Volunteering 101: What it is and what it’s not

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Many Canadians volunteer. It is a regular and on-going commitment many people have.

What is volunteering?

Volunteering is giving unpaid help or service to benefit other people or the environment. It can be formal, non-formal, informal, project based, online and others (read 5 types of volunteer work to know more).

Around 13 million Canadians volunteer more than 150 hours each year (General social survey on volunteering and charitable giving in Canada, 2013). This is equivalent to about 1 million full-time jobs. Volunteers make a big difference in improving lives and the society.

It is:

  • giving your service without charge
  • contributing to a cause or to the safety and well-being of the community
  • sharing your skills and talents
  • a way to belong to the community
  • is a form of Individual Social Responsibility

Newcomers also benefit from volunteering. You can:

  • gain technical and soft skills
  • grow your network
  • practice your English
  • be noticed by an employer (and maybe get a job offer)

What it is not:

Volunteering is not internship

  • Volunteer work is done to help out a cause. Internship is done to learn more about a given profession.
  • A volunteer’s work benefits others while internship work benefits the intern.

Volunteering is not work experience

  • Work experience means employment for which you were paid.
  • But you can add volunteer work in your resume to increase your chances of getting hired.
    • Put it under “professional experience” or a separate section on volunteer work.
    • Describe your achievements and the soft skills you learned. These can be considered Canadian experience.

Article updated November 2, 2022.

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