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Eight great reasons why you should be a volunteer (including how it makes you happier)

5 May 2016
The University of Sydney just wouldn’t be the same place without volunteers

Did you know that besides helping others, being a volunteer can improve your skills, help you make new friends, and is even good for the mind and body?

Feel good factor: Graduate Nicky Ringland (above, centre) (BA(LANG) ’08 GradDipComp ’09) says she experiences the feel good factor by volunteering for the University's National Computer Science School.

Volunteers have always made up an important part of our community: from assisting school students prepare for university, to helping establish a museum and heritage collection, to hosting campus tours.

This National Volunteer Week (9-15 May) we share eight (ok, seven) great reasons to be a volunteer, and the advantages that you might not have thought of before.

1. Volunteers feel great because they're making a real difference

All our volunteers should feel great about themselves because they help the University achieve its research and community service goals. But their work also has a positive impact on Australia’s economy.

In 2010, 6.1 million Australians volunteered their time. If they had been paid the average wage, it would have amounted to $25.4 billion. Volunteers make a big dollar difference to organisations, communities and people. The University just wouldn’t be the same place without them.

Graduate Nicky Ringland (BA(LANG) ’08 GradDipComp ’09) experiences the feel good factor firsthand by volunteering for the University’s National Computer Science School where she helps run a number of programs for school students. This includes the Girls’ Programming Network, which runs free workshops for girls interested in computer science and coding.

"It's really rewarding to see students get excited about the things I'm passionate about. I definitely feel like my efforts are worthwhile when I hear students say that my programs were a big part of what got them to where they are now," Ms Ringland said.

"The biggest compliment though is watching my former students become my peers, volunteering by my side, and making an even bigger difference."

2. Volunteering shines up your CV

Prospective employers give bonus points to job applicants who are motivated enough and community spirited enough to be volunteers. No matter where you volunteer in the University, you are working with professionals and academics at one of the most respected and high-achieving organisations in Australia. Getting to write ‘The University of Sydney’ on your list of work experiences is always a good thing.

3. Volunteering is a chance to do some upskilling

To do just about any job, you need a bit of training at the start. For University volunteers, that might mean mastering a database, understanding how events are organised, or learning the correct way to handle an artefact. While you’re learning that new skill, chances are, you’re also brushing up on your communication skills, problem solving and teamwork. Whether you want to make yourself more employable or just learn new things, volunteering is the gift that gives back.

Volunteeering provided Associate Professor Cate Storey with 'much joy'. 

4. Volunteering makes you happier

Measuring happiness is tricky, but the London School of Economics gave it a go anyway. They took a large group of people and asked them to give themselves a happiness rating. The more volunteer work people were involved with, the higher they rated their happiness. In fact, when compared to people who never volunteered, the study found the odds of being ‘very happy’ rose seven percent among those who volunteered monthly, and 12 percent for those who volunteered every two to four weeks. Considering how valuable the work of volunteers is, they bring quite a bit of happiness to the organisations they work with as well.

While volunteering to help establish a museum and heritage collection for the University’s School of Medicine, Associate Professor Cate Storey OAM (MBBS ’72 MSc ’05) found a project that gave her much joy.

“Being a volunteer allows me to keep in touch with this extraordinary institution,” Associate Professor Storey said.

“I can indulge my own passions while being supported by the incredible resources around the campus. In return I have an opportunity to donate my time and expertise to support a project that I am really passionate about.”

5. Volunteering is great for free stuff

There are so many great things happening at the University – concerts, art displays, workshops, talks from leading academics and experts – and a lot of the time, these things are free. Being part of the University community means volunteers are in the loop and able to take full advantage of what the University has to offer.

6. Volunteers get to wear great hats and mess around with swords

Hang on. That’s musketeers…

Making a difference (and having some fun): Current student and volunteer Krishna Muralidharan

7. Volunteering is a chance to make new friends

Starting a new job, most people feel a bit awkward for a while. Then one day you realise you’ve relaxed and your new, fellow employees have become your workmates. It’s the same with volunteering. Volunteers mix with all sorts of people doing all sorts of work, and you never know when someone you work with will become a real friend.

Current student and volunteer for Sydney Student Alumni Association Krishna Muralidharan said one of the best aspects of volunteering was being surrounded by people with similar interests who were determined to make a difference – while still having some fun.

“Volunteering encompasses a wonderful opportunity to make new friends who are driven in areas that you are passionate and motivated in,” Mr Muralidharan said. “The ability to collaborate with like-minded individuals builds foundations and skills that can assist you in a wide-range of future endeavors.”

8. Volunteering is good for the mind and the body

Mixing with people, thinking about projects, achieving goals, knowing you’re doing something of real value. All these things stimulate the brain and the immune system. It’s even been suggested that volunteering can provide even better health outcomes than eating well and exercise, and, according to the OECD Better Life Index, people who volunteer tend to be more satisfied with their lives.

If you’re interested in one of the many volunteering opportunities at the University of Sydney, email us at alumni.volunteer@sydney.edu.au.