The value of volunteering

When was the last time you considered the benefits of volunteering?

Everyone is pressed for time. Deadlines, multiple projects, responsibilities at home and at work, when do you have a life? Even so, a couple of hours a week working unpaid can make a big difference over time. But what kind of volunteering is strategic?  What are the benefits?

Review for a journal

When you review articles for a journal, you will learn about different theoretical perspectives, up to date information in a lot of different fields related to your specialisation and gain insights that you never imagined possible. One of my clients has been doing this for over 10 years and has managed to review over 1000 articles so far. This looks particularly good on the resume and has helped this researcher gain a series of scholarships.

Contribute to a project

Why not offer to do a simple and defined task in your spare time for a project that you’re interested in? This could be using a statistical software package for a specific test, or conducting a thorough check for a particular set of references. Another possibility is documenting experimental protocols, for instance in a spreadsheet or table. You can probably think of lots more possibilities. Try reaching out through your networks. Doing a favour is a great way to make connections. It is really worthwhile to get some feedback on what you have done so that you can develop closer relationships that will persist over time.

Give a guest lecture

You already know the subject. By preparing a guest lecture, this will extend your insight and refine and clarify certain aspects you’ve been asked to emphasise. You can recycle the work you put into this by developing something else from it. For instance, you can make a 5-15 minute podcast or a summary for conference proposal.

Other advantages of volunteering

The benefits mentioned earlier from particular kinds of volunteering are obvious. There are more subtle personal benefits as well.

Apart from the appreciation from others, you will likely get an inner sense of satisfaction from giving this voluntary labour. Another advantage is that sometimes unexpected opportunities arise just because you’re in a different place (virtually or physically) at a time when you’ll make more contacts. Or you’ll have the chance to explore certain dimensions in a joint activity by being involved.

Nothing is wasted so long as you keep your efforts within your limits. Don’t say yes to everything. If you stay selective, you can use your energy and time meaningfully and purposefully. Who knows what might happen next?

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