Altruistic volunteering
What do you have to offer an organization?
What do you get?
How do you choose the right organization?
Working for free
What are you offering the “hiring” organization?
What are you getting in return?
Useful Web sites 

If you are new to Canada, finding your first job will not be easy. Most employers want Canadian experience. How do you get Canadian experience if no one will hire you?

One way is to volunteer. Volunteering is a win-win situation: you give something, you get something.

There are two types of volunteering; one is altruistic, the other is working for free.

Altruistic volunteering
The first form of volunteering, altruistic, is the most common. This is the volunteer situation where you help others.

What do you have to offer an organization?

  • your unique talents and skills
  • your energy
  • your time
  • support for the community

What do you get?

  • it feels good to help others
  • a good place for networking & accessing the hidden job market (the person serving food next to you in the soup kitchen may be a hiring manager at a company you want to work for)
  • a safe place to learn/practice new skills

How do you choose the right organization?

The mission:

  • How strongly do you believe in the goals and vision of the organization?
  • Don’t take a volunteer job at an organization that does not inspire you.

The commitment:

  • How much time and effort does the organization require of its volunteers?
  • Do not take a volunteer job if it looks like the organization will take advantage of you.

The nature of the work:

  • What will you actually be doing?
  • Will you enjoy the work?’
  • How much will you learn from the work?
  • Will it look good on your résumé

Since you want a win-win situation it is important to make the most of the experience. While you are volunteering look for learning opportunities. Do you see any tasks that need doing that would look good on your résumé? If so, volunteer to do them and make sure you do them well.

Also, make sure you look for networking opportunities: tell fellow volunteers that you are looking for work. After all these people are your contacts, too.

Working for free
The second form of volunteering is working for free. This is less common than volunteering for strictly altruistic reasons but may be more valuable to the job seeker.

First, find a company you want to work for. Second, find a contact who can “hire” you. This would be a manager or a supervisor, not someone from the Human Resources (HR) department. Then offer your services, free of charge, for a set period of time (usually three to six months). This works particularly well if you apply to small companies. (Three to six months may seem to be a long time if you need to find a job but you can resign early if a paying job becomes available.)

What are you offering the “hiring” organization?

  • a valuable, enthusiastic worker (never underestimate the value of enthusiasm)
  • an asset to the organization

What are you getting in return?

  • valuable Canadian work experience
  • a Canadian reference
  • insight into the way a Canadian workplace functions
  • a chance to practice your English or French
  • a great way to try a new field (either different career or different industry)
  • new friends and contacts
  • the potential of a job

One of the difficult elements in this project is finding an appropriate company and internal contact. One way is to do informational interviews at several likely companies. When you find a company where you think you would be a good fit , offer to work for free.

A similar option is co-op placement.

Useful Web Sites

Charity Village

Volunteer Canada

Volunteer Opportunities Exchange