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5 Surprising Benefits of Volunteering

Helping others can also boost your health and your career

(This article previously appeared on MovingWorlds.org.)

The power of volunteering has been documented for the last 2,500+ years, however a slew of recent research is shedding even more light onto its surprising benefits. Science now proves what great leaders and philosophers have known for years:

“One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.” – Gordon Hinckle
Here are five surprising benefits of volunteering:

1. Volunteering time makes you feel like you have more time. Wharton professor Cassie Mogilner wrote in the Harvard Business Review that her research found those who volunteer their time feel like they have more of it. This is similar to other research showing that people who donate to charity feel wealthier.

Said Mogliner: “The results show that giving your time to others can make you feel more ‘time affluent’ and less time-constrained than wasting your time, spending it on yourself, or even getting a windfall of free time.”

(MORE: Can We Get Some Volunteers?)

2. Volunteering your skills helps you develop new skills. In my experience, skills-based volunteering is an excellent opportunity to develop talents to help you get ahead in your career. In fact, an article in Stanford Social Innovation Review called skills-based volunteering overseas “the next executive training ground.”

At MovingWorlds, we’ve found that skills development in technical and leadership-related areas is the primary reason corporations invest in international skills-based volunteering programs.

(MORE: Volunteering Pays for Job Hunters)

3. Volunteering your body helps you have a healthier body. A Corporation for National & Community Service report noted: “Research demonstrates that volunteering leads to better health… those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.”

The fact that volunteering has been proven to make you healthier is reason enough to engage in pro bono activities. For more information on this, read “Can Volunteering Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease?

4. Volunteering your experience helps build your experience. We consistently see this with highly skilled professionals like investment bankers and business consultants. Also, volunteering in a new industry will give you knowledge to help you switch fields. And if you want to move from the corporate world to the nonprofit sector, volunteering first can help prove your commitment.

Beyond our own research, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Next Avenue have published articles about how volunteering can help you earn your next job.

(MORE: The Peace Corps Wants You, Boomers!)

As the Journal wrote: “According to the survey of 202 human-resource executives, skilled volunteer work — such as helping a nonprofit with its finances — makes job applicants look more appealing to hiring manager.”

Here are some tips to add your volunteering experience to your resumé and LinkedIn profile.

5. Volunteering your love makes you feel more love. Admittedly, love is a hard thing to measure. But when researchers at the London School of Economics examined the relationship between volunteering and measures of happiness, they found the more people volunteered, the happier they were. Volunteering builds empathy, strengthens social bonds and makes you smile  — all factors that increase the feeling of love.

How to Find Volunteering Opportunities

So how can you get started volunteering? It’s remarkably easy. Post your intentions on Facebook and/or LinkedIn to get connected to an organization in your network. You can also use LinkedIn’s For Good program, Catchafire or VolunteerMatch to find local opportunities and MovingWorlds.org to find international skills-based volunteer projects. 

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” – Muhammad Ali

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