If you are struggling to find work in your field, I am a firm believer that volunteering is the way to go. As an Employment Advisor, I have seen some interesting trends in what helps people looking for a job. Volunteering is worth considering.
Clients have asked me “Why would I waste my time working for free?” Even though volunteering does not pay money, it does pay in other ways. For example, if you are a recent graduate or are changing careers, volunteering can offer an opportunity to gain relevant experience or references. You can also learn important and relevant skills, earn a good reputation, and gain contacts and valuable references.
So be selective in terms of what volunteer position you accept. I recommend you look for something that interests you so it is easier for you to commit your time and energy. Also, carefully consider what you will get out of the volunteer experience and try to find something that will achieve your goals. Perhaps expanding your job skills is most important to you, or gaining experience in your chosen field of work, maybe you are targeting a specific company and want to earn a solid reputation within it, or you want to build your network. All of these are great reasons to volunteer.
I have experienced first-hand how volunteering helps to land a paying job. Many years ago, I volunteered as a tutor for a local adult literacy organization. Within a short period of time, I was invited for an interview when their Program Coordinator resigned. They had seen my volunteer efforts, felt that my ESL teaching background was helpful, and appreciated my commitment to their work and organization. Just being there and taking my volunteer work seriously earned me a job interview and eventually led to a job offer. Similarly, three of my current co-workers had the same experience. They all started as student volunteers and eventually were hired as paid employees.
Volunteering is not necessarily the hard part. Getting the volunteer position can be as hard as finding a paid job. Your volunteer search should start with the same process as your job search. If you need help with that process, I highly recommend that you take advantage of the free Employment Ontario services in our area. We help people find work, access training opportunities and gain volunteer experience.
Once you have found a volunteer position and have been there for some time, make sure you ask your supervisor and coworkers if they will be references, and update your resume with your new skills and experience under a “Relevant Skills”, “Work History” or “Community Involvement” section. With experience, skills and references in your chosen field of work, your chances of being hired will increase when a paid position opens up.
This year, National Volunteer Week is April 21- 27. So think about what volunteering can mean for you from a job search perspective and in knowing that your time makes a difference to others in your community!