By Anna Decker – Community Engagement Manager for UServeUtah, Utah’s Commission on Service & Volunteerism.
Traditionally service has been considered synonymous with self-sacrifice and is often thought of as something we selflessly give to others. What if I told you that service actually benefits you? I’m not talking about the warm fuzzy, happy feeling that you get from helping others, though that is a legitimate mental and physical health benefit. I’m talking about the tangible benefits that help you as a student better prepare for college and the professional world.
Here are five of the benefits I share in my public speaking engagements with students and young professionals:
- Increase scholarship eligibility. Volunteerism has become increasingly more important for college admissions. It’s also very useful in securing scholarship funding for your education. For example, Youthlinc offers a $5,000 scholarship to the recipient of their Utah Young Humanitarian Award (great award to add to the ol’ resume!) There are many other private scholarships that are partially or entirely based on community service and volunteerism. Talk to your school counselor or college advisor to find out what service scholarships might be available to you.
- Learn about your career options. Nonprofit. Business. Government. Do you know the difference? These are hugely different markets with very different work environments and jumping from one to another is no small task. Take the time now to dabble in each sector through volunteerism or internships (also consider trying out locally vs. globally-focused agencies) to get a feel for each and discover which seems like the best fit for you.
- Make connections, make an impression, make an impact. It’s never too early to start building your professional network. When you’re young, professionals are more willing to teach and mentor you, which is far more valuable than you can now realize. This benefit is three-fold. You get to meet people in the professional world. You get to show them your talents and skills. And using those talents and skills you get to design and create things that solve a problem or improve your local or global community somehow. These are really the three main components of professional development in a socially conscious world.
- Discover your interests. Teachers, parents, and counselors probably tell you often “pursue your passion!” But I would ask, do you really know what your passion is? Many friends and colleagues of mine in their 40s and 50s are still figuring out what they want to be when they grow up. Take the time now to discover what it is you love. Take as much time as you need, because once you find it, you can spend the rest of your life enjoying every minute doing exactly that. Service gives you an opportunity to sample different things like sampling ice cream without having to make a long-term commitment that affects your resume.
- Develop skills: A student I know recently told me that because of the volunteer work she has done, she now meets the qualifications for a job she is interested in, which, if she gets, will provide sufficient income that she will be able to graduate college with NO DEBT! Whether you’re preparing to embark on your first career or looking to transition to a different one, service (specifically skills-based volunteerism) is a great way to develop some new skills that will help you land your first job in your new field.
Now that I have skillfully convinced you to jump up and volunteer in community, you’re probably asking yourself “where do I find a service opportunity?” You can easily find more information about service opportunities in your area and even search for opportunities by county at userve.utah.gov.
Enjoy reaping the self-serving benefits of service in community!
Anna Decker is the Community Engagement Manager for UServeUtah, Utah’s Commission on Service & Volunteerism. She educates and networks with nonprofits, schools, businesses, faith-based organizations and individuals statewide to partner and develop a vibrant volunteer ecosystem in the #1 service-giving state in the U.S.