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The Pros and Cons of Volunteering

Marc BelaicheBy Marc Belaiche

Whether your work experience is rich or minimal, there are many advantages, and some disadvantages, of volunteering if you are searching for a new job. This article explores both sides.

PROS

Learn a new skill – Volunteering is a great way to learn or develop a new skill that otherwise may be difficult to obtain. Keep in mind that it’s never too late to enhance your skill set

Meet new contacts -Networking at any time is usually advantageous and making new contacts can lead to exciting career opportunities.

Contribute to your community –Volunteering in an organization in your community such as a not-for-profit yields inherent personal and career benefits both for you and the organization you are assisting.

Help an organization –In this current labour environment, some organizations may not have the financial resources to hire, and yet the work is there. Contributing your time may help an organization in these circumstances to get through challenging times. Perhaps they can provide you with other non-financial benefits (e.g., reference letter, contacts) that might offset the lack of compensation.

Enhance your resume –It’s always beneficial to include volunteer experience and related keywords on your resume to help recruiters find you for relevant positions.

Provide career opportunities –More than ever before, organizations are less likely to hire someone without experience in their industry.  Getting practical experience, even if unpaid, can lead to opportunities within an industry if that’s your desired career direction.

Unpaid to paid-Many volunteer opportunities can lead to a part-time or full-time position. Stay positive, be patient, and do anything you can to help the organization reach its goals.

Motivation is key –Volunteering may help you stay motivated. Contributing to the organization can provide a sense of accomplishment and keep you feeling engaged. Your actions may also inspire others!

CONS

•    The lack of compensation and benefits may be demotivating if it doesn’t lead to a paid position. It’s also demotivating to be working for free while someone else in the organization doing a similar job is getting paid.
•    Volunteering could reduce your negotiating power on compensation if a prospective employer believes you’re willing to work for free or for less than what you are worth.
•    Volunteering takes time away from searching for a paid position.
•    Ultimately, there might not be a benefit to you in your job search.
•    It may be disadvantageous for an organization who trains you only to see you leave shortly thereafter for another position.

CONCLUSION

There are a variety of ways to volunteer to enhance your career and it’s important that the volunteer work you sign up for is the right fit for you. Working in the industry that is relevant to your career will help you stay motivated.

Balance the amount of time you are willing to volunteer with the time required for your job search. Over-committing your volunteer time may lead to an inability to fulfill your other obligations, leading to frustration. In the end it doesn’t make you look good nor does it help the organization.

Note: In Ontario, there has been discussion as to whether unpaid Internships are legal and whether they fall under the Employment Standards Act, including minimum wage criteria. For more information, visit http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/pubs/internships.php

Marc Belaiche is a CPA, CA and is President of TorontoJobs.ca, an Internet recruitment business and recruiting firm located in the Greater Toronto Area. Visit www.TorontoJobs.ca.

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