Guest Blog: Why Volunteering is Selfish (and why you should do it)

Please note that the views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not those of SOAS Careers Service. If you consider this content to be in breach of the SOAS values, please alert careers@soas.ac.uk.

This guest blog comes from Kimberly Hovish, Staff Learning and Development Officer at SOAS, University of London. 

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I’ve volunteered on and off in various roles for about 20 years – not because I’m a ‘good person’ (which is what people tend to assume!) but because I’m pretty selfish. The fact is, volunteering helps me by enhancing my quality of life, providing training opportunities and making me more marketable.

Antidepressant qualities

Studies have shown that volunteering increases happiness and general wellbeing and decreases depression.  Volunteering also helps people appreciate what they have through downwards social comparisons. My personal favourite is the feeling that I’m making a contribution to the society in which I live. I currently volunteer with a charity that facilitates community mediations to resolve conflict. Words can’t describe seeing people who entered a room hating each other (with resentments building up over months or years) leaving the same room two hours later smiling and inviting each other over for tea. You know that warm, fuzzy feeling? Yeah, it’s that. I cannot tell you how amazing it feels to know YOU made that happen.

Free training

Whether you want to change careers, get promoted, or learn something new just for the sake of it, volunteering will give you this opportunity – for free! Through various volunteering roles I’ve attended formal training workshops in mediation, mentoring, and solution-focussed coaching practice, all of which have been fantastic learning experiences and didn’t cost me a penny! But the most useful experience I gained was through volunteering at a women’s sexual violence support service in my late 20’s, when my paid work wasn’t progressing much. I received invaluable, ‘on-the-job’ training and experience in: being part of an executive committee; heading up an organisation; managing finances and fundraising projects; spearheading a marketing campaign; chairing meetings; and responding to people in crisis situations (to name just a few things….). No formal workshops could ever have provided me with the real world experience I gained during this time. It was the most challenging role I’ve ever had, as well as the most rewarding, and my confidence skyrocketed!

Sounding awesome in job interviews

You know in a job interview your mind goes blank when you are asked things like ‘Give me an example of when you have dealt with a difficult situation’ or ‘Tell me about a time when you have demonstrated your time management skills’? Volunteering means you will actually look forward to these questions being asked! Difficult situation? TICK. Teamwork? TICK. Time management? TICK. Communication skills? TICK. For instance, when asked in job interviews for an example of time management, I like to use volunteering as proof I can successfully manage full-time work with other commitments. Working alongside other volunteers demonstrates teamwork and a willingness to go the extra mile (especially as you’re not being paid!). Dealing with people’s conflicts, whether internal or external, shows good listening skills, problem solving skills and communication skills. You will NAIL those awkward interview questions with a bit of volunteering experience!

If you’re feeling a little selfish and you’d like to learn more about how you can volunteer and become happier, more skilled and marketable contact Emma Frampton on volunteering@soas.ac.uk. Head to the Volunteering pages on MySOAS Student to find out more about volunteering.

This guest article has been written by Kimberly Hovish (kh37@soas.ac.uk), Staff Learning and Development Officer at SOAS, University of London

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