Concordia University

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Strategic volunteering

Volunteers at Alternative Spring Break

Volunteering strategically means recognizing that volunteering is an exchange.  While you are sharing your time and talent with no expectation of remuneration, you can gain relevant work experience, develop critical career skills and build a network that will later assist you in your job search!    

Crucial to doing this successfully is the reflection and planning involved in selecting the right volunteer opportunity for you.  Take the time to explore the skills you will need in your future dream job and find a volunteer position that will allow you to develop these skills.  

Steps to strategic volunteering

Volunteering and your job search

Volunteer experience is an undeniable asset when looking for a job in all fields of work.  Why?  The key to understanding this lies in the importance of transferable skills.

In addition to specific job-related skills, all recruiters expect candidates to demonstrate a number of personal skills, most often referred to as transferable skills.  The table below highlights the transferable skills most often cited as job requirements.

Skills sought by employers How volunteering can help develop it
Communications Skills (listening, verbal, written), often in more than one language You can choose to volunteer in a setting where you will be able to practice a new language, for example, volunteering in a non-profit which functions mainly in French to become more fluent in this language. 
Flexibility/ Organizational Skills Adding volunteer activities to your already busy schedule shows that you are organized and able to handle several commitments responsibly.
Interpersonal Skills 

Any volunteering tasks where you deal with the public or work as part of a team will provide examples of how you are able to work well with others and deal with conflict.

Leadership Skills

You can propose your own projects, for example, organizing a fundraising initiative for an organization you care about.

Awareness of Diversity Working alongside people from varied backgrounds, you will develop the ability to promote the benefits of diversity.
Problem-Solving/Creativity Most non-profits work with the reality of limited resources. Attaining your goals within this context often requires creativity. 
Professionalism As a volunteer, you represent an organization. By taking your role and engagement seriously you will be noticed for your professionalism.
Dedication/Work Ethic Your commitment to fulfill your engagement as a volunteer will be recognized by the organization. 
Positive Attitude/ Energy By choosing to get involved in a cause you believe in, you will bring positive energy to the organization. 

Visit us to discuss this further and find volunteer opportunities which will allow you to develop these important skills!  

Once you have demonstrated your skills in your volunteer activity, you are equipped with great examples which will demonstrate to a future employer just what kind of contribution you can make to their organization.

It is now time to market your skills!  Mention what you achieved as a volunteer in your CV, highlight the relevance of your volunteer experiences in your cover letter and prepare to discuss them during your interviews.

Resources for your job search

List of skills appropriate to your major 

Check out the list of skills required by employers hiring graduates of your major in the "What can I do with my major?" document series.

Identifying your Career Goals, skills and interests

Career and Planning Services offers a range of workshops that can help you better define your interests, skills and values. You can meet with a Career Counselor to do some vocational testing.

Preparing for your job search and interviews  

Career and Planning Services offers a range of workshops on job search, interview preparation and resume writing. You can meet with a Career Advisor to review your CV and cover letter.

3 steps to a unique volunteer project

1. Research organizations

Identify organizations that work in the area that interests you. Prepare to contact them by making sure you have a good understanding of the work they do and who your ideal contact person should be.  The person who plays the role of Volunteer Coordinator, when available, will often be the best contact.

2. Plan a win-win scenario

Creating a successful project implies a proposal that will not only allow you to meet your goals but will also help the organization achieve its mission.  Find out about the organization’s current needs and priorities.  As you approach the contact person, keep in mind:

  • They may not have the capacity to support you in the way you hope, so be flexible. If you feel the organization is a good fit for you, consider getting involved in one of the roles they are trying to fill.  It is often easier to propose a project once you have been involved in the organization for a while.
  • Remember that you want to help the organization, not change the way it works!  Pay attention to your attitude.  Your proposal will be more realistic and easier to accept if you demonstrate empathy and good listening skills.
3. Prepare a proposal for the Volunteer Coordinator

This could include:

  • An introductory letter, along with your resume
  • A description of the project, its benefits and outcomes
  • A list of resources needed, if any, and a preliminary timeline

Remember, not all organizations will be able to accept your proposal. Don’t be discouraged! There are other organizations that will benefit from your drive and passion.

You don’t have to do this on your own! 

The LIVE Centre team can assist at any step in the process, from defining your goals to researching organizations and brainstorming your project proposal. 

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