This is a great pity and should be rethought carefully. Volunteering for something on a regular basis has a number of benefits and makes some very powerful statements to your current and future employer.
Typically, what your volunteer work does:
- Indicates that you have a focus or passion for something other than work. This goes to issues of ‘work-life balance’.
- Suggests that you are willing to give back to society. In doing so, you show a true humanity, one in which you seek collectively, to make the world a better place to be.
- Develops a more global view of the world, one in which giving of your time allows you to engage with other like-minded people and with a demographic you may never have met.
- Depending on what you volunteer for, you most likely will build a network of friends and colleagues, that may be complementary to your professional work.
- If you are a recent graduate, you may find that volunteering your professional services is a way of getting valuable job experience that would allow you to apply for paid positions.
- It screams to an employer that you likely have the important skills of Initiative, Resilience, Work-Life Balance, ‘Groundedness’ (with your inner self), Ability to make a sacrifice, Commitment and Teamwork.
This March is the 57th Anniversary of Peace Corps. In the early days of my teaching career, I taught for two years as a volunteer with a Religious Order, in a developing country. I taught in a school that had two other Australian volunteers, a volunteer from Japan (who worked on the agricultural project on the property) and two Peace Corps Volunteers. The experience was one that shaped me personally and professionally.
We were in a remote part of the country, accessible by Four – Wheel Drive or Truck. The road to the highway, which was also a dirt road, would often flood during the monsoon season. We could be cut off for up to three months as a result. You had to be able to depend on each other, for your own sake and the sake of the mission. To be able to teach in such an environment really honed the skills I had acquired Teacher training.
The Peace Corps Volunteers discovered a world not often reported on by their media at home and learned much from the Australians that worked in the school. It was of course mutually beneficial. We learned much about their country and often talked about Education in these countries. Of the two Peace Corps Volunteers, one had been a Vice-Principal in a High School in Florida, the other a High School Teacher Librarian also from Florida. The Australian Volunteers were also several years into their careers in Australia. You don’t have to volunteer at the start of your career, during your career can also be a game changer.
Of course, you don’t have to sign up for a two-year stint in a developing country. You can Volunteer in your own country. Whether it is with a charity such as the St. Vincent de Paul Society feeding the homeless at night, or providing First Aid services through the Red Cross or St. John Ambulance or folding the newsletter on a Friday at your local Church, the fundamental principle of ‘Giving Back’ to the world in a selfless manner, of being committed to something bigger than yourself in order to make the world a better place. Volunteering creates a skill set and a knowledge of the world that is invaluable. Not just to you by the way but to your employer as well!
For my money, General John Michel (USAF Retired), in his writing on the Jesuits and the election of Pope Francis, really nails the importance of service to others. What he says is equally applicable to volunteer work and is exactly the reason employers value it on your Resume.
“The world’s first Jesuit Pope is demonstrating daily his commitment to becoming the best human being he can possibly be. Not for selfish gain, mind you. But because he understands a life well lived is a life dedicated to serving humanity—one opportunity to add value to your surroundings at a time.
Keep in mind, you don’t have to be a pope or belong to a religious order to set an example worth emulating. You just have to be willing to LEARN the lessons of some of the world’s most successful change agents and resolve to be someone who can get over themselves in order to serve a purpose greater than themselves.”
(General John Michel. (2014).