Why Volunteering is Good for Your Spirit and Resume
Twice a year, Ashford University students and alumni join together with Ashford staff and faculty for a coordinated volunteer event known as Heroes Day. In addition, other volunteer events for Ashford students are scheduled throughout the year as part of the University’s Sharing Time and Resources (S.T.A.R.) Program. These events take place in locations all over the country and they involve many different activities, but they all revolve around one common goal: giving back to the community.
Volunteering with Ashford
Why does Ashford place such an emphasis on volunteering? It’s simple. Volunteering is viewed as a key component of the educational experience. It gives students a chance to take the skills and knowledge they learn in the Ashford classroom and apply them in the real world.
But even if you’re not a current or former Ashford student, there are many great reasons to spend some time volunteering. The most obvious reason is that your volunteer efforts will help to make the world a better place. Whether you’re feeding the homeless, cleaning up a rundown area of town, or donating your professional skills to a charitable organization, your work will improve circumstances for individuals and communities. That’s a powerful feeling – especially if you select a charitable endeavor that has personal significance to you.
The Benefits of Volunteering
“Helping people feels good,” said Jennifer Love Bruce, who heads up volunteer efforts at Bridgepoint Education as the Associate Vice President of Community Relations. “When people leave our volunteering events, they talk about the pride they feel and the sense of accomplishment they experience. It’s pretty special.”
The “feel good” effect of volunteering appears to have a real impact on mental health. Researchers at the London School of Economics studied the link between volunteering and happiness in American adults. Not surprisingly, people felt happier the more they volunteered. People who volunteered once per month were 7% happier than non-volunteers and people who volunteered twice per month were 12% happier1.
If making the world a better place, feeding your spirit, and improving your mental and physical health aren’t compelling reasons to volunteer, there is one other strong motivation to donate your time to important causes: potential career advancement. Volunteer work looks outstanding on your resume. It quickly reveals your character to recruiters. It shows you’re a person who cares and takes initiative. You have passion and you’re willing to go the extra mile for something you believe in. Volunteering also indicates a strong work ethic. These are all traits that recruiters and hiring managers desire.
Volunteering as a Resume Builder
Volunteering can also be an excellent way to add some important skills to your resume. Maybe you want to switch gears and set your career on a new path. Unfortunately, it may be difficult for you to get hired for the job you want if you lack the appropriate professional experience. But you probably can’t gain that professional experience unless someone is willing to take a chance and hire you. A volunteer position could help you navigate through this frustrating catch-22. A charitable organization might be more willing to take a chance on an eager volunteer looking to build his or her skillset. In fact, volunteers at charities frequently find themselves taking on new tasks simply because resources are limited. Volunteer work can be a pathway to a slew of new skills.
One caveat about this approach to skill-expansion: you must treat the volunteer work like a paying job. Just because you’re doing the work pro bono doesn’t mean you can slack off. The charity is counting on you so give it your best effort. You can harm your professional reputation if you don’t take the work seriously. And while you may not be compensated for your work, you will build your portfolio and add some strong professional references – all while helping a cause you believe in.
And that’s the important part to remember. For many people, there are some things in life that are more important than a paycheck. Helping people, improving your community, and doing something that is personally meaningful and fulfilling: all of these goals can be accomplished by volunteering.
Written by Erik Siwak, Communications Manager for Bridgepoint Education.
1Phillips, E.M., M.D. (2014). Simple Changes, Big Rewards: A Practical, Easy Guide for Healthy, Happy Living. Retrieved October 3, 2016, from http://www.health.harvard.edu/special-health-reports/simple-changes-big-rewards-a-practical-easy-guide-for-healthy-happy-living