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How Volunteer Work Helps You Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit

The Benefits of Volunteer Work

The complaint heard most often from employers at hiring time: 'The students who've applied to the jobs we posted have great grades and are really enthusiastic. The problem is they lack 'related' work experience.'

The complaint voiced most often by students at hiring time: 'I busted a move to boost my grades and get a gazillion extra-curricular activities on my resume, plus I worked summers and part-time during school. Now I get rejected because my employment wasn't 'relevant?'

The age old conundrum of bridging the gap between school and work. For many students there's a Grand Canyon between the books they've mastered and the job they covet. How best to bridge the gulf?

Volunteer work is one of the proven ways. You apply some of your time to helping an organization, preferably in your area of study, and you get back tons of benefits.

Here's how it can work. Let's say you're majoring in education but you haven't had a chance to work directly in this field yet. What can you do to get your foot in the door? Try volunteering for a relevant company or organization. Examples include public schools who need class assistants, parents looking for tutors to help their children, nurseries and kindergartens seeking child-care support, camps hunting for counselors, kids who need personal mentors, literacy programs that are understaffed, course design firms, training and development companies geared to adult learners, and agencies who provide aid to the physically or mentally challenged. A list of possibilities for some other programs is available at the following website:

You can start your own search by visiting some websites that list volunteer opportunities. Volunteer Canada is at Charity Village (mainly not-for-profits with volunteer positions) is at It's also possible to call or e-mail the Human Resources departments of employers you've thought about working for. Have a script prepared that emphasizes the contributions you can make. Let your eagerness to prove yourself show through. And help them understand you won't be a burden on their existing staff.

Does doing all of this mean you'll have less free time? Isn't it easier to wait 'til you graduate before getting serious about work? Yes, and yes again. But when it comes to job hunting, it's all about showing the people who hire that you have a competitive advantage. Volunteer work is one of the best ways to do so.

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Benefits of Doing Volunteer Work

What You Can Get
Why It Makes A Difference

- experience in precisely the type of position you'll be applying for after graduating

- employers favour applicants who already know how to do the job they're advertising for

- a recommendation by someone in your field

- it's an endorsement the employer trusts

- new contacts

- they can help refer you into the all-important hidden job market

- something solid to add on your resume

- proves to potential employers that you have what it takes, and differentiates you from applicants who only have 'book knowledge'

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