Volunteering for a dog rescue is probably one of the best things I have done along with spearheading a Toastmasters group. Both Toastmasters and dog rescue offer so many opportunities to develop oneself.
I love to talk and have always enjoyed public speaking. I never really experienced fear when I would have to make a presentation. I always felt it more as a high. While I haven’t been as active in Toastmasters lately there was a time where I built a group from scratch. I couldn’t find any existing groups that had a convenient schedule/location for me so I took it upon myself to start a group at my workplace. This was a great experience. I had to coordinate with upper levels of management to get the OK (this was a fortune 500 company on a campus with probably close to 1000 staff). After that I had to start advertising and making people aware and create interest. After that I had to manage the initial inventory of user materials, collect payments from people who became members, etc. That was a really fun time that exposed me to a microcosm of starting a business.
Now I have been spending more time volunteering with a dog rescue. While I don’t get the business exposure I did when I was starting the Toastmasters it still exposes a person to self-development. First, you really do need to develop alpha behaviors when dealing with the dogs. If you are fearful of dogs, or show signs of timidity they may misbehave and you can get injured. You need to establish your dominance from the get go. Developing that self-assuredness will have a ripple effect into all areas of your life.
When volunteering you also have to develop discipline and responsibility. Just because it isn’t a job that you clock into and out of others in the group do depend on you to show up when you have scheduled yourself. More importantly the dogs are absolutely relying on you to be there. They don’t have the capabilities to adjust on the fly and take of themselves. They need you. As with self-assuredness having discipline will be a great value to you in all areas of your life.
Along the same lines as developing your self-assuredness with the dogs you also have to develop confidence in speaking with complete strangers. Typically you will have to initiate the conversation. When we are setup with our dogs in their pens people will come by and look in at the dogs, maybe offer their hand for the dog to sniff and pet the dog but they will rarely if ever approach us and start a conversation or ask a question about a dog; we have to be the ones that start the conversation. Granted the opener is already a given but after that you have to be able to maintain the conversation and think on your feet. There may be times also where you will need to assert yourself and tell someone no if you get the feeling that the dog and person would just not be a good match. That is another skill you develop and that is learning to trust your gut & read people.
I have never used the rescue to meet girls but it does give you the opportunity to talk to a lot of people, including attractive girls. Getting over the anxiety of talking to not only attractive girls but strangers in general is a good trait to have that will be helpful in a lot of areas of your life.
I appreciate Toastmasters for helping develop public speaking, research and writing skills as you compose your presentation. The table topics portion of the meeting helps you develop your impromptu speaking skills.
I do feel though that volunteering with the dog rescue offers more benefit for self-development. With Toastmasters you are exposed to mostly the same people week in and week out. Outside of table topics, which you may not be called on for either, your speaking is already scripted and rehearsed. And, you don’t have to develop alpha type behaviors either.
If you have the time both will benefit you. However if your time is limited I would go with volunteering with a dog rescue. Not only are you developing yourself you are benefiting the community and dogs that are unable to help themselves. I will offer this disclaimer though…it can be brutally bittersweet to volunteer with dog rescue. Some dogs you may find yourself become very attached to and it is hard to see them go – you’re so happy for the family and the dog while at the same time you feel really down knowing that you won’t be seeing your little buddy anymore. Sadly, there will always be another rescue that you can become attached to.