Volunteering – How to Gain Experience for your First Career
At my training courses, I’m always amazed of how few people volunteer, especially students/new graduates who are looking for work. Volunteering allows people to make a difference in their community, which is proven to increase the quality of your own life. At the same time, it allows you to make professional connections, and gain some valuable experience to help break into the job market. For me, volunteering gave me a great career and that’s only the beginning.
I remember the anxiousness as I clicked on the job ad. I was finishing my schooling, and looking to find my first real health and safety career job. The problem was every entry level job I could find in my field required 3 to 5 years of job experience?! How was I supposed to get the experience needed for the entry level job?
Over a 6 month period I sent out close to 800 resumes for jobs and was not getting a single return call. I did what my parents and family said to do by “hitting the pavement” and hand delivering resumes to let the prospective employers see me in person and hopefully that would help. The issue with this strategy was that it might have helped, but most companies don’t take resumes in person anymore, and the ones that did just had a huge tray to accept the resumes. I also noted that these trays were always conveniently located right beside a large garbage bin.
I had hit a wall. I was tired of not hearing back from any companies. I was frustrated at all the time I was spending with no return. I felt I was failing before being able to begin my career. How do I get experience when nobody is willing to even call me back? I was willing to try anything. It was now a year since I had graduated and I still did not have anyone calling me back. I was defeated mentally. My mother handed me a newspaper that said a company was looking for volunteers to help with a safety day. The volunteers would just assist people going through their WSIB processes. As a last chance I went and decided to volunteer for the day, not knowing it would change my life.
I arrived at the volunteer placement, and went to the coordinator and informed them who I was, and that I would love to help in any way I could. The coordinator thanked me and was sincerely grateful that I was there to help. That alone made me start to feel better about my lack of finding a new career. They went over what they wanted me to do, and it was pretty easy. I just walked with people to each section and helped them fill in paperwork. The day went fast, and before I knew it, the 8 hours were over. The coordinator then introduced me to a health and safety representative from a local company. This person informed me of a health and safety volunteer group and asked if I would be interested in joining them and volunteering. I said yes and looked forward to at least starting to do something with my career.
I went to my first volunteer safety meeting and was amazed! The majority of the other volunteers were high level executive people, a few of them from companies I had applied with and didn’t hear from. I stayed volunteering on this committee for close to two years. During this time, I helped work on safety policies hand in hand with these executive people. I ended up volunteering for five different health and safety committees. Shortly after, I was sent on a trip to Ottawa to lobby with politicians and had an amazing experience.
I then decided it was time to polish up my resume and highlighted my volunteerism over the past two years. Within two weeks, I had three different employers offering me jobs. All of them had heard about me through my volunteering and wanted me to be a member of their team.
Today, I still volunteer with local health and safety groups, downs syndrome associations, and habitat for humanity. Through my volunteering, I have learned that the best way to grow professionally and personally is by helping others. It opens many doors that may not be open for you yet. So, get out there and find what works for you.
Brad Bradish, Health and Safety/Injury Risk Manager, is responsible for all aspects of health and safety and WSIB for SRG. Brad, a true Blue Jays fan, is a humorous and formidable trainer who has also done public speaking at conferences. When not watching the Jays, Brad is usually camping or towing his 2 boys down the Grand River with his wife in their kayaks.