As a student you live a busy life. Lectures, coursework, socialising, maybe a part-time job; all take up much of your valuable time. So why would you add volunteering to your busy schedule? Volunteering is usually seen as a purely selfless act which benefits others, but there are many benefits to you as a student. Here are just a few:
Volunteering helps you increase your competency, develop new skills or hone your existing skills in a practical environment. Employers like to see volunteering on your CV because it shows commitment, desire, responsibility, reliability and a strong work ethic. In short – volunteering helps you stand out from the crowd.
“73% of employers said they would rather employ someone with voluntary experience than someone without. 58% of employers say that voluntary work experience can actually be more valuable that experience gained in paid employment.”
(Timebank Survey: Association of Graduate Recruiters)
Are you unsure about what direction to head in after graduation? Volunteering can give you a great taste of what it’s like to work in many different fields. For many people volunteering creates opportunities for paid work – it exposes you to internships and might encourage an employer to offer you a job. Many voluntary roles also offer extensive training, and may even help you towards accredited qualifications.
“Volunteering with English Heritage was extremely beneficial to us, particularly as our backgrounds consisted of archaeology and art history, enabling us to put into practice what we had been theoretically taught at University.”
(English Heritage volunteers: Wrest Park Store)
Volunteering is a great way to boost your social skills. It connects you with other people from diverse backgrounds. It helps you make new friends, broaden your support network, ties you to the community and exposes you to people with a common interest. This has been proven to help with overcoming shyness and increase self-confidence. A study from the London School of Economics showed that 74% of people who volunteered felt they had improved their people skills.
“Leading walks has given me the confidence to stand up in front of groups of people and take the lead, after going through a time when I never thought I’d have that confidence.”
(Colin: Walking for Health)
Volunteering is good for you, both physically and mentally. Helping others and making meaningful connections to people counteracts the effects of stress, anger and anxiety. Working with animals, gardening and crafts is all proven to improve your mood. The study from the LSE showed that people who volunteered once a week were 44.4% happier than those who never volunteered. People who volunteer also have a lower mortality rate because it encourages physical activity, relieves blood pressure and stimulates the brain.
“Since volunteering at Mind, I lead a more active and structured life. I’ve had something to commit to and challenge my anxieties.”
(Anna Pomeroy: Mind)
Many charities, community groups, political campaigns, and cultural facilities rely on volunteers to keep them going. Volunteering with these organisations can have a very real impact on the people around you and is a great way to give something back to your community. In return this can help you find a sense of purpose; give you direction and a huge sense of pride and achievement.
“My Philosophy is a very simple one, if we all put just a little back into our local community, the world would be a much better place.”
(Volunteer: Worthing Churches Homeless Trust)
Volunteering is a great way to explore your passions and interests. It can allow you to express your creativity. It can create meaningful, interesting and energising experiences. It breaks up the routine of your day-today life. If you are bored of being stuck in front of a computer screen all day, volunteer outdoors in a community garden or dog walking for an animal shelter. The possibilities are endless.
“I find it so rewarding... after receiving a litter of tiny sickly kittens, who look as if they have no chance of survival, to return them to the centre all fit and healthy and ready to go to their new homes. Who needs to be paid to get that kind of feeling! I certainly don't.’