Actor Leonard Nimoy once said, "The more we share, the more we have," and no better example of this exists than the act of volunteering. Through donating time and energy, volunteers receive a different type of payout: knowledge and experience. When considering education and career advancement, seek volunteer opportunities that can both enlighten and inspire you while providing real-world exposure to prospective careers. When you try volunteering, you might just find it helps you in all the following ways--and maybe even more!
1. Unearth your passion.
The method in which you volunteer provides insight into career paths that may suit your individual interests. By making a list of potential volunteer opportunities and ranking these based on what you'd like most, you're gaining valuable information on what makes you tick.
2. Identify your dislikes.
You might naturally assume that volunteering at the animal shelter is the perfect placement for your crazy cat lady tendencies, but, in reality, you may discover that working with homeless and sick animals is simply too much for you -- and that's okay. Realizing this early on is essential to planning a happier career path, and it may motivate you to set new goals aimed at eradicating what you dislike. Volunteering is a great way to avoid years of college studies aimed at the wrong pursuits.
3. Make connections.
Not only will you gain a list of references through volunteering, but you'll also have the benefit of learning directly from those in the field. Typically, volunteers encounter employees with different job descriptions, from executive directors to front-line workers. These connections are helpful when switching careers or moving into a field you haven't experienced first-hand.
4. Discover new options.
Volunteers get the chance to look beyond stereotypes and job titles to see what happens behind the scenes of different organizations. While you may assume you want the most visible position in the field, you may quickly learn of other occupations that are lesser known (and perhaps a better fit for your individual talents and abilities).
5. Venture beyond your comfort zone.
When a paycheck is on the line, you may find yourself more reserved about taking chances or delving into challenging tasks. With volunteerism, you can feel more comfortable trying on different hats that might otherwise intimidate you. Whether it's public speaking, crunching numbers, or proposing fresh ideas, you retain more control over your potential projects, therefore gaining experience that's tailored to your needs and interests while allowing yourself to take constructive risks.