Cathy Annetta

Cathy Annetta
Grad Year: 
Volunteer Resources Coordinator, Based at the Peel Regional Cancer Centre
Natural & Applied Sciences
Canadian Cancer Society

Based at the Credit Valley Hospital, Cathy manages the volunteer program for the new Peel Regional Cancer Centre.

“I recruit, interview, and train volunteers. I am also the Canadian Cancer Society representative for the Credit Valley Hospital. I educate the staff and volunteers about the Society and try to maintain a visible presence within the hospital,” says Cathy, who has a post-graduate certificate from Humber College in Fundamentals in the Management of Volunteers.

“This is a new cancer centre for Mississauga and therefore a new volunteer program for the hospital. I have been involved with starting up the program, which has included things like meeting with staff to determine their needs and writing up position descriptions.”

Cathy says someone in her field must have excellent interpersonal skills since they would be constantly interacting with volunteers and people living with cancer.

“Empathy is extremely important in order to understand what someone with cancer might be going through but at the same time not making them feel that you know exactly what they are feeling, as every cancer experience is unique. You also have to be very self-aware. You are helping people who may be very upset and scared but you cannot get involved to the point where you are always upset and cannot do your job,” she says.

“You have to be organized as there are many demands from volunteers and clients, therefore, you constantly have to prioritize tasks. Excellent oral and written communication skills are important, including the ability to make presentations. Knowledge of the community services is also necessary in order to better assist clients with their needs.”

Prior to her current position, Cathy worked as a secretary, an administrative assistant, and a community services coordinator with the Canadian Cancer Society.

“Volunteering for the Canadian Cancer Society was a factor in wanting to work for the Society, however, more important was my personal experiences with cancer in my family. I felt I could use my knowledge of psychology and my desire to interact with and help people by working in a non-profit organization,” says Cathy.

Upon graduating from UTM, she researched potential places to work on the Internet and called several places to set up informational interviews.

“Instead of telling people I was looking for a job, I focused more on wanting to learn about their agency or business to see if it would be a good fit and also to find out what types of jobs their employees do,” she says.

“I feel that I was hired by the Cancer Society because I kept an open mind and was willing to take a job that wasn’t really what I wanted to do—administrative work—in order to get where I wanted to go—working directly with clients who have cancer. I also think I was hired because I did a lot of research before my interviews and came across as very knowledgeable and enthusiastic in the interviews.”

If Cathy could do anything differently, she would have made more time for volunteering.

“As a student who had to work and keep up with my classes this was a hard thing to do, but it’s also a very important way to get practical experience and network,” she says.

Cathy’s advice to current students is to keep an open mind.

“Don’t think that just because you have a certain degree you have to get a certain job right away. Sometimes it’s the jobs you are not initially sure about that provide the most valuable experience in getting you where you want to go. Talk to people and find out how they ended up where they are. You will see there is no straight path. Even when you have found a great job, always think about what your next career goal is going to be and work towards that,” she says.

“You can do this by finding yourself a mentor in your workplace. Whether it’s your boss or a member of senior management, if it’s an organization you want to stay in, ask them what other experience or training you will need in order to get where you want to go. And above all, dress for the job you want, not the job you have. It sounds silly but it really worked for me. People took me much more seriously when I was dressed and conducted myself in a professional manner.”