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It’s no secret that volunteering makes an immensely valuable contribution to society. Countless individuals rely directly on volunteers every day, and others benefit from the experience of volunteering themselves. But did you know that this could also help facilitate your career growth?

Unexpected career benefits of volunteering

In fact, the voluntary sector added an estimated £11.7 billion to value added to economic output in the UK last year. Not to mention it has provided a priceless entry-point into competitive professions for hundreds of thousands of interns all over the world. But the following are five other career benefits of volunteering that you may not have taken into account.

Developing new skills

Volunteering is a fundamentally altruistic activity, it involves giving up your time and effort without remuneration. But it can still be an incredibly rewarding experience. It’s a unique opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and take on fresh challenges that will, in turn, stand you in good stead for the future. Many voluntary positions even include an element of formal training which will equip you with professional skills and competencies that are highly sought after on the jobs market.

Motivation and achievement

Unlike clocking in and grinding out a day at work to make ends meet, spending time on a voluntary project is a positive contribution to a cause that could mean something deeper to you. This often provides volunteers with a unique sense of achievement, as well as a renewed motivation to make the most of their time and talent. In many cases, the enthusiasm and passion kindled by a voluntary placement can be what inspires people to greatness in other spheres of their life.

Health

It is well documented that the sense of well-being that comes from volunteering can have an extremely positive impact on mental health; such as defeating depression, improving self-esteem and providing a strong moral sense of purpose. But there is also a growing body of evidence to suggest that it can have a dramatic impact on your physical health too. For those of us stuck behind our desks all day, volunteering in more active. For example, outdoors roles during evenings or weekends can be vital for ensuring that you get out and about, and ultimately stay fit and healthy.

Networking

Volunteering is a really great way to meet like-minded people, make new friends, and establish important contacts that can help you progress in your career. Even if you volunteer within a field far removed from your area of professional interest, not only is it important to escape the echo-chamber of work, but you may also be surprised how seemingly unrelated contacts can pop up with advice, recommendations, or introductions that give you a real boost just when you least expected it.

Discover your passion

You can’t change jobs every day, but there’s nothing to stop you exploring the world of voluntary work to your heart’s content. In the process, you may find your hidden passion or true professional calling. Employers are also much more willing to open their doors to you if they are not making any initial financial investment, meaning that unpaid placements can be the ideal back-door entrance to highly competitive career paths.

By Vitaly Klopot, Chief Operating Officer, Study InterActive (a subsidiary of Global University Systems)