How can volunteering help my career?

If you are volunteering to increase your chances of finding a job, it is important to choose your volunteer opportunity carefully.

Volunteering can help you gain Canadian experience, learn about workplace culture, make new professional contacts, improve your skills and gain local references. However, not all volunteer opportunities provide the same benefits for your career. These steps will help you to make the most of your volunteer position.

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

Identify organizations that have an organized volunteer department and recruitment process. Apply to roles with responsibilities that are close to the ones you want in a paid job. Having a relevant volunteer position can improve your resume.

Ask questions.

To make sure that a volunteer opportunity is a good fit for you, make sure that you understand what will be involved. Some of the questions you could ask before accepting an offer include:

  • How will the organization use my skills?
  • Is there a minimum time commitment?
  • Is training offered or required through the volunteer assignment?
  • Does the schedule allow me to maintain my personal and work responsibilities?
  • Can I change my schedule if I have interviews or other important appointments?
  • How will I be supervised and evaluated?
  • Will I have a chance to practice English through this volunteer position?
  • Will I be working with other volunteers and staff members through this position?
  • What are the ways the organization recognizes volunteers for their contributions? 

Check for reference policies.

Some organizations have policies that prevent staff from giving volunteers professional references. Since many newcomers volunteer to gain professional references in Canada, make sure to ask about their reference policy.

If there is a policy in place against providing professional references, 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.

Treat your volunteer work like a paid job.

Give your volunteer position 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 responsibilities and learn about the workplace culture. This will allow you to build credibility, demonstrate your abilities and develop strong professional relationships.

Build a professional network. 

Volunteering can be a good way for you to expand your network of contacts.

Make sure to get to know everyone that you work with through your volunteer assignment and leave a good impression. These new contacts will be useful in your job search as they may know of work opportunities.

For More Information

  • Find My Volunteer Centre - A search engine for finding volunteer opportunities in the non-profit and charity sector. From Ontario Volunteer Centre Network.
  • Professional Immigrant Networks (PINs) - PINs are professional associations run by and for newcomers in the Greater Toronto Area. They help their members prepare for the Canadian workplace and connect to employment opportunities.
  • Listing Volunteer Work on your Resume - Benefits of listing volunteer work on your resume from 

Last updated: November 18, 2021 4006300