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What is volunteering and how can it benefit newcomers? Does it lead to a job? Camara Chambers of Volunteer Toronto talks about volunteering; how can it benefit newcomers to Canada and how to include it in the resume.

What is volunteering?

Volunteering in a Canadian context is giving your time without pay to a good cause. So, you can volunteer with many different nonprofit organizations, you can do things like mentoring young people, perhaps helping with gardening, you can help at a local community centre, or even do things like assisting with events such as fundraising events and galas.There are lots of different ways to volunteer and essentially it’s about finding something that you are interested in and really motivated to do.


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How can newcomers find opportunities to volunteer?

So if you’re looking for volunteering opportunities, you can do so in a number of ways. One of the best ways to do so is to actually contact your local volunteer centre. The best place to start is to go to Volunteer Canada’s website which actually has an entire list of all of different volunteer centres across Canada. Volunteer Toronto is the local centre for people living in Toronto, but there are many more centres like us around Canada. Another way to actually get involved is simply to look around your local community and to see if there are any local nonprofits near you. You might want to help in a local church, perhaps a community centre, even a food bank nearby. It’s just the case of looking around you and see what’s available. Alternatively you may want to go onto a site like Get Involved, that’s also run by Volunteer Canada and has a number of volunteer opportunities across Canada.


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How can volunteering benefit newcomers?

One of the many benefits of volunteering for newcomers is simply the opportunity for them to actually get Canadian experience. This is something that a lot of newcomers find a problem when they first move to Canada. Volunteering is a great way to getting such experience. Lots of agencies are able to offer opportunities where you can get involved and perhaps do something similar to what you were doing in your home country. Another great opportunity for you as a newcomer in terms of volunteering is that it’s a great opportunity to meet new people, really connect to the local community, find out what’s happening around you and also to actually practice your English language skills. Just volunteering in a local nonprofit will help you find out a lot more about Canadian culture and actually learn about what’s happening around you and then your city as well.

 Video: How can newcomers benefit from mentoring?

What kind of volunteering opportunities newcomers should look for?

When looking for a volunteer opportunity, it’s really important to think about what kind of volunteering you’d like to do, so perhaps if you’re looking to volunteering as a way for you to get a job you might want to look for volunteer opportunities that actually are somehow related to the kind of jobs you are looking for. So, for example, if you are a qualified accountant in your home country you might want to look at organizations that have opportunities for accounting assistants perhaps or looking for people to join their finance committees, something that is essentially related or has some of the transferrable skills that you actually are looking for in your paid job, you should look for in volunteering. Essentially when looking for a volunteering opportunity you really want to look for something you will enjoy and that will help you as well. So being a bit specific in terms of what you’re looking for will definitely help you and it means that when you do your volunteering opportunity you will find it useful and meaningful as well.

Does volunteering lead to a job?

One thing that is important to actually remember though is that volunteering doesn’t always lead to being offered a paid job at the organization you’re volunteering at. Sometimes it does happen and it’s great when it does happen, but often it’s important to be aware that volunteering is often about gaining skills, building on your existing skills and really getting that experience. It’s important not to expect that after volunteering for some time that you will be offered a paid job, because that’s not always possible at organizations. It’s really about gaining the skills and then using them to get the job where possible.

How to include volunteering in the resume?

To include your volunteering in your resume, it’s important to list it just like any other position, particularly if it’s very much related to your career choice. So mention it’s a volunteer position, how long you’re working there, definitely put down lots of details in terms of what you’re actually  doing and the kind of tasks you’re actually part of while volunteering in the organization. That will essentially help the review of you resume, understand what you’re doing as a volunteer and they will see it just as important as any of your other paid experiences as well.

How to treat volunteering?

When volunteering, it’s important to treat the volunteer opportunity professionally. So it’s important to be reliable, be punctual, do what asked of you as long as you’re comfortable with it and if you do have any problems or any queries, to be open and honest and speak to the volunteer coordinator about it. Volunteer opportunities are a great way to getting good references, so it’s important to present yourself in a good way and remember that it’s a good way of actually building contacts and making friends there as well.

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