April 11, 2009

Summer Job Spotlight ... Don't forget about volunteering!

For any student currently in an Ontario high school, you know that in order to graduate, you must complete 40 hours of community service. For some, it is the one requirement that they forget about - right up until they are about to graduate and then they panic. That's followed by a frenzied search and pleas for help, including the ever-popular, "I need this placement to graduate! Please!"

Now, I won't get into the merits (and drawbacks) of this requirement, but I will say that volunteering over the summer is definitely a good idea, especially if you do not have a job already lined up.

Think of volunteering this way:

- It's a great way to gain valuable work experience
- You will expand your network of contacts and potential references
- Unlike your friends, you can set your own schedule and hours - volunteer a few hours a week and still enjoy your summer break
- While it's not paid, some placements offer travel/meal reimbursements or stipends
- You will learn things about yourself that you didn't even know
- And yes, you can complete the 40-hour graduation requirement - fairly quickly too!

Plus, given the current economic downtown and the associated cutbacks, hiring freezes, and layoffs in industries that students and youth traditionally flock to (i.e. retail), it will likely be more difficult to land a job this summer.

But that means that more non-profit and community organizations will be looking for volunteers - after all, it is technically free labour, although volunteers get more non-material rewards.

And if you play your cards right and start looking now, you'll likely have a number of options to pick from when it comes to volunteer placements.

But before you begin a volunteer placement, check with your school to see what you need to do beforehand. For example, the Toronto District School Board's website explains that all students are required to read the Community Involvement Manual and fill out the Passport - a document that is signed by the school, the student, his/her parents, and a contact person at the volunteer placement.

So if you're interested in volunteering over the summer, check out these links that offer listings of volunteer opportunities throughout Ontario:

Charity Village*

*Note: They also have listings of jobs and internships in the non-profit sector.

Volunteer Toronto


Canadian-Universities.net - Volunteer Listings

United Way - Toronto

Of course, this list is not exhaustive - you can also directly contact a non-profit or community organization you are interested in. Often, they have a volunteer coordinator who can answer your questions and accept your application.

And should you decide to volunteer this summer, you'll have to do the same things as if you were applying for a job. Make sure you have a well-written resume and cover letter. Expect to have an interview and be ready for a reference check, including a police check if volunteering with vulnerable persons.

In other words, treat your search for a volunteer position the same way you'd treat your job search - be prepared, enthusiastic, keen, and above all else, professional!

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