Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been reflecting on the profound impact volunteering has had on my life. We often think about volunteering as something we do for other people; we see it as a favour to them. Reflecting on past and current experiences, I’ve come to appreciate that it’s much more than that.
Putting everything you have into a cause you care about not only helps others, but it’s an investment in yourself. The return on that investment is something no amount of money can ever buy.
I’ve been very lucky to have had the opportunity to volunteer with and fundraise for some amazing organizations such as Jack.org, Progress Place and The George Hull Centre for Children and Families. I’d like to think that my effort has helped advance the mission of each organization and improved lives in some way.
While helping others is what I expected to get out of volunteering, here are a few things that came from volunteering that no one told me about.
1. I would get lifelong mentors
Smart people work for the best charities. Investing my time and energy into these organizations led to smart leaders investing in me. They have taught me more about life than any university degree could, and they have opened my eyes to new ways of thinking I could have never imagined. Lessons such as how to overcome a tragedy, and how to interact with people of every background you could imagine are lessons you keep with you.
For these lessons, I will always be grateful.
2. It would open doors in my career
As a young person, it’s hard getting a job. I never expected that putting all my energy into a cause I cared about as a student would be how I proved my value to a future employer. Building the first Jack Summit with Eric Windeler at Jack.org was my way of proving that I could add value from day one at a company. For students reading this, I would encourage you not to think about volunteering as a line item on your resume. Think about it as how you can prove your value, while helping improve lives. Truly a win-win. Volunteering helped me find a passion for helping others, and has drove me to my current role at Capitalize for Kids.
When you care about something deeply, be proud of it and talk about it. Your energy is contagious.
3. I would learn new ways to problem solve.
Charities face problems that you don’t see in business. Much of what makes charities successful is understanding how certain situations make people feel. Seeing the empathy that the team at Progress Place has for every stakeholder in the organization has taught me the importance of looking at the world through the lens of others. This is a skill I’m still working on, but knowing it’s something I needed to work on is huge.
Better understanding human emotion is an invaluable tool to diagnosing the root cause of challenges I have faced personally and professionally.
4. It would make me a happier person
This one is self explanatory – volunteering my time has just made me a happier person. I never realized how much happier I would feel by contributing my time to something bigger than myself. Whenever I walk into The George Hull Centre, I’m welcomed with hugs, amazing conversation and laughs. There’s nothing quite like walking into an organization you care about and seeing so many passionate smiling faces from people with the exact same motivation as you – improving lives. It’s a very special thing.
This is all my way of saying find something you care about, and put your time and energy into it. Everyone will be better off for it.
Associate Director, Capitalize for KidsJustin came to Capitalize for Kids from Accenture where he was a Management Consultant in the Financial Services practice. In 2013, he founded the Jack Summit, Canada’s student-led mental health innovation summit. Justin graduated from Queen’s University with a major in Life Sciences and minor in Economics.