To clarify, I’m not talking about putting a rock on your finger or getting down on one knee. It’s a new year and a new semester. What better time to make some resolutions to be more engaged with your campus and your community? If you need a reason to put yourself out there, here’s ten good ones:
1. Kindness is its own Reward.
When the rain, readings, and assignments get you down, it’s easy to wonder what the heck the point of it all is. What are you doing here? What difference does it make? Sometimes you just need the right volunteer opportunity to help you find the answer. Sure, maybe you didn’t ace that last assignment, or maybe the course you thought you’d love is more exhausting than it is exciting. Assignments and courses come and go, but making a positive difference in another person’s life? That’s something that lasts forever.
2. You’ll Make New Friends.
The more people you meet, the more likely it is that some of them will be people you want to be friends with. That’s just plain common sense. If you get engaged with a cause that’s important to you, you’ll not only meet more people, but you’ll meet people who share your interests and passions. Now that’s just plain smart.
3. You’ll Be More Popular.
According to the results of a recent study by the University of California, Riverside [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-20851434], performing acts of kindness actually made pre-teen schoolchildren more popular with their peers. But why should children reap all the benefits? As social creatures, humans depend upon one another, and we value (and want to be around) those people we can depend on to be kind rather than selfish.
4. You’ll Be More Interesting.
Here’s a life truth for you: in order to be an interesting person you actually have to do things. You may have interesting thoughts in your brain, but if you spend all your free time watching reality TV marathons in your PJs, it’s likely others won’t find your lifestyle or actions very compelling. Have you been dragged to a party where you don’t know anyone and you can’t think of anything to say about yourself? Why not talk about your volunteer work with youth/animals/your favourite charity/your student union, etc.? It’s easy to be passionate about something and talk the talk, but people will really sit up and pay attention if you can walk the walk too.
5. Employers Dig It.
The idea that volunteering your time or getting engaged will look good on your resume is nothing new. At the very least, volunteering makes you look like a good person. But altruism itself isn’t necessarily an employable quality. Luckily, there are other things your engagement says about you:
You’re reliable. You had to show up when you were supposed to and bring your best. And this was when you weren’t being paid.
You know how to identify your goals and interests and work towards them.
You’re a team player. You’re interested in more than just yourself.
You’re open to new experiences, and take initiative to find them.
6. You’ll Network and Make Contacts in an Area That Interests You.
When talking about employment, people often say, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” While this isn’t entirely true (you need to know your stuff to keep a job), knowing people in the area you’d eventually like to work in doesn’t hurt either. Want to work in healthcare? Volunteer at a hospital. Interested in teaching? Volunteer to assist in a classroom. Want to work in arts and culture but don’t know anyone in the biz? Volunteer for a theatre festival, a gallery, a film fest, or a music festival. Even if you don’t see any immediate results, you never know who might be able to help you in the future—by giving your name to the right people and getting you in touch with them, by acting as a reference, or by providing you with mentorship.
7. Getting Engaged Takes You to New Places and Helps You Feel at Home.
In the middle of a busy semester, many students tend to see three or four places: the campus, their place of residence, their job (if they have one), and the grocery store. It’s amazing how much of the outside world we miss during a bachelors degree. Taking on an activity such as volunteering forces you to get out in the community. Don’t let the world pass you by. Only by experiencing a community can you make it your home.
8. Getting Engaged Can Lead You to a Healthier Lifestyle.
We get it. There are a lot of great things you’d like to be doing if only you had the time. Including being more active and being more involved in your community. I have good news for you: you can do both at the same time. If sports are your passion, why not help out coaching a sports team? If the challenge of running a marathon or half marathon is more your thing, you may want to consider registering with an organization like the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada’s Team In Training program (Team In Training provides coaching, training/nutrition regimens and support as you train for your big event; in return, you’ll be raising funds for patients suffering from leukemia and lymphoma). There are lots of ways to be active and give back if you’re willing to spend a little time with an Internet search engine to find them.
Can’t find an opportunity or event geared towards your physical activity of choice? Why not organize one yourself? You’ll make great contacts, stay active, and help others. Sounds like a win-win-win.
9. You’ll Acquire New Skills.
University is a wonderful horizon-expanding experience. But academia isn’t all there is. The more you can do, the more you’ll have done. Through community/campus engagement, you’ll gain valuable skills such as organizational and people skills. Depending on your chosen volunteer or engagement opportunity, you may also develop an additional skill-set in areas like social work, crisis handling, politics, recreation, or health care. If you’re not sure if a particular career choice is for you, volunteering during your undergrad is a great way to test the waters in your chosen profession and discover where your skills and interests really lie.
10. You’re an Awesome Person and Getting Engaged Gives you an Opportunity to Share Your Strengths, Passions, and Skills with Other People.
Why should you get engaged? Because you can. Because if you’re reading this blog in the first place, you have an urge to be more involved in the world around you. Because your campus, your community, and your planet need you. You have gifts. Why not share them?