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Getting by Giving: Why You Should Think About Volunteering Tammy Lavigne, Resource and Information Specialist, Job Skills

About the Author

Tammy Lavigne is a Resource and Information Specialist with Job Skills - Employment & Business Services. After years of working with a Canadian corporation and volunteering in the not-for-profit sector, Tammy decided to turn her passion for making a difference in her community into a professional career. Tammy's career change into employment services allows her to assist clients with career exploration and provide them with the resources and information necessary for their job search.

Lack of work experience is frequently a barrier to becoming employed, particularly for recent graduates or those individuals in career transition. Often overlooked is the marketable experience that job seekers can gain from an ongoing volunteer opportunity. For individuals who are currently unemployed, a volunteer position can help ''fill the gap'' between jobs.

There is a misconception that employers do not value volunteer work because it is unpaid work. An ongoing volunteer role could make all the difference, especially if it is relevant or transferable to the position for which you are applying. Not for profit and volunteer organizations frequently look for individuals who have expertise in many areas from financial planning to plumbing and anything in between. Limited funding may not allow volunteer organizations to pay employees, so they are often willing to take on individuals with little or no experience in lieu of payment. Most volunteer organizations require a resume and will request an interview as a formality. This is a perfect occasion to gain some practice in ''selling yourself'', without the pressures associated in competing for a paid position. Organizations that utilize volunteers are regularly interested in anyone who may be willing the give their time and energy to help their community.

A longer-term commitment to a volunteer organization can demonstrate your willingness to learn and grow. The experience you obtain can then be emphasized on a resume as part of your work experience or skills and abilities. Don't forget, volunteerism in your field of interest also offers an opportunity to network with others in the same field or may reveal an entire job market of which you were previously unaware. Treating your volunteer work as you would a paid position can give you excellent employment references who are well acquainted with the quality of your work and your enthusiasm for a job well done.

For those who may be seeking a career change, volunteerism give you an opportunity to ''test the waters'' without necessarily risking your professional career. Perhaps you have a strong passion for a certain type of work, but are not certain that you want to leave your current employment. Volunteerism can also be used as a time of career exploration, particularly if you have been afforded the opportunity to embark on a new career as a result of downsizing or retraining. Volunteer organizations allow you to fill your need for variety without absolute commitment to a career change.

Millions of Canadians volunteer each and every year, allowing thousands of charities, not for profit and volunteer organizations to function. Consider a volunteer role. It may be the most rewarding journey you have ever been on!

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