunteers in particular featureenhanced confidence and self esteem through skill development. And again, there’s the tie-in with health: Confidence and self-esteem are related to improved immune function and reduced blood pressure.

Why Do People Volunteer?:

7) Volunteer Work Adds 
Recognition to Your Resume

Volunteering earns you the additional recognition and approval that you can proudly display in your career portfolio and on your resume.

We can always mention volunteer work on our resumes within our work experience sections or as a secondary section. Don’t hide it! It demonstrates that you’re a contributing member of your local community as well as your leadership and a willingness to provide valuable service to others.

Volunteer roles of all kinds are powerful demonstrations of community leadership. So whether you’re making photocopies or organizing a huge event, it’s all about leadership. People who express volunteering leadership within their community are frequently richly rewarded with many kinds of helpful recognition.

In Summary: Why Do People Volunteer?

Why do people volunteer? They’re inspired to because the experience of volunteering is just so incredible. It’s like magic. It’s truly amazing how much such a simple act can re-charge your job search, help your career and even more importantly, improve your own experience and quality of life.

Let’s celebrate it - 
volunteering is a huge force for good in the world that affects all of us in a very positive way.

Why do people volunteer? Because directly and indirectly, collectively and personally, volunteering is changing people’s lives. This includes people who live in your local community, neighbours, friends and family – and last but certainly not least, you.

Eric Weir is the author of:

VolunteerMagic, (http://www.job-search-coach.com/index.html) a website written with a personal touch, designed to celebrate the many powerful benefits of volunteering.

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