Work for free? Some newcomers might resist this notion, but volunteerism is an important part of Canadian society. Without volunteers, many not-for-profit organizations, festivals and boards of directors wouldn’t be able to run.
While many people believe in the benevolence of volunteering, fact is, it also provides a personal benefit beyond feeling good about oneself. And that is getting to know people and gaining new experiences you might not otherwise.As a newcomer to Canada who faces the vicious barrier of no Canadian experience, volunteering is a great way to bypass this. The minute you volunteer with a Canadian organization, you have Canadian experience and potentially references you can call on during your job search.
While you can volunteer in many capacities, from an usher at a local film festival to a cook at the local soup kitchen, the most effective type of volunteering for your job search purposes is when it relates to your professional skills.
For some opportunities, you can check out Volunteer Canada or your local community websites/newspapers, but don’t hesitate to approach not-for- profit organizations you’re interested in working with to see if you can help!
New Canadians and the benefits of volunteering
By Nick Noorani
When Anita (not her real name) first landed in Toronto from India, the marketing professional didn’t know quite what to expect, but she never imagined finding a job in her field would be so difficult. She was repeatedly told she had “No Canadian experience.” To seek some advice, she approached a settlement counsellor, who suggested Anita volunteer to get some Canadian experience.
Her initial reaction? “What? Work for free? That’s not why I came to Canada!”
But she decided to give it a chance, and began volunteering at the YMCA, working with new Canadians like her. Now, three years later, smiling at the memory of her original response, Anita tells me she is still an active volunteer with the YMCA, even though she now heads up a leading-edge social media company. Today, she tells me of how her experience in those initial days changed her life for the better.
Through volunteering, she quickly started making new friends in her adopted country. She also discovered she enjoyed helping other newcomers, and learned a great deal from the mentors who trained her.
Only three months later, through a mentor she met, she was offered a part-time job with a non-profit to help it submit a bid for funding a marketing plan. The part-time job turned into a full-time one when the bid was accepted! From then on, no one ever asked her about “Canadian experience”! Anita had arrived!
In case you think volunteering won’t be considered much by potential employers, think again. According to a LinkedIn survey, 46 percent of Canadian professionals polled stated that they consider volunteer work equally as valuable as paid work experience.
Immigrants to Canada come from countries where volunteering is not as big as it is in Western countries, but, once here, volunteering is an important tool that can help immigrants settle in faster. In my 7 Success Secrets for Canadian Immigrants seminar, volunteering is a key step.
Here are nine benefits of volunteering for new Canadians:
1) Gives you that elusive Canadian experience
2) Often turns into your first job in Canada
3) Creates a network and opportunities for mentorship
4) Allows you to practise the official language
5) Gives you a chance to learn Canadian idioms and phrases
6) Gives you exposure to the Canadian work environment
7) Helps you build a connection with Canada
8) Allows you to meet people outside your own ethnic group
9) Gives you Canadian references