Volunteering is often seen through the lens of how volunteers help to improve their communities. Though there’s no denying the valuable role volunteers play in strengthening their communities, it’s worth noting just how much volunteers can benefit from donating their time and effort to worthy causes.
A 2020 study published in the Journal of Happiness asked 70,000 participants about their volunteering habits and mental health. The study found that, when compared to those who did not volunteer, people who had volunteered in the previous 12 months were more satisfied with their lives and gave their overall health higher ratings.
Volunteering can benefit anyone, and can be especially valuable to students, benefitting their overall health and helping in myriad other ways as well.
Volunteering can get a foot in the door. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that employers expect to hire 7.2 percent more new college graduates from the class of 2021 than they did from the class of 2020. That’s encouraging news, but recent graduates will still face stiff competition as they look for their first job. Volunteering with an organization in their field can be a great way for current students and recent graduates to get their foot in the door. Even if a volunteering opportunity does not ultimately lead to a job offer, the experience students gain can help them stand out in a crowded pool of job applicants down the road.
Volunteering can help students find a career path. A 2017 report from the U.S. Department of Education found that about 30 percent of undergraduates in associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs who had declared majors changed their majors at least once within three years of their initial enrollment. The same report noted that roughly one in 10 changed majors more than once. Those statistics suggest that many students are uncertain about what they want to study at the onset of their college careers. Volunteering before and during college can help students explore their interests and see where their skills are applicable. They can then rely on that experience as they choose a major.
Volunteering expands students’ social horizons. Volunteers serve and work alongside people from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. That’s a great way to see the world through a new perspective, and it also can positively affect students’ eventual careers. Professionals who have worked with people of various backgrounds are in better position to effectively communicate with a wider array of people, which can help them build a more diverse set of business relationships. Organizations recognize that value and often prioritize hiring candidates with the kind of strong interpersonal skills students develop through volunteering.