Why Volunteering is Awesome

Last year I started volunteering at the amazing Science Museum in London.

Science, yo!

This wasn't a really conscious decision on my part, it was more of a 'right place, right time' situation. A relative died who I was responsible for some care for, which freed up more of my weekends and frankly, after 5 years in the same routine, I didn't know what to do with my time. The following week I got an email from the Science Museum (I'm on the visitor mailing list) advertising for volunteers to work on the Cosmonauts exhibit. This is a gallery I have a specific interest in, as I'm very into space exploration and cosmology, I love the Science Museum and it's not too far away from home. It was really was the right application at the right moment for me. 

Volunteering is a cool thing to do for many reasons, I chose to join the museum because of the role and because they rely so heavily on volunteers for staffing. Like most museums in the UK they are constantly having their funding whittled away by the Government, so volunteers, sponsorships and donations are what keep these amazing places open to educate, spark curiosity and visit to have fun. 

There's lots of great reasons to volunteer, I'm going to see if I can persuade you to offer some of your time to a good cause by telling you about some of them.

My, that role looks so handsome on your CV!

Volunteering can be a good way to add some more strings to your bow, keeps you busy if you're currently job hunting and shows that you have great commitment to a role even if you're currently unemployed. My role is primarily science based, which I have no formal training in, but it's offered me lots of opportunities to learn. It also encompasses people skills, thinking on your feet and learning to listen to others. Volunteering can be a good use of free time for a good cause but it can also be a foot in the door of an industry that you'd like to work in. One day the BBC will need a new science presenter and I want to let them know I'm available for work! 

Motivator, Muse and Mentor

As well as honing my people skills, my volunteering role was my way of pushing me outside my comfort zone and proving to myself I could do something new and handle a new challenge while going through a transitional period in my life. It can help improve self-esteem, confidence, motivation as well help develop new social skills (as you'll be constantly meeting new people), team working and leadership skills. It's really improved my confidence in myself and in my intelligence, it's helped me realise that I can achieve anything I want if I'm willing to have a go.  

Hello, my name is awesome! 

I've made a huge effort in the last 12 months to seize every opportunity and meet as many new people as I can, my volunteering role has really helped with that and allowed me to meet some incredible people. I talk to different visitors on each shift who want to tell me how the exhibit relates to them, I talk to other volunteers and find out their stories (these people are so incredible; I've met physicists, biologists, musicians, writers and tv producers, teachers, students and those who have just retired - you name it, I've worked with them and they're all wonderful and interesting to spend your time with) and then you might meet people who are involved in the world you're volunteering in, so when Stargazing was filming at the museum last month I got to meet Dara O'Briain, Brian Cox and Helen Sharman - I actually shook hands and had a chat with the first British astronaut. Now that is pretty awesome.

World's Strongest You

I can get terrible seasonal affective disorder, so much so that some days I don't want to leave my bed. Or I want to leave everything, pack a bag and do a runner. On that day last year, I put my blue shirt on and went to volunteer for the day. On days when you feel helpless, volunteering can change your life. It helps you ignore all those life stresses for a while, gives your time to something else, connects with people about a different subject and gives you space and perspective. It can make you a whole new support network and make you feel like a member of an amazing community. It just helps lift you on those bad days. Along with this, research has found that volunteering can keep you healthier and fitter, reduce stress and have a positive impact on your other relationships. On top of all that, you know you're doing something helpful and giving something back. 

Volunteering has nothing but positive benefits for yourself and the causes you choose to support. I can't recommend it enough. Not everyone has spare cash at the end of the month, but do you have a spare 4 hours on a Sunday? Fancy doing something new? Try volunteering. 

How Can I Volunteer? 

The simple answer: ASK! If you know somewhere you'd like to volunteer, contact them. Get on websites, mailing lists, connect with places on LinkedIn, go into places and ask if they have a volunteer programme - just ask. You'll never know until you try.

Volunteering is awesome, and it makes you more awesome, so go do it! 

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  1. For anyone stuck for ideas, do-it.org (nifty strapline Be More) is a good starting point to find out what's available in your area.

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