Volunteering: Apply for the Experience, Stay for the Benefits

There are so many benefits to volunteering!

Whether it’s delivering meals to seniors or walking shelter dogs, being a peer mentor or being part of a team organizing an event, when you volunteer, you connect with others and you often see that you’re making a positive difference in their lives or in the community. So, it’s no surprise that volunteering can have both physical and mental health benefits. Research has shown that adults with disabilities or chronic health conditions who volunteer often see an improvement in their pain levels. Volunteering can also reduce stress, anxiety and depression.

The author volunteers at seniors’ residences with her dog Bentley. Such a good boy, yes, he is!

Volunteer for One Day or More – The Choice is Yours!
Volunteering also provides a great opportunity to test different educational or career paths. Whether you have a job in mind, or are unsure what field interests you, volunteering allows you to look for opportunities that require various levels of commitment. It might be a one-day event, a two-week long project, twice a month for a year, or other…you have the flexibility to decide what to pursue based on your capabilities and time availability.

Add Volunteer Experience to Your Resumé
If you’re also looking for paid employment, there are ways that you can use your volunteer experience to help get a job. As a volunteer, you might be on the organization’s email list where job postings are sent out. You can also develop internal workplace connections to ask about open or upcoming positions, and a recommendation. References are often required when applying for jobs, so having someone that can speak directly to skills you have demonstrated is incredibly valuable. Adding volunteer experience and the skills you have developed from it to your resumé will help with your application to other jobs!

Seek Accommodations as Needed
If you have a disability and/or need accommodations, you can still volunteer! Read the volunteer posting carefully to see what you are expected to do in the role. If you need support with any of the job requirements, you can start a conversation about this when going through the application process. 

It can be intimidating to bring up a need for accommodations, but if you feel passionate about a position, do not let that be a barrier. Remember that you are entitled to ask for accommodations and many community agencies that hire volunteers are eager to provide these if possible. You are the expert in this situation, so be prepared to explain what accommodations would be most beneficial to you. Remember, you do not have to disclose a diagnosis or any medical information if you don’t want to.

As you can see, while you’re helping others, there’s a lot you can get in return. So, consider getting out there to volunteer!

Need help with applying to a volunteer position? Contact your POGO School and Work Transitions Counsellor so they can help you prepare for the volunteer experience.

Written by POGO Counsellor Helen Antoniades*

*This article was adapted from the S2S Network presentation “Volunteerism: Empowering Yourself and Others” by childhood cancer survivor Payton Tenebaum. Information about this year’s S2S Network presentations is coming soon!

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