Volunteer Work: Good for Others, Good for You!

Giving back to your community not only helps the less fortunate, it can open doors for you too; increase your network, learn new skills, become a respected leader!


Volunteering can be an amazing experience. Depending on your goals, as a volunteer, you can help an organization that can't yet afford to hire someone with your skills, or you can gain experience with a new skill set. There is also that sweet spot where you're doing both. Moreover, the contacts and networks you build as a volunteer may help you to find paid work later. The sky is the limit. Here are five volunteer positions that are always available.

IT Services

Web design and web development are skills that every company needs. Those companies that can pay for them pay top dollar, making this a particularly lucrative field. Many non-profit organizations just can't afford the high prices demanded by seasoned professionals. Any newbie who is willing to learn as they go along and volunteer their time is a welcome asset to these fledgling charities.

There are also many free resources online to help you get started. Codeacademy is a popular choice, but there are countless others aimed at helping people learn different programming languages, design strategies, and website platforms.

Visual Communications

Communication is another area where every business and non-profit organization needs to excel to succeed. Once again, companies pay top dollar for promotional videos, graphic design, animation projects and stunning photography, but if you don't have experience and can't show samples of your work, you'll have a hard time getting a foot in the door. One of the best ways to build a portfolio is to volunteer!

Though the route to self-teaching in this field is a little bit trickier, you can certainly do it. Online tutorials teach the nitty gritty details of video editing, animation programs, and graphic design. As in many fields, it is all about practice. The more complex communications projects you complete, the more smoothly your next projects will go. Once you have enough projects under your belt, you'll likely be able to find paid work.

Written Communications

Content creation is a major industry. Finding work as a writer may be challenging if you're only interested in creative writing and journalism, but if you're interested in writing for companies, the game gets a whole lot easier. An excellent way to start out is by volunteering. Contact your favorite blogs and pitch an idea. Better yet, find a small, start-up organization that you're passionate about and ask them if they'd be interested in starting a blog or newsletter. Very few charities will turn down a great idea that doesn't cost them anything.

Depending upon how successful your chosen organization becomes, you may end up on the payroll. You can even help the process along. Try your hand at grant writing and include a communications budget. Few start-ups will turn down an offer of help in the grant-writing department, and most would be happy to pay you for your work if they had the funding to do so.

Tutoring

Tutoring is surprisingly expensive and sadly unattainable for many of the students who need it most. There are few fields where volunteering can be as personally fulfilling as tutoring kids who are struggling to excel in school, but unable to afford the help they need. Though tutoring has traditionally been an on-site activity, this is changing. Today, many tutors work online, with access to students nationwide. A quick google search will reveal many non-profit organizations that are looking for online tutors.

Service Hotlines

We've all seen the hotline numbers. The subject matter varies slightly depending on the particular service provided, but they are always there to help people. There are rape hotlines, child abuse hotlines, suicide hotlines and many others. Hotline jobs are a great volunteer opportunity to complement a formal education in social work or psychology. Furthermore, the networks you build will be full of passionate people interested in the same issues that inspire you to action. Having experience working with individuals under distress is a useful skill in many industries. Though this volunteer opportunity is unlikely to transfer directly into paid employment without formal education to back it up, it is certainly a welcome note on any resume.

Volunteering is a great experience. Giving back to your community is a great way to build a career, and it's good for you too. According to UnitedHealth Group, 76 percent of people who volunteer report feeling physically healthier and 78 percent report lower levels of stress.[1] That's one more reason to find a cause you're passionate about and dive into the world of volunteering.

Notes
1. "Doing Good is Good For You" . UnitedHealthGroup.com