There’s no better way to gain valuable work skills than through volunteering, says Anna Bychkova.
When the 27-year-old moved to Toronto from Russia two-and-a-half years ago, she joined Volunteer Toronto with the goal of learning English.
One year later, she was hired on as staff.
“It helped me network, learn new skills and learn English,” she said.
For those who are new to the country or between jobs, volunteering and community service can be an excellent way to try something new in a low-risk environment.
“It’s relaxed, it’s fun and you’re not shy to ask questions,” Bychkova said.
She was recently promoted from reception to Corporate and Membership Services.
Deborah Gardner, executive director of Volunteer Toronto, says lending a hand can lead to employment in a number of ways.
“Not that you’ll necessarily get a job where you volunteer, but the person sitting beside you when you’re volunteering, or working with you, may have a whole network and a place of work,” she said.
Volunteering can also benefit those who are already employed, said Gardner.
“If you’re feeling at risk in your job, one way to improve the situation is to enhance your skills,” she said.
Public speaking, for example, is a valuable skill in almost any position.
An organization like the AIDS Committee of Toronto has a speakers’ bureau and those who join are offered intensive training on the issue and also on how to make presentations, she said.
“So you’ve gotten that professional development for free and now when you go back to your workplace, you’ve got those skills, which you’re going to show off, and you become more secure in your tenure,” Gardner said.
Volunteerism is on the rise in Canada and Gardner said as the global economic crisis deepens, it will only continue in the same direction.
Statistics Canada’s 2004 Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating found that almost 12 million Canadians, or 45 per cent of the population aged 15 and older, volunteered during the one-year period before the survey.
Their time contributions totalled close to two billion hours.
For more information on how to get involved, visit volunteertoronto.on.ca or volunteer.ca.