image collage of students volunteering by helping the elderly, cleaning up the environment and teaching children

Give back to your community and enhance your skill set.

Volunteering is a great way to learn and develop valuable skills, knowledge and abilities while helping others. Plus, every hour you dedicate to volunteer work strengthens your community and adds a unique edge to your résumé. It's a chance to learn, lead, and live your values in real-world situations.

Why become a volunteer?

Person smiling, holding a volunteer badge that's pinned to their chest

Volunteering is a mutually beneficial endeavour. It's about learning and acquiring new skills, experiences and perspectives that will benefit both you and the organization.

Students tell us they choose to volunteer on campus, in your local community, or even abroad for several reasons:

  • Expand your network, make new friends and experience different cultures and worldviews
  • Make a difference in someone’s life
  • Express gratitude to an organization that may have helped you in the past
  • Investigate new opportunities that pique your interest but you may be uncertain about
  • Expose yourself to new opportunities and challenges
  • Learn and develop transferable skills including leadership, problem-solving and creativity
  • Gain work experience and improve your résumé and exposure
  • Build self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Make new friends who have similar interests
  • Feel valued and needed

If you're a co-op student considering a volunteer position for an official work term credit, connect with a co-op advisor before making any commitment to a volunteer position.

How do I decide where to volunteer?

Passionate about a social justice cause? Moved by an organization's mission? Keen to sharpen certain skills?

If you're looking for a volunteer opportunity that meets your interests or propels you toward personal growth, consider these questions:

  • What activities, environments, or types of organizations pique your curiosity on some level?
  • How much time can you dedicate to something new? Some opportunities require only a couple hours per week, while others require more time. What range of options might work best for you?
  • Where do you want to volunteer? In your current location or a new city or country?

Add your volunteer experience to your résumé 

Volunteer work experience is relevant experience and can be used to enhance your résumé. You can accomplish this by:

  • Adding your volunteer work to demonstrate your ‘work experience’ section.
  • Evaluating the relevance of your volunteer work to the job application: identify the transferable skills obtained in the volunteer role and give specific examples that show the relationship between your volunteer role and desired roles.
  • Positioning your volunteer work correctly. If the volunteer position passes the relevancy test it can go alongside work experience. Call this section “Professional Experience” instead of “Work Experience”.
    • Please note: If your volunteer role is similar to paid positions and you are an international student, consult an immigration expert to ensure it aligns with visa regulations.
  • Going beyond simply listing your volunteer job title. Describe your volunteer work in terms of your achievements, highlighting the skills that you learned and demonstrated. Follow the same format as all other work experience.
  • Using specific titles like "Tutor" instead of "Volunteer" to describe the work you did.

Certify your volunteer experience

  • EDGE Certificate
    • EDGE is an opt-in experiential education certificate program for undergraduate students in regular (non-co-op) programs of study. Students who complete EDGE develop professional skills, explore their career options and learn how to market themselves to employers. 
  • University of Waterloo Certificate in Leadership Development
    • Immerse yourself in leadership development through hands-on workshops. Apply your skills in real leadership roles within the Waterloo community, reflect on your experiences, and boost your resume with sought-after soft skills. Connect with students across all six faculties to expand your campus network.

Looking for more job search resources?

Looking for support to secure your ideal job? Whether the help you need includes preparing your professional documents or exploring different opportunities, we’re here to provide you with the resources and support you need to make it happen!