Volunteer and feel the benefits

There are many reasons to volunteer

Chartered Psychologist Ruth Lowry explains the benefits of volunteering. She said: "Long term volunteering is a form of pro-social behaviour that involves commitment given over an extended  period of time".

In 1999 research carried out by Clary and Snyder suggested that there are six reasons why individuals volunteer:

  1. to express personal values (humanitarianism)
  2. to understand and learn more about the phenomenon or issue
  3. to enhance one’s self-development and personal growth
  4. to gain career-related experience
  5. to strengthen social relationships (community)
  6. to address personal problems or circumstances such as guilt or escape. 

Ruth Lowry, a member of the Society's Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology explained: "Research also suggests that volunteering is reciprocal, the charity or organisation can benefit from an increased and diverse workforce whilst the individual can benefit by increasing their competencies, skills and self-worth.However, if volunteers can see the personal benefits, they are more likely to continue volunteering in the longer term." 

There are lots of ways to get involved

Young people and students

For young people and students volunteering is an excellent opportunity to learn, develop, increase knowledge and gain some real world experience. It can enhance your CV and help increase your confidence. Volunteering your services to help others is not just hugely satisfying; it can also teach you skills that are invaluable to potential employers.

One volunteering organisation, TimeBank, currently runs a youth project called Junction49 that inspires people aged 13-25 to set up and deliver their own projects, campaigns and events around issues that matter to them in their community. To find out more at the TimeBank Helpdesk.

TimeBank volunteer, Fiona, has experienced genuine benefits to her personal career goals by giving her time to the project.

She said: “I graduated in 2009, worked at home for a while and then went travelling for six months. Since returning I’ve been looking for paid work in the Third Sector, particularly development.Having signed on for Jobseekers allowance I was told that there wasn’t much around for graduates in my area. I realised that I would have to widen my search. Volunteering my time seemed to be a good route to take. I am currently volunteering for TimeBank’s Junction49 project on the Helpdesk. I actually ran my own community project last year.  I am in a good position to pass on my knowledge and experience to other young people wanting to set up their own projects. Volunteering has really boosted my CV, especially because of the kind of work I ultimately want to do.  It has given me links to organisations and charities, and expanded my knowledge – all of which can be used when applying for jobs. I can continue to build up experience in the areas I wants to work in – even if it isn’t paid.” 

Psychology students

If you are a psychology undergraduate finding work experience through volunteering is an excellent way to gain practical insight into a career in psychology and can give you the opportunity to find out whether you enjoy this type of work. Many postgraduate training programmes will require you to demonstrate significant relevant work experience in order to gain a place on their course. Find out more about psychology careers. 

Retired

Volunteering gives you the opportunity to share your skills, knowledge and experience with your local community. Research in our Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology (JOOP 2008 Vol 81 Issue 1 Barbara Griffin & Beryl Hesketh) has shown that retirees who take up volunteer work are more satisfied than those who opt for paid work. Volunteering helps you remain connected with people, feel useful and aid adjustment to retirement.

Employed

If you are employed volunteering is still an option, even if you only have limited time to offer. Many organisations have realised the benefits of encouraging their employees to volunteer. Some even allow volunteering during normal working hours. Research published in JOOP 2011 (Vol 84 Issue 1 Eva J Mojza, Sabine Sonnetnag & Claudius Bornemann) showed that volunteering has positive psychological effects that bring benefits to the workplace by helping people learn new skills, meet new people and alleviate stress. A survey by TimeBank showed that 94% of employers believe employer volunteering has added to the skills of their workforce.

Redundant or looking for work

Volunteering can provide a route to employment, helping people to gain the skills, experience and confidence they need to get back into work, change career paths or find fulfilment in their lives. You will get the chance to try out different types of work and you may even find a new career direction.
A TimeBank survey of leading businesses showed that 73% would employ someone one had volunteered over someone who hadn’t.

Find out more about volunteering opportunities:

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Ten things you may not know about psychology 
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