One of the challenges of transitioning to civilian life is renewing your sense of purpose. From bootcamp and onward, you spent years working to uphold the US Constitution and protect your country. Many Veterans experience feelings of loss and aimlessness when returning to relatively mundane civilian life. One way to combat those feelings is by performing another kind of service– this one for your community.
A community may be geographic in nature, but you can also be defined by a group of people with a common interest, purpose, or way of life.
- Veteran-centered organizations (like SAVI)
- Religious organizations affiliated with your church, temple, or mosque
- LGBTQIA organizations
- Educational organizations
- Organizations that help the homeless
Additional Benefits of Volunteering
Just because you’re helping out your community, doesn’t mean you don’t have to receive benefits in return. Volunteering may give you a new purpose during your transition to civilian life, but there are other benefits you may find in it.
Benefit one: Meeting New People
A great way to make new friends is to engage an activity that you enjoy with like-minded people. Volunteering can provide openings for new friendships, strengthen existing relationships, and overall increase your support network.
Benefit Two: Increase Your Social Skills
If you’re an introvert or someone who tends to be shy, volunteering can be a way for you to hone your social skills. Engaging in conversations with strangers is a lot easier if you have a central topic to talk about. (With the added bonus that you won’t have to resort to talking about the weather.) The more practice you have, the easier it will be for you to talk to strangers in non-volunteering situations.
Benefit Three: Better Your Mental Health
Volunteerism may have a positive impact upon your mental health by reducing negative feelings. Connecting with other people and giving yourself tasks to focus on that are outside of your normal life are ways to reduce stress, anger, and anxiety,
Conversely, volunteering may also increase certain positive feelings. Accomplishing goals for a community organization may give you a sense of pride and increase your self-confidence. This may in turn have a ripple effect, leading to an overall positive outlook on life.
Benefit Four: Career Advancement
Volunteering is a great way to test drive a new career field without actually quitting your job. It can also give you valuable experience to add to your resume and provide opportunities to meet other professionals in the field. Volunteering can also increase your professional skills, depending on the type of training you are provided for your role.
If you’re not considering a new career, changing careers, volunteering can provide opportunities for you to hone skills that are valuable in your given profession. Interacting with people outside your workplace, you can try out new approaches to teamwork, project management, and problem solving. Once you feel more confident in your skills, you can take what you’ve learned and apply it to your job.
Benefit Five: R & R
Just because you’re helping out with your community, doesn’t mean you can’t have fun at the same time!
If your volunteerism follows your personal interests, then it can provide a needed outlet outside of work and family commitments. If you enjoy being creative, then volunteer with an arts organization. If spending time outside brings you happiness and relaxes you, then consider participating in a local garbage clean-up service or non-profit that plants trees. If nothing calms you like petting a dog or cat, then volunteer with a local animal shelter.
With many states involved in some form of lockdown during the pandemic, volunteering for an organization geared toward your personal or creative interests might be able to recharge you in much needed ways.
What If I Don’t Know Where to Start?
If you’re unsure of where to volunteer or find the prospect of approaching an organization to be daunting, we suggest using a service that will match you with organizations in need of individuals like you. The skills you acquired while serving in the military may seem niche in nature, but you’ll be surprised to discover the wide variety of skill sets and tasks needed by non-profits. This is particularly true now, during the coronavirus pandemic, when so many people are in need to aid.
Services that connect volunteers with organizations also have numerous work from home opportunities. So if you’re disabled or want to stay home due to concerns about contracting coronavirus, there are still many ways that you may volunteer from the comfort of your living room.
SAVI recommends the following services for connecting with volunteering opportunities:
Every little bit may help your community, but also give you a reason to get out of bed or get out the door.
I Want to Help, But…
There is a possibility that you already care about a community, but there are currently few to no organizations assisting it. That’s where your leadership skills from the military kick in. SAVI’s founder, Adrianne Phillips, started SAVI because she saw a need for coaching to help service members transitioning from the military.
You, too, can start a new initiative. It doesn’t have to be a herculean task that you take on in entirety. It can start simply with coffee between a few like minded people.