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Volunteering is not only a way to help out in your community; it’s also a very good opportunity to discover a job that’s just right for you. Think about what interests you most, or fits your personality. If you’re still in high school or college and aren’t sure of your career choice, volunteering is a great way to get exposure to different types of jobs. Some opportunities are even available helping a “professional” who can answer any questions you might have.

Once you’ve settled on the type of volunteering you’d like to do, contact your nearest volunteer centre and “interview” for your position the same way you would for a regular job. Request a “job description”, that is, ask, “what duties are expected of me?”. By doing this at the outset you’re insuring that you’re targeting the right opportunity.

Consider your volunteer work as important as any paid job. Other people are counting on your help. Ask the person you report to for feedback and reviews of your work, and to keep written records. Make a portfolio. Include a record of your training, all contacts, letters of reference (if available), and phone numbers of people you’ve met during the course of your volunteer work. One day they might become prospective employers. By keeping these kinds of records you’re creating a “network” for future reference and that could lead to new opportunities. Include your volunteer work on your resume. This shows employers that you care about your community.

Here’s a few volunteering positions you might find in your area:

Homeless Shelters and Food Banks: have an assortment of programs like helping to prepare meals or doing record keeping.

Habitat for Humanities: build homes for people in lower income situations. If carpentry is something you like to do, contact them.

State or National Parks: teach educational programs or help out with grounds keeping or maintenance. Contact a park near you and inquire about what else is available.

Hospitals and Nursing Homes: explore whether or not a medical career is right for you and gain valuable work experience. As our population ages there’ll be a growing demand for geriatric specialists and caregivers.

Libraries and Reading Programs: give a few hours a week re-shelving books or delivering them to the homebound. Libraries also set up “learn to read” programs. By volunteering as a tutor you can help children and adults learn this very vital and necessary skill.

Animal Shelters and Humane Societies: help feed, walk, or just go spend some time with the dogs, cats and other small animals sheltered in these facilities. That’s only a small cross section of what’s available. Literally hundreds of others positions are open. And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, make suggestions or help create new volunteer positions. All it takes is a phone call or drop by your local volunteer centre. They’ll be happy to talk to you and help steer you toward the right volunteer assignment -- and one that might turn into the perfect career.