The short answer is yes. Volunteerism can certainly be part of your bigger career goals. Not only does volunteerism help to stimulate positive societal models, but it can also have a number of other benefits. Here is a quick rundown on why volunteerism is beneficial alongside your career goals:
- Develop your human skills – When resources and manpower are limited, you will need to build your skills in teamwork, reliability, creativity, and critical thinking.
- Build your network – People of any and every background find value in volunteerism. You can encounter individuals that you would have not otherwise gotten to know in any other situation.
- Make an impact – Your decisions and work often directly impact the community you serve.
To learn more about how you can incorporate volunteerism and the opportunities that are available in the nonprofit sector, we spoke to Michelle Baldwin. Michelle has held a number of roles in nonprofit space, the most recent being as a Senior Advisor at Community Foundations of Canada.
A Word from Michelle
What is your current role in the nonprofit sector and how has volunteering impacted your career path?
Michelle: I have worked in the nonprofit sector for almost all my life. As early as 15 years old, I began with volunteer roles. Making connections and gaining experience through volunteering was instrumental in leading me down my career path. I have sat on a number of boards in a volunteer capacity and held a number of roles in nonprofit organizations over the years ranging from volunteer coordinator and communications developer, all the way up to executive director.
Currently, I am a senior advisor at Community Foundations of Canada, an organization that encourages sectors across the country to aid in building stronger and more diverse communities in Canada. My other role is at Huron University College where I teach Governance, Leadership and Ethics.
What are some current trends in the nonprofit sector and what can we expect for the future?
Michelle: Especially now, philanthropy, diversity, inclusion and community impact are being considered in almost every industry. In today’s political climate, with our access to news and current events, businesses are taking note of the impact they are having on the community and adjusting their practices to better align with their values. This could be done internally or through collaboration with an established nonprofit organization. This means new or adjusted roles at organizations to address these needs.
From a career development perspective, as many of our interactions are moving online, individuals need to consider alternate ways of gaining experience. For example, there is a lot of work happening around systems transformation, social innovation, and the development of new societal models. If you are thinking about what’s next and are working towards continuous learning, you are on your way to being an asset to many organizations in the nonprofit sector.
How do these trends translate into employability and career opportunities?
Michelle: I believe there needs to be a shift from the individual to the collective perspective. Organizations are looking for individuals who can lead collective transformation and use resources and connections across departments to encourage collaboration.
The other part is adaptability and living in ambiguity. With the changes we are experiencing, being flexible and adaptable is highly valued. There was a time where job seekers and employers would stick to a job description to a tee. This isn’t necessarily the case today because individuals need to work in the context of a bigger environment. To develop this skill, try to expose yourself to emerging models and technologies around systems change and social innovation through volunteerism, and continued learning.
What are some resources you’d recommend for those who are interested in learning more about nonprofits?
Michelle: There are many opportunities for you to get involved. Here is a list of resources to help you get started:
- Social Innovation Canada: outlines community outreach opportunities and events that aim to connect social innovation practitioners.
- Future of Good: curates content surrounding trends and news on social impacts in Canada.
- Maytree Foundation : offers a blog and podcast with a focus on creating positive change and systemic advancements.
- Tamarack Institute: events, webinars and volunteer opportunities to help lead community change.
What are the key takeaways for international students as it relates to volunteerism and working with nonprofits?
Michelle: Your credentials and education can get you in the door, but your human skills and holistic experiences are what differentiates you from the competition and keep you in the roles you want.
Take your time to look into what your interests are and find organizations and opportunities that align with your values and goals. By keeping up with emerging trends in your area of interest you’re actively seeking out those opportunities.
Next, when you approach organizations consider how your work benefits your own learning and the organization as a whole. This could be both in the capacity of volunteerism and as an employee,
Finally, I need to add that international students have a great advantage in providing organizations with a global perspective. This is valuable and critical in creating systems that benefit all Canadians. This could be as an entrepreneur, politically or academically. I encourage you to invite yourself to the table through volunteerism and employment where your contribution is valued and upheld.
To see if volunteerism or working with nonprofits is something that could fit in with your career goals, reach out to our Career Coach Sejal Ahir for a free career assessment.