Sharing your time and skills with an organization is a great way to help your community. But when you volunteer, you also boost your career. Here are 11 reasons why:
1. Volunteering looks great on your resumé
Tara was interested in becoming a child and youth care worker but didn’t have enough experience working with children. Her employment counsellor suggested Tara check with the local volunteer centre to see if there was a volunteer opportunity that met her needs. Tara wanted to work with Indigenous children, and the centre matched her to a parent and child support program at a Friendship Centre to volunteer 2 afternoons a week.
Tara learned how to search for jobs and found out about employment needs in other communities throughout the province. She discovered that moving to another community where there were shortages of child care workers would increase her opportunities for training and employment. Tara is now considering staying with a cousin in another town while she looks for a job in her chosen field.
Giving back can show that you are committed to your community and have skills, connections, initiative, and experience needed in the workplace. Look at it from an employer’s point of view: Here’s a candidate who’s willing to use valuable skills for a worthy cause. What’s not to like about that?
On your resumé, make sure you include:
- The title of your volunteer position and a written job description
- Examples of your volunteer activities, skills, and accomplishments
- How your volunteer experience relates to the job you’re applying for
2. Volunteering gives you experience
Your volunteer experience shows that you can get along with others, make a commitment, and that you have the attitudes and skills employers want in a potential employee. Employers will also be able to see that you can manage your time and complete your tasks.
3. Volunteering lets you practise your work search skills
Finding and applying for a volunteer position is a lot like finding and applying for a job. You can even use your volunteer search to refine your work search skills:
Consider what you want and what you have to offer
Think about the kind of workplace experience you want from volunteering. Would you like to improve your people skills or find out what it’s like to work in a particular field? Try answering these questions:
- What skills do you want to use or develop?
- Which volunteer positions will further your career goals?
- How much time can you contribute?
- Do you need flexible hours?
- What experiences and features are you looking for?
- What are the must-haves and the nice-to-haves?
- What issues or causes do you feel strongly about?
Cast a wide net
- Let friends, family, and co-workers know you are looking to volunteer.
- Find volunteer opportunities at VolunteerConnector.
- Check for a volunteer centre near you at Volunteer Alberta.
- Search online for “volunteer opportunities Alberta”.
Research the organization you want to volunteer with
- Visit the organization’s website.
- Attend an information session about the organization.
- Meet with the volunteer coordinator.
- Talk with people who volunteer or work for the organization.
4. Volunteering teaches you to apply and interview for jobs
When you apply to be a volunteer, you:
- May need to complete an application and take part in an interview
- May need to go through a security screening process, including a driving history and criminal record check
- Should prepare for the interview as though you were applying for a paid position
If an organization could use your skills but doesn’t have an opening at the time, you can ask to be put on a waiting list.
5. Volunteering helps you practise and develop skills
Helping out gives you a chance to build on skills you already have and learn new ones. For example, as a volunteer you might be able to use your second language or public speaking skills. You could also learn a new computer program or develop new customer service skills.
Volunteering can also help you maintain skills you may not be using elsewhere. For example, if you work on your own in a parts warehouse, volunteering at a festival could help you maintain and improve your people skills.
The skills and attitudes you develop in your volunteer position can easily transfer to your resumé. Employers value these qualities. For example, you may list that you:
- Know and understand your job description and role
- Are dependable and show up on time for every shift
- Have a positive attitude
- Work as part of a team
Some organizations give their volunteers the chance to be evaluated on their performance. You may want to hold onto a copy of your written evaluation for future opportunities.
Be realistic about your current skill level when you apply to volunteer. An organization may need people with skill levels more advanced than yours in the position you want. If that's the case, you could look for volunteer experience that develops those skills so that you can later qualify for a more challenging position.
6. Volunteering expands your network
Your network is all the people you know and all the people they know. Volunteering gives you the chance to meet new people and expand your network. Keep a list of the contacts you make while volunteering. These include staff, board members, clients, other volunteers, and suppliers. You never know who might help you and how.
7. Volunteering can help you find a mentor
A mentor is someone who can guide and encourage you in your career. This can be an experienced staff person, board member, or another volunteer who can help you succeed, not just in your current volunteer position, but with your long-term career goals too.
8. Volunteering can provide you with references
By being a dedicated and effective volunteer, you can get a new reference. You can use this reference to apply for a paid job or a post-secondary program. When you ask someone to be a reference, make sure you know how the person feels about you and your work.
Some volunteer organizations, like Habitat for Humanity, offer work experience certificates. You can include these in your resumé or provide them in an interview. These certificates can show the number of hours you volunteered and the skills you learned. They also include an evaluation of your work ethic. Ask your volunteer organization if that’s something they’d be willing to provide.
9. Volunteering lets you check out an occupation or industry
When you’re thinking about a career direction or a career change, volunteering lets you explore different occupations and industries. You get to know the people, challenges, and rewards involved. You also gain a better understanding of the roles and jobs available. For example, as a hospital volunteer you’re exposed to a wide range of health care workers, from front-line nursing and doctors to program administrators.
Volunteer experience in a specific field or industry can make your resumé or application stand out. This holds true when you’re competing for a job or applying to a post-secondary program in that field. For example, volunteer experience at a senior’s centre might increase your chances of being accepted into a nursing program.
In these videos, learn how Demi and Jason are volunteering as a way explore occupations they're interested in:
Exploring Career Paths: Pediatrics (3:00)
Demi is interested in pursuing a career as a pediatrician, a type of specialist physician. Through volunteering and job shadowing, she discovers how important it is to have an interest in science and enjoy working with children.
Exploring Career Paths: Law Enforcement (3:32)
Jason wants to pursue a career in law enforcement. He's volunteering with the police service to learn more about the skills involved in becoming a police officer and how they make a difference in the community.
10. Volunteering helps you get to know yourself
Knowing your skills, accomplishments, interests, and values is the foundation of career success. Volunteer experience can be a good way to learn more about yourself and your potential. It also gives you a chance to find out how other people view you and your strengths.
11. Volunteering builds your confidence
Maintaining your confidence is especially important if you’ve never worked before or have been unemployed for a while. It also helps when you’re feeling down about your search for a new job or career direction. Volunteering can help you feel active, useful, and productive.
Volunteering will help you build a solid foundation for the next phase of your career. The skills you use, the tasks you complete, and the outcomes you achieve through volunteering will bring you closer to your career goals. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of others.