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FYI: Common Myths

When it comes to giving back, many of us have pre-conceived ideas about the who, what, when, how and why of available volunteer roles. Let’s take a look at some of the more common misconceptions and set things straight.

 MYTH: The only people who volunteer are seniors

The face of volunteerism is changing. In general, younger Canadians are more likely to volunteer than older Canadians. Over one-half of people aged 15 to 24 (58 per cent) and 35 to 44 (54 per cent)), and close to one-half of those aged 25 to 34 (46 per cent)), reported doing volunteer work. In comparison, pre-retirees aged 55 to 64 had a volunteer rate of 4 per cent) in past studies and seniors recorded a rate of 36 per cent). Worth noting, Gen Zers are some of the most socially conscious people out there with passions that are focused on issues that both reflect more traditional values and caring for the greater good.

MYTH: You don’t need any qualifications or skills.

One of the most common misconceptions about volunteering is that there are no qualifications needed to do the tasks. While you might not require extensive or specific experience, most volunteer opportunities need people who have a particular skill set or affinity.

If there’s a need for tutors, for example, in a certain community, you may need to have basic knowledge of teaching methods as well as competency on the subject matter.

MYTH: It’s obvious what the needs of the community will be before you get there.

To paraphrase a famous movie line, volunteering is “like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” And that’s the best part of the experience! Learning new things and meeting people from various walks of life can enrich your outlook. Even if you do your research on an organization beforehand, there is nothing like experiencing their mission first-hand. That’s where flexibility, ability to adapt to changing circumstances and roles and the willingness to try different things like microvolunteering come in. 

A side note: Be humble and modest. Know that you might not have the answers to people’s needs and that your ideas might not be the best solution. Listen and learn.

MYTH: You can only volunteer if you are a student or a fresh graduate.

Students and fresh graduates will certainly learn a lot when they volunteer, but they are not the only ones who can (and do) volunteer. Anyone can help. In fact, demographic millions of volunteers were baby boomers, veterans, Generation Xers.

As long as you’re willing to help, you can never be too old (or too young, for that matter) to volunteer. It’s all about finding the right organization you’re passionate about and where you can be of most help.

MYTH: You can’t afford to take the time off work.

Volunteering doesn’t have to happen during standard work hours or at the same time each week. You can offer your service on weekends or evenings. If you’re still working full-time or part-time, your employer may have hours allocated for giving back to the community. (Fun fact: volunteering actually makes you feel like you have more time in your day!)

MYTH: You don’t need to work hard because you are just there to help.

As Philip Stanhope said, “Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well.” Volunteering for a good cause is awesome, but only if you’re committed and passionate. You’re not helping if you are unreliable or inconsistent in your service. So consider your time and length of commitment before embarking on your next volunteer adventure.

MYTH: You will change the world.

Doing your part in helping the world become a better place is admirable, but you have to be realistic and patient. You may not immediately see the results of your actions. Yet, your small contribution still ultimately impacts the big picture. And no matter what, by volunteering you’ll be able to help make at least one person’s life a little better. That’s a reward in itself!

 MYTH: You have to be selfless to volunteer.

When you enjoy helping good causes, you feel happier, healthier, and confident. And that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Improved mental and physical health are two great reasons to volunteer.

MYTH: Volunteering is dirty work no one will do. 

Sure, sometimes people paint school walls, clean up parks and plant gardens, but they also help make critical decisions as board members or grant reviewers. Professionals, like engineers, doctors, and scientists along with homemakers, PSW’s and office workers have skills to share.

MYTH: You have to be present to make a difference. 

Virtual volunteering—like online tutoring programs—connects people to organizations and their beneficiaries. United Way Worldwide has helped companies give their employees the ability to write a note of encouragement to students, veterans or other groups who need support.

In short…
If you’re feeling lonesome or depressed, volunteering can put you in touch with people in your community. Or if you’re eager to learn a new professional skill or flex an existing one by putting it into practice, skilled volunteering can help you do that. Whatever your reason, if your intentions are honest, you’ll make good things happen. 


Re-entering the workforce after a long break?

Before you start your job search, it’s important to have a clear goal and connections who will help you target both the industry and the role you’d like to work in.

Do your research: While you may think “taking just a few years off work” isn’t long, the job market can evolve in just a short period of time. Look to understand what types of roles companies are seeking to fill and what skills you’ll need to land those jobs. Spend a few hours a day researching the latest news trends in your selected industry—you’ll be amazed what you can find out online or from chatting with people who are already working there. 

Upgrade your education: Consider taking a few refresher classes or going as far as working towards a diploma or certificate. This will help you gain the skills and knowledge specific to the position you’re going after. Plus, highlighting your recent accomplishments on your resume may give you a competitive edge over other applicants.

Update your resume: Your time away might make you feel like you have nothing new to add to your resume, but many times that’s just not true. Try to think of any projects, experiences, volunteer work and, as mentioned, classes, or skills you have developed while away.

Part-time or temporary: The reality of re-entering the workforce is that you might have to make some compromises, especially in the beginning, to get your foot in the door and get recent experience on your new resume. Explore and be open to temporary, part-time, project or contract work.

Check your confidence: Getting back into the job market can be nerve-racking! However, work to approach this process with a positive attitude, confidence in yourself, and faith in your own abilities.

Craft your elevator pitch: Be ready to explain who you are, what you want and a quick summary of your key qualifications. State how you’ve progressed and improved during your time away.

Reach out: With 250 plus online applications in hand for each position, employers are looking for the shortest and safest route to finding a candidate. When you find a job you’d like, check LinkedIn to see who you might know at the company and request an informational interview. And, before you apply, try to find an advocate who will vouch for you and/or help you. If you don’t have any connections, find someone on the team who you have something in common with and reach out with a thoughtful cold email. 

Continue to support worthy causes: Retirement, even if it’s temporary, allows you the time to get behind the organizations and causes you are most passionate about. This will not only help you stay engaged, connected and active but will help you meet new people and stay mentally sharp while you’re hunting for a new position.