To many people–especially recent high school and college graduates–volunteering and community service can appear to be a step away from their long-term professional goals. Without any pay and performing tasks unrelated to the career aspirations of many soon-to-be professionals, volunteering often gets pushed to the side as one of those things that young people should embrace, but don’t.
However, this mindset overlooks the ways volunteering can actually contribute to your professional goals. In addition to improving your self-image and offering a sense of fulfillment from the things you devote yourself to, there are many benefits of volunteering that can pay dividends now and well into your future. Here’s a look at some of the ways high school community service and other forms of volunteering can contribute to your loftiest goals.
Bolstering your resume and applications
One of the biggest challenges facing high school and college students is a lack of real-world experience. Yes, you have a great education under your belt, as well as experiential success in your virtual stock market club and the simulated business marketing group in which you were a participant. These are great, but they lack the heft and value of going out into the world and facing challenges that can’t be recreated in a classroom.
Volunteering can give you that and more. You can engage in actual problem-solving efforts where there are very real consequences for those decisions. You will be exposed to demanding work and will be held accountable for your actions, and you will increase your understanding of the needs facing various communities locally and around the world. That’s experience that some of your peers will never acquire, and it can give you a serious competitive edge.
Connecting with others
Many volunteers are successful in their own right and come from a variety of fields and places of employment. In your volunteer efforts, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with a wide range of professionals on a deeper level that you would at some random networking session. And because those individuals get to witness first-hand your contributions to a needy cause, you’ll enjoy an elevated reputation in their eyes. Whether now or in the future, those simple connections could open doors that build toward your long-term success.
Gain new skills
Maybe learning how to build a home, or tend to a garden don’t factor in to your professional aspirations. Then again, who knows? As a young professional, your interests are bound to change over time. Even if you can’t apply it professionally, the skills you gain are likely to help you in the future — or possibly spark a new hobby. And at the very least, employers and colleges will appreciate your efforts to become a more well-rounded individual.
Contribute to your community
Being invested in your community is a valued quality that is hard to find in young people. The simple work you do volunteering locally can prove your dedication to making an imprint on the world, even if only at the community level. Making these contributions can also increase your visibility and prominence in the community, which could in turn open doors for your future.
Become a healthier person
Inactivity can bring plenty of negative side effects, such as weight gain, reduced cardiovascular health and an increased risk of illness. Volunteering requires you to get out and be active while working with others, contributing to your social health and overall well-being. Employers and colleges are interested in recruiting healthy individuals. By becoming one, you increase your value to them and your overall quality of life.
Although there’s always the need to strike a balance between working, studying, volunteering and allocating personal time, young people should resist the temptation to ignore volunteering opportunities. Although the benefits aren’t always obvious, there is a lot of personal and professional development that can occur as a result of these efforts. Seek out volunteering opportunities that suit you best and take the plunge — in the end, you’ll be glad you did.