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Volunteering: 5 Reasons Why You Should Take It Up

Employability Skills Work

In the one and a half years I have spent at university, I have been privileged enough to meet a number of people who spend some of their free time volunteering. I have even volunteered myself. Therefore, I can safely say that most volunteers were entirely bereft of the saintly, other worldly aspect which naturally springs to mind when one thinks of volunteers. I have met serious people, funny people, bold people and shy people; people from different races, genders and backgrounds. All were different, yet had one single thing in common. They were entirely ordinary. So, whether you’ve never considered volunteering before or are wondering if you’re quite the right sort, here are five reasons why you should definitely give it a try.

 

1) Volunteering is fun!

It might sound slightly scandalous to say so, but most volunteers volunteer because they enjoy it. Not only does it give them satisfaction, but the various tasks themselves are often quite fun! To give a personal example, I have spent many happy hours helping the university manage the various woodlands they own. Yes, the joy of coppicing (cutting down smaller trees to make space for the others to grow) is partly due to the satisfaction of helping to improve a woodland habitat but, if I’m honest, it’s also good fun to spend the morning wielding saws, billhooks and axes whilst taking breaks to drink tea and munch biscuits. All for the good of the environment, of course!

 

2) Volunteering gives access to new worlds

Volunteering gives you access to places and people at both ends of society that you otherwise would never get to meet. Various history projects have brought me to some surprising places, most recently an exhibition at the British Dental Association in London. Needless to say, the country’s top dentists are not the type of person that a penniless student tends to meet very often, yet I spent part of the day chatting to several on very friendly terms. At the other end of the scale, whilst distributing food to the homeless in Canterbury I often have conversations on a broad range of subjects, ranging from economics to philosophy. Without volunteering, I would never meet such people and my life would be less interesting as a consequence.

3) Volunteering makes you more content

From biblical times onwards (and probably even before that), the human race has been obsessed with the pursuit of happiness and how one may live a contented life. Personally, I have found that an unintended side effect of volunteering with those less fortunate than myself is to make me more content with my own lot. Even very basic things like food suddenly take on a new significance once you have seen the wide-eyed longing of someone who is very hungry. Similarly, the lack of privacy in student accommodation becomes a lot more bearable when you remember the fear of someone spending their first night on the streets. As students on the cusp of hopefully profitable careers, it’s important both for the mental wellbeing of ourselves and others to remember that not everyone has six figure salaries and a flash car.

4) Volunteering improves your confidence and helps you learn new skills

There is no doubt that volunteering is a great way for a shy person to build up their confidence. Whatever type of volunteering you opt for, it will probably involve a fair amount of human interaction with people who are interested in similar things. This makes it much easier to talk to them and helps to build up your confidence and initiative; useful skills whatever your future employment. Plus, there are more specific skills you can learn like how to safely use a hand saw or how to bath a reluctant terrier. Far less use in an interview, granted, but in day-to-day life, quite handy.

5) Volunteering allows you to explore job options

One of the advantages of volunteering is that it allows you to explore a career path without having to go through all the bother of training for a job only to find that you wish you’d picked something else. For instance, if you think you might enjoy working in museums and archives, it’s worth volunteering for a few history projects. This is because they allow you to see whether a career in which you spend your weekends networking at exhibitions is what you want to do for the rest of your life. Thus, you avoid the hassle of having to do a masters before finding out that you absolutely hate it and wish you’d chosen something else!

I hope these reasons are enough to convince you to give volunteering a try. Whatever else may happen, I can assure you that your time as a volunteer will enrich your university life, give you valuable skills and experience and will certainly not be dull.

Jonathan Burton is currently studying History at the University of Kent. For relaxation, he enjoys birdwatching, rifle shooting and motorbikes.

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