I am a new immigrant and recent graduate looking for work in my field of environmental sustainability. Many employment counsellors have recommended that I volunteer as a strategy to build my career. How can I work for someone for free? I am over my head in student loans and dealing with resettlement issues.
What do you think?
Signed: Free for nothing
There are a tremendous amount of benefits of volunteer work in your search for employment in your field. If you didn’t have an internship or coop opportunity through your university, and lack a professional network and related work experience, volunteering can definitely help you. I am a big believer in volunteering; it’s how I got my job when I was involved in a career transition.
Here are some of the benefits you should consider:
Gain related professional experience.
Research and identify organizations that have legitimate volunteer departments, represent causes that are meaningful for you, and that have possible spots where you can gain work experience, learn and improve your skills and qualifications. Check out sites such as Charity Village, Volunteer Toronto, your relevant sector council or professional association as places to volunteer.
Build and Leverage Your Professional Network.
While you are volunteering, be dedicated and apply the same effort to your volunteering as you would as an employee. Always make sure your work gets done. Be as helpful as possible to others. Make an effort to have lunch with the team, and find other opportunities to start meeting other people at the company. Build a relationship with your supervisor because they may be able to refer you to a colleague for another opportunity.
Help others and help yourself.
Research reports that adults who volunteer may live longer and healthier lives and it increases empathy and compassion. It’s not good to isolate yourself when you are looking for work. Volunteering can help you get out of your home and get involved in positive experiences, as well as get the positive feeling that you are giving back to the community.
Bridge the gaps in your resume.
Add your volunteer experience to your resume and social media presence. Employers value candidates who make a difference in the community; it helps you answer the question “what are you doing right now?” It also covers the gap in your work history and keeps you busy while you are looking for paid employment.
All the best.