Once we officially started homeschooling, I realized that I might not return to the workforce for many years, and figured I had better do something with my life that a future employer would deem valuable. Of course, being CEO of the Wilson family is an important job, but it just does not stand out in a virtual pile of applicants.
So, I decided to start volunteering for organizations near and dear to our family: Cub Scouts, HSC, and GHF (Gifted Homeschoolers Forum). I discovered that I gained so much more than an improved resume. Thus, here are my Top 10 Reasons to Volunteer:
1. Non-profit organizations desperately need volunteers. Without people freely giving of their valuable time, the groups on which we have come to rely would cease to exist. They need us, just as much as we need them.
2. Focus on others, instead of ourselves. Volunteering is all about helping others. Whether we deal with people face-to-face or work in the backroom, volunteering forces us to think about others. Imagine what a better place our world would be if we all spent more time thinking of others.
3. Set an example of stewardship for our children. By putting our time and effort into something about which we feel passionately, we actively demonstrate the importance and power of participation to our children. If we do not take part in our world, how can we expect our children to do so?
4. Make new friends. One of the common mantras in agony columns is “If you want to meet new people, follow your interests.” Volunteering is the ideal way to meet amazing people who share our excitement. We find people who understand and celebrate our enthusiasm, people who really “get” us.
5. Pad that resume. O.K., I know this is more practical than the previous four reasons, but it is important for anyone thinking of re-entering the workforce in the future. Employers want to see an unbroken work history. They may understand taking time off to raise a family, but rightly or wrongly, they will not understand an 18-year gap. They need to see that you were working on your skills, fulfilling job duties, and consistently being reliable.
6. Try new things. Want to learn about web design, marketing, management, or some other area in which you have little to no experience? Volunteer! Since volunteer-based organizations are always searching for new people, they are much more open to training people to do the job needed. Keep in mind that many of the people you will work with are also volunteers, so they may not be able to do a lot of hand-holding, but if you are a motivated self-starter, you can learn an incredible amount.
7. Networking. This tags onto numbers six and seven, but is different from number four. Volunteering allows you to make contact with people who have an even wider access to professionals in the field. By taking your volunteering commitment seriously, learning all you can, even going above and beyond your basic duties, you will find other opportunities opening up for you. If you are not ready to take advantage of them at the moment, keep in touch with your contacts, keep volunteering, and let them know when you are ready.
8. Receive discounts and freebies. Now, we all know that we volunteer for the positive feelings we get doing it; however, a little incentive can be a good thing. Perhaps by volunteering you can get a discount on a conference your organization hosts or on membership fees. Maybe, your organization has ties with other organizations or businesses that offer discounts or the occasional freebie. If you are looking for something specific, ask. If nothing is offered, you have just found yourself the perfect volunteering opportunity: creating volunteer incentive plans for your organization!
9. Television rots your mind. People all too often claim they have no time to volunteer, yet if we add up the amount of time we sit watching T.V., playing around on the Internet, and generally goofing off, we would quickly find we have far more time than we realized. Certainly, downtime is important and not everything on television or the Internet is a waste of time, but doing something you love can be just as rejuvenating as sitting in front of a screen for hours, perhaps more so.
10. Just because. It is the right thing to do. You know you should do it. You have always wanted to do it. You feel compelled to do it. You are tired of my nagging. Whatever the reason, do it just because.
Article by Sarah J. Wilson (Originally published in the February 2011 issue of California HomeSchooler.)