Volunteer Opportunities Are Waiting in Your Community!
Interested in the arts, helping your community or travel abroad? Check out these great opportunities! Expand your world while giving to others!
When many people hear the word "volunteer," the first thing they think of is "work without pay," and they often turn away. That's a mistake: volunteering can be one of the best life choices you'll ever make, a win-win deal all the way.
Volunteering helps your community. Many organizations pursuing worthwhile causes rely on volunteers to function. From feeding the hungry to caring for neglected animals to supporting neglected children and much more, volunteers do much of the work that makes our communities livable and humane. Volunteering is also good for you. Multiple studies report that people who volunteer consistently report higher levels of happiness and even better health than those who don't.
Volunteering also has real career benefits. Volunteer work puts valuable experience in what might otherwise be a blank spot on your resume. Devoting your time to something that matters to you tells potential employers that you are motivated, active, and can take initiative and that you care about things beyond yourself; all these factors have an impact on hiring decisions. Volunteering builds networks and connections. In most communities, charitable efforts are supported and even initiated by local businesses and companies. Volunteer work through a religious or civic organization puts you in direct contact with the movers and shakers in your area. Showing these people that you're dedicated, efficient, concerned and willing to get your hands dirty is one of the best self-advertisements you can make.
Finding Opportunities to Serve
There is no shortage of volunteer opportunities out there, whether you live in a small town in rural America or a bustling metro center. The key to reaping the most benefits from volunteering from both a personal and career standpoint is to find opportunities that hold a genuine interest to you. If you need a place to start, there are also some great websites that pair you with opportunities based on your ZIP code or other information, including:
PointsOfLight.org's HandsOn Network - This site scours 250 volunteer action centers throughout the country to help you find the right fit for your volunteer time based on your postal code.
VolunteerMatch.org - This website is simple and easy to use. Just type in your ZIP and a keyword related to the volunteering opportunity that you find interesting (or leave that field blank to see a broader availability). You can also browse local volunteer offerings by Advocacy and Human Rights, Arts and Culture, Animals, or Board Development to find your ideal volunteering match.
Idealist.org - Note your desired type of volunteer work, any skills you offer, and your location to search thousands of different volunteer opportunities and events in an instant. Find contact information quickly to help you connect with the organization to get started.
GoAbroad.com - Look for opportunities overseas with GoAbroad.com. Select a country of interest, choose a cause and the length of time you want to commit, and then search for career-building opportunities in places as diverse as Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.
Common Community-Based Volunteer Opportunities
A host of opportunities awaits you, each of them with the potential to make you (and your resume) stand out. Teaching seniors to use computers at the community center may lead to a paid internship with that organization, and your performance may even land you a lucrative job in the future. At a minimum, you'll walk away with a life experience, the knowledge that you've done what you can to help others, and an excellent reference for your job search.
Some of the most common volunteer opportunities include:
• Tutoring English as a Second Language
• Cleaning up a stretch of roadway or beach
• Drawing attention to a local environmental problem
• Coaching a youth sports team
• Shelving books and providing patron assistance at the library
• Taking care of plants and other botanicals in a community garden
• Delivering food through Meals on Wheels
• Stocking shelves at Goodwill
• Working with a local animal shelter to place animals in homes
• Helping special needs children and adults
• Manning the phone for a crisis center
• Working at a homeless shelter
• Spending time in a nursing home doing activities with the elderly
• Reading to children
Finding opportunities in your area is usually as easy as a few internet searches, but if that doesn't turn up what you're looking for, seek out people who share your interests and concerns, and ask.
Although some volunteer opportunities may seem more glamorous than others, the point is to show that you are a hardworking individual with drive and determination and that you're committed to making the world a better place. Some of the biggest names in business and politics put their time in as volunteers, including CEO and founder of Netflix, Reed Hastings, and former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary, Donna Shalala, both of whom were once members of the Peace Corps. Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut, was a volunteer with Girl Scouts, and author Agatha Christie worked with the Red Cross.
A Final Thought
Remember, the value of volunteering goes beyond monetary compensation. As a career-building tool, volunteering helps you fill in the blank spaces on your resume, accounting for the time that you are not spending in the job force. It also shows potential employers that you are a person who takes the initiative when it comes to realizing change in the world - whether you're serving meals to seniors, remodeling a shelter, or tutoring an adult GED applicant - you don't care to dig in and get your hands dirty. It says "no job is too small or unimportant." Volunteering boosts your experience, helps you build valuable references, and expands your view of the world, making it a secret weapon for successful job seekers.