April may be designated as National Volunteer Month but most people’s busy lives leave little time for volunteering. Between work and family obligations most Americans find their day void of free time. Even if you find some free time it’s likely that you’ll want to fill it with leisure, whether that be a vacation, or a day reading a novel by the pool. There are ways, however, to fit volunteering into your busy life, especially for those individuals who find themselves in life transition. If you can find the time, the benefits volunteering offers are truly unparalleled.
It’s now a well known fact that recent college graduates are finding it increasingly difficult to become employed. Volunteering can be a good way to fill this transition between college and a career with something worthwhile. Americorps offers a variety of low paid jobs which give individuals a chance to volunteer while making money. Through Americorps individuals can volunteer with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity or Teach for America which both offer highly rewarding experiences that do great things for those in need. Upon completing a volunteering program (which typically lasts around two years) individuals may find that they have an easier time getting a job or earning acceptance into professional school. It shows potential employers or graduate schools that you have had time to mature and become independent and that you are willing to work hard for the things you are passionate about. It can also help students who are taking a year or two off from school to earn additional scholarship money.
Volunteering can also be a good way to transition into retirement. For many, it can be difficult to make this change, especially those used to working rigorous hours who have found their lives busy for the last few decades. Donating your time to a National Park, museum or local elementary school can help to ensure that you remain social and busy so as to avoid boredom and loneliness which may lead to depression. It also gives you the opportunity to fulfill some of those life goals you have yet to accomplish, while supplementing your now fixed income.
In addition to college graduates and retirees volunteering should be heavily considered
by high school students. While students shouldn’t volunteer just for the sake of looking good on a college application, admission officers like to see students who have volunteered and connected their experiences back with what they learned in school. Volunteering also gives high school students a chance to connect and network with their greater community and fellow students in addition to allowing them to develop work ethic and altruism. Admissions officers particularly like to see students who have recognized a need within their local community, who have taken the initiative to address that need, and have done something about it. High school is a time in which most students have at least some spare time and are very much developing their personal character, which makes volunteering an especially good extracurricular activity.
But what if you don’t fit into any of these categories, how can you make time to volunteer? More and more opportunities are opening up to volunteer while on vacation. Whether you volunteer with an organization such as Habitat for Humanity, or for a cause you found through your own research of the community your are traveling to, volunteering on vacation is a very worthwhile idea. By volunteering on vacation you do good, gain a richer connection to that foreign community and you’ll still have time to engage in leisure. By using your vacation time to volunteer you may find that you have a more rewarding vacation. You can also volunteer while at work by taking on clients pro bono or establishing a company sustainability team.
The question still remains however, why should you fill the gaps in your time with volunteer work? The answer is really very simply, you help yourself by helping others. Those who volunteer for a cause they are passionate about are typically happier people. By making others feel good you help yourself feel good. Typically those who volunteer are more thankful for they ways in which they themselves are blessed and are less focused on their own problems. By volunteering people also gain a tie to a community of people with similar interests to them, and thus often have more social lives. Lastly, and most importantly, volunteering allows you to leave a positive impact on this world and other’s lives. What could possibly be a better incentive to volunteer than happiness?