Self Empowerment Series Part Two: Volunteer Your Own Way

Sometimes it can be really hard to get up out of bed and into the world. This is the second in a five part series on self empowerment. I’ve found that when life feels impossible and I want to crawl into a corner and hide, undertaking one (or all!) of these tasks can help me get out into the big, scary world outside my front door and conquer my fears and reluctance.


Many of my friends have bristled at the thought of joining me for a Saturday of volunteer work. When most people think about volunteering, they imagine slaving away in a soup kitchen or digging garden plots. But it’s important to remember that there are many different people and organizations who could use your help, and that there are many different activities that constitute volunteering. Finding a way to use the skills you already have and feel good about in a volunteer environment is going to be the only way the task doesn’t seem daunting, and instead actually makes you feel better about what you can already do. As such, the first thing to do is do some research. The tool I use to find volunteer work is Idealist, a clearinghouse for job, internship, and volunteer opportunities. VolunteerMatch is similar. You can search by city and keyword, so finding the field in which you want to volunteer is easier than ever. can give you information about the cause of the moment, if you want to be part of a larger movement. Your local Craigslist is a good option, too, but it’s not as well-curated as Idealist, so make sure to do a little extra research if that’s the resource you wish to use.

Volunteering doesn't have to be scary.

Also, make sure that you’re not setting yourself up for a time commitment you cannot honor. Idealist lets you set some search paramaters that can be helpful in this regard: time parameters and commitment parameters can make a big difference in finding the right job for you. Can you only work for one hour a week? One hour a month? That’s totally okay! Are you looking for something that is more of a long term commitment? That’s fine, too. I would suggest finding an organization you wish to work with and doing a one-off volunteer session with them. That way you can get to know the organization and the volunteer environment, and if you don’t like it, there’s no long-term commitment. If you do like it, however, you can continue to work with that organization and find a suitable long-term volunteer position.

It is important to remember that volunteering is not an entirely altruistic activity. In addition to helping out other people (or animals or plants or whatever you choose to help), volunteering is about bettering yourself. Time and length commitments are only part of the game. Make sure to pick an organization/cause/person you want to work for that you care about, or make sure the activity you’re undertaking is one you like to do. Idealist has a nice article about this on their site: in addition to making a difference, volunteering can serve to aid in your professional development, help you discover a career path you had not previously considered, and socialize with other people. For example, I recently did some volunteer work for a nonprofit in another state. The nonprofit’s cause was not one I necessarily identified with, but the project involved something I really do care about—making maps. I got to work on my career skills while making a difference. Remember: nothing says “Hire me!” like a robust resume full of volunteer work, and you might make some good friends in the process!

Which brings me to my next point. Everything is better with friends, so invite some people to come volunteer with you. Because most organizations are sympathetic to the fact that young people only want to undertake specific tasks, it can be fairly easy to find an organization where your friends can do what they want to do and you can do what you want to do while still working together. You may find that you and your friends enjoy volunteering so much that you want to keep trying new organizations and activities! Plan to have tea together afterwards and share your experiences, and you’re well on your way to feeling good about the world around you.

Ultimately, volunteering feels good. Helping other people is nice, especially when you get something out of it yourself (exercise, professional development, socializing, etc). If you do it your own way, you’ll start to feel really good about doing it, and it won’t seem like a burden at all! Indeed, it will begin to lend some purpose to your life, which can be very helpful in empowering yourself to do a multitude of other things.

Come back next week to read part three of our self empowerment series: read a book, any book.


4 thoughts on “Self Empowerment Series Part Two: Volunteer Your Own Way

  1. Global Youth Service Days are coming up next month! Join thousands of other volunteers for one weekend! WEEE!

  2. Pingback: Looking Back and Looking Forward | Lara: On the Weigh Down

  3. Pingback: I Have a Book In Me « Treasures of Life

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