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How to Gain Relevant Work Experience

April 9, 2022



We all know the age-old tale of entry-level jobs asking new grads for 10+ years of relevant work experience. You’re thinking, 10 years ago I was in diapers ma’am so where exactly should this experience come from? Well, I have a solution for you, volunteering.

We often see volunteering as a selfless act (which it is) but you can also find ways to also let this act of selflessness work for you. In this video, I chatted with my friend, Maggie about how you can secure a job in Canada without formal work experience, through volunteering.

Here are a few of my key takeaways.

Why Volunteer?

While volunteering can be a great act of service, you can also volunteer to develop a new skill or to gain more work experience. When I was looking to move from a business analyst role to a marketing role, I chose to volunteer within my organization to help with my transition.

I volunteered in a marketing role on a team whose vision I was very passionate about. This provided the opportunity for me to both develop new skills and serve on a team where I was passionate about its vision. When I wanted to move into a paid marketing role, even though I did not have the necessary credentials, I was able to leverage the skills I had learnt while volunteering to help me secure the role.
Volunteering can help you gain experience to transition into a new role.

How do I find Volunteering Opportunities?

Even though volunteering is essentially unpaid labour, these opportunities still won’t fall into your lap. To find a volunteer opportunity that would be beneficial to both you and the organization, you first have to assess your goals and then see how you can work towards these goals within a specific organization. I would suggest that you:

  1. Reach out to specific people, not a general organization.
  2. Treat it like you are applying for a job.
  3. Find gaps that you can fill within the organization that align with what you would like to gain from the role.
  4. Leverage the skills that you already have, while making space to learn new skills. 

Volunteering is not Forever

When entering into a volunteering agreement, it is important that you are transparent with your commitment level from the get-go. Never bite off more than you can chew. Set a goal for yourself and what you would like to accomplish while volunteering, and communicate these goals with your supervisor. In an ideal situation, they will help you work towards these goals and will set a time frame for which you will be able to meet these goals. However, if this role is taking more than you are able to give, then it is time to move on.

How to Leverage your Volunteering Experience?

Throughout this entire process, the main thing I need you to employ is ✨strategy✨. Do not go into volunteering just for vibes. The role should be mutually beneficial for both you and for your employer.  In order to gain the most out of your volunteering experience, I would suggest that you:

  1.  Research the roles that you would like to apply for in the future. 
  2. Extract the skills that the job listings are asking for.
  3. Communicate to your supervisor the skills that you would like to develop while volunteering.
  4. Work on tasks that will help you to exercise these skills.
  5. Add these skills/tasks to your resume and your LinkedIn.

Volunteering will help you build a solid foundation for the next phase of your career while giving you the opportunity to make a positive impact in the lives of others.
Let me know how you plan to use volunteering to help you secure your next position!


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