Volunteering continues to be an important way to contribute to society, develop practical skills, and do some career exploration.
Understanding your skills and being able to articulate your skillset is an essential component of any job search or career exploration. Employers want to see skills on your resume and cover letter; you may also make employment decisions based on the skills you have acquired or want to acquire. In today’s competitive labour market it can be challenging to develop marketable skills and gain experience. However, upon closer examination, there are many opportunities. Volunteering can be the option to start opening the door of your working opportunities.
1. The Primary Benefits of Volunteering
- Career Exploration: Volunteering provides an opportunity to investigate a career area and discover the skills necessary for success in that field. This is a chance to answer questions such as “Is this what I want to do and do I fit in here?” Volunteering offers a hands-on approach to self-assessment and is an easy way to explore career choices while in university or before looking for employment in a new field.
- Develop Skills and Gain Experience: How do I get a job without experience and experience without a job? Easy, volunteer! Most volunteer positions offer the same opportunity to develop skills as paid positions. You can develop the communication, interpersonal, organizational, problem-solving, and computer skills among countless others, that employers are looking for. For many positions and careers, sometimes the only way to get started is through volunteering work.
- Develop and Cultivate Contacts: The majority of all work opportunities are never advertised. With this in mind, it is clear that you must either be in a place where you can demonstrate your transferable skills at a time when people can recognize your skills and worth or have contacts who can alert you to openings before they are advertised. In addition to actual openings, contacts can also provide critical information regarding career areas that allow for informed and intelligent career choices. Volunteering is an important way to develop contacts while making a valuable contribution to an organization.
- Participate in Your Community: In these busy times, it's easy to neglect the community in which we live. Volunteering gives us the opportunity to give back to the organizations that have supported us or that have given to others without being noticed. Through this practice, we can strengthen both our community and ourselves. That accomplishment can provide an important sense of satisfaction and allow us to balance personal and professional needs.
2. Where Can I Find Volunteer Opportunities?
The short answer is -- everywhere, but a few good places to start looking are:
- You can find volunteer postings online through CLNx. Go to Jobs and Recruitment, then scroll down to volunteering or drop by the Career Centre to look at our volunteer bulletin board or our volunteer binders.
- The UTM Career Centre Volunteer Bulletin Board: This section is filled with a wide variety of current opportunities. The opportunities have been conveniently categorized to allow you to target the area that best fits your skill and career development needs. Visit the Career Centre in the Davis Building, 3rd floor.
- UTM On-Campus Opportunities booklet
Many resources that provide links to the labour market can provide the information you need to find a volunteer opportunity in your area of interest. You can approach an organization directly and inquire about the availability of a volunteer opportunity. It may be possible with some organizations to create your own position. As with any employment search, research and preparation are the most important factors in finding volunteering opportunities.
Try some of the resources listed below to give you information on some of the opportunities available in your community:
- City of Mississauga Volunteer Opportunities
- Riverwood Conservancy
- Distress Centres of Greater Toronto
- UTM On-Campus Opportunities booklet
- Ontario Nature
- Charity Village
- United Nations Association of Canada
- Volunteer MBC (Mississauga, Brampton, Caledon)
- The Mississauga Food Bank
- Malton Neighborhood Services
- Volunteer Centre of Burlington-Oakville
- Volunteer Toronto
3. Overseas Volunteer Information
It's important to be aware of any travel and safety restrictions before you consider volunteering abroad.
GoinGlobal is a great resource for exploring volunteer opportunities outside of Canada. It can be found on CLNx under the Resources tab
The UTM International Education Centre can help in locating international volunteer opportunities and provide invaluable support in making the necessary arrangements for living abroad. Call them at 905.569.4716 or visit their website.
4. A Few Important Tips to keep in mind
- Be patient and persistent! Finding the right opportunity takes time. Set clear, and realistic goals for your volunteer experiences. Remember to reflect on what you are learning to ensure that this experience is meeting your goals.
- The preparation and research that you undertake are crucial. Without adequate information, it will be hard to find what you are looking for.
- Tailor your volunteer position to your specific needs and wants.
- Try to consider the volunteering work like a real job; that is to make a full commitment when you work as a volunteer.
- Not finding the experience you need? Make an appointment to talk through it with a Career Counsellor or an Employment Strategist (905) 828-5451.
Please note that this information is subject to change. It is best to refer to the original sources for the most up-to-date information.
Updated July 2023