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How Can a Volunteering Experience Benefit my Career in Canada?

Posted by: NIC Online Date: November 13, 2017 Category: Blog

Written by Arcelia Camacho, PMP, Cert. APM

A version of this article was originally published at Settlement.Org

You have heard it before. Volunteering is a way to acquire work experience in Canada and even to get a job. While volunteering might not guarantee you a job, it could significantly improve your probabilities when you follow these simple tips.


1. Look for a position with similar responsibilities to the job you are seeking

Identify organizations that have a structured volunteering department and recruitment process. Apply only to roles with responsibilities close to the ones you want in a paid job. Having a relevant volunteering position will help you build a track record of work with the specific skills you want to sell to potential employers. Aim for volunteering roles that also offer a flexible schedule or remote work so you can keep prioritizing your job search efforts.

2. Ask questions

One of the steps of the volunteer recruitment process could be an in-person interview. Use this opportunity to ask questions that will help you decide if the volunteering role is a good fit for your career goals. Some of the questions you could ask are the following:

  • How will the organization use my skills?
  • Is there a minimum time commitment?
  • How will I be supervised and evaluated?
  • Is there a retention process in place for volunteers?
  • Who pays for [transportation, meals, uniforms, work supplies, me or the organization?
  • Is training offered before my taking on a volunteer assignment?
  • What are the ways the organization recognize volunteers for their contributions?
  • What are your professional reference policies for volunteers?

3. Check for Reference Policies

Some organizations have implemented “no reference” policies that prevent staff from giving professional references. This policy aims to avoid potential lawsuits from former employees, volunteers, and other organizations. When you interview for a volunteering role, ask about their reference policies. If there’s one in place, ask if staff can offer “personal recommendations.”  If a supervisor or colleague is willing to give you a personal recommendation, it means that the person is endorsing your skills and experience on their behalf, and not the organization’s.

4. Treat your volunteer work like a paid job

Give your volunteering role the same importance and commitment you would give to a paid position. Show up on time, be consistent with the quality of the work you do, take on additional responsibility, and learn about the workplace culture. This will allow you to build credibility, demonstrate your abilities, show a positive attitude, and foster trustful professional relationships.

5. Build a professional network

Volunteerism can be a way for you to expand your network of contacts and increase your chances of obtaining job leads through that network.

Remember that the hidden market represents as much as 80% of the available jobs. Think about it, have you ever hired any contractual services? If you have, chances are good that you have asked people you trust for a referral. In response to your request, these people recommended someone they trust. This is why it is crucial to treat your volunteering position as a paid one; you are proving you are trustworthy.

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