National Volunteer Week: How to volunteer in Canada and improve your career prospects

This week, April 20 – 25 is National Volunteer Week in Canada. This is a time to celebrate the volunteers who generously donate their time to various causes. It’s also a good time start volunteering yourself. Here’s why and how to volunteer in Canada.

According to Volunteer.ca, “Almost 13 million Canadian volunteers deserve our coast-to-coast-to-coast cheers for their dedication and generosity.” The organization asks people to “join together to applaud their immense contribution to our country, our communities and millions of our lives during National Volunteer Week (NVW).”

This number sounded like a lot to me. Thirteen million is one third of the Canada’s 37.59 million population! But Statistics Canada numbers seem to indicate that it’s accurate. Canada’s volunteers range in age from 15 to over 65 and, while the youngest age group represents the highest percentage of volunteers, at 58%, and those 65 and over donate the largest number of hours. Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island have the highest numbers of volunteers, while Nova Scotia and British Columbia reported the largest average annual hours volunteered.

The reasons why we volunteer in Canada

Why do we volunteer? Most people do so to help their communities, while others do so to use their skills and experience and explore their strengths. Here’s the breakdown of reasons people volunteer in Canada, according to the survey:

  • to make a contribution to community (93%)
  • to use skills and experience (78%)
  • because they have been personally affected by the organization’s cause (59%)
  • to explore their own strengths (48%)
  • because their friends volunteer (48%)
  • to network with others (46%)
  • to improve job opportunities (22%)
  • to fulfill religious obligations or beliefs (21%)

Volunteering is a great way to spend your time, particularly when people are between jobs and have time on their hands. It’s also, as 22% of the populations seems to know, a good way to enhance your career prospects.

Employers place a high premium on volunteer experience

According to a report from Deloitte from a few years ago (via Fast Company), hiring managers place a high value on volunteering. Deloitte surveyed 2,506 respondents who are in some way involved in the hiring process in 13 major North American metropolitan areas and found that they were strongly in favor of volunteering as a professional development tool. Among the findings:

  • 92% believe volunteering expands a person’s professional skill set
  • 85% are willing to overlook resume pitfalls if the candidate includes volunteering on a resume. 
  • 82% are more likely to choose a candidate with volunteer experience
  • 80% believe volunteering is an effective way to boost leadership skills
  • 73% believe people who volunteer are more successful

Only 30% of resumes list volunteer experience, however. So, if you do volunteer, you should list this experience on your resume. And, if you don’t to any volunteer work, you might want to consider doing to. It’s not just good for your career, it’s a good life decision in general.

Opportunities to volunteer in Canada

Speaking of being between jobs and having time on one’s hands, that’s the situation for a lot of people while we’re all in isolation due to the coronavirus. Many of us have been laid off, either temporarily or permanently, or simply have some extra time even if we are working. It’s a good idea to consider spending this time volunteering. Not only will it look good on your resume, it’s also good way to network and make connections – and it gives you something to do.

There are many opportunities for volunteering in Canada right now. The Canadian Press recently reported that food banks and non-profit organizations that help the most vulnerable are in need of support more than ever.

The Canadian Cancer Society, for example, needs drivers to take people to medical appointments, because most of their regular drivers are seniors who are now at home taking precautions. Food banks have also seen a “dramatic drop” in volunteers for the same reason. (They are also in dire need of donations. Over one million people a month use food banks across Canada with children and seniors making up a large part of that number.) Meals on Wheels and other organizations are also looking for drivers to deliver meals and assist vulnerable people who need help with the basics of living during this time.

Look for opportunities with local organizations. Volunteer Toronto, for example, has new opportunities every day, including COVID-19 response, mentoring, newcomer settlement, online tutoring, fundraising, translation, and more. Other sources in other cities and areas include Volunteer Halifax and govolunteer.ca. If you’re not able to be on site and around other people at this time, there may be virtual opportunities available to you.

You’re sure to find something.

So, to recap, volunteering is a great way to give back to your community, enrich your life, and improve your job search and career prospects. What’s not to love? Time to look for some volunteer opportunities.

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