In 2012 Steph Slater, an aspiring young swimmer who had recently had her life turned upside down after being diagnosed with a degenerative condition, volunteered as a Gamesmaker at the London Olympics. Inspired by what she saw and the people she met, four years on, she is a world record holder, Speedo brand ambassador and among a group of medal potential Para Olympians for Rio 2016.
At a more local level, Tony Sewell runs his own business and has devoted much of his spare time over the past 12 years or more as a volunteer coach and manager of kids football teams, many of which he has taken from their first introduction to the game aged 5 or 6, through well into their teens. He has further invested in sponsoring the team kits to advertise his business as one of his marketing tools, and with the business now expanding has found himself employing some of the young lads who he coached in the past.
In my own case, I am the volunteer Chairman of Preston Swimming Club, managing an executive committee of 6 other volunteers, a coaching team led by a full time professional, but staffed largely with more volunteers, and a membership of over 450 young swimmers. I have brought existing skills to bear on the role, but also honed or learnt new skills along the way.
There are many more stories I could share, but want to move on to the reasons why I believe volunteering is good for your career as well as your soul.
Good For Your Soul
Giving back - many people initially volunteer as a way of giving something back in an area they have benefitted from in the past. In my case, a large number of volunteer coaches, administrators and helpers in various sports have enabled me to enjoy sport as much as I have, and to develop discipline, competitiveness, teamwork, personal responsibility and may others skills that have benefitted me in my career to date. I wanted to enable other kids to have that same opportunity.
Feels like you have more time - 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.”
Helps you be healthier - Research has demonstrated that those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.”
Increases self-confidence - You are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity. And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals.
Good For Your Career
Help you earn your next job - According to a survey carried out by TimeBank through Reed Executive, among 200 of the UK’s leading businesses;
•73% of employers would recruit a candidate with volunteering experience over one without,
•94% of employers believe that volunteering can add to skills,
•94% of employees who volunteered to learn new skills had benefited either by getting their first job, improving their salary, or being promoted
Learn or develop skills and expertise - Planning and implementing a major fundraising event can develop goal setting, planning and budgeting skills. Supervising and training other volunteers helps to develop supervisory and training skills. Just because volunteer work is unpaid does not mean the skills you learn are basic. Many volunteering opportunities provide extensive training which may also benefit you in the workplace.
Develop your interpersonal skills and build your networks - Volunteering brings together a diverse range of people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Both the recipients of your volunteer efforts and your co-workers can be a rich source of inspiration and an excellent way to develop your interpersonal skills... You may even find people who have the personal and professional contacts to help you in your career.
Exposure To New Ways Of Doing Things - Seeing how another organisation runs things, and being exposed to different ways of managing, brainstorming, solving problems, can provide a fresh way to look at the challenges you face in your paid position.
A team-building experience - This one goes beyond just you. Do you lead or work with a team? Finding a group volunteering opportunity can be a low-cost way to do good and re-establish positive connections with your team. A number of years back, the annual sales conference for Whitbread Beer Company included a day of working on 'Whitbread in the Community' projects on things such as - in my teams case - building a new fence for a local riding school.
So, I would urge you, if you don't already give your time as a volunteer, think about donating a little of your time to enrich the lives of others ... You never know, you might even benefit yourself!