Filipina-Canadian says volunteering helps get jobs

Volunteering is one way of gaining valuable work skills. Photo by Georgiana Marin

Lorie Corcuera is a Canadian-born Filipino, who first began volunteering her time with the Filipino Student Association at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in her undergraduate years. Since then she feels that she gained significant skills from various volunteer jobs that have transferred towards her career as a human resources specialist.

To this day she remains a big fan of volunteering and admires people who get involved in their communities. When choosing candidates for employment she says she places high value on their volunteer experience.

“To me, it shows that people are well rounded, cultured, open to learning new things and ambitious,” says Corcuera.

According to the most recent compilation by Statistics Canada, based on the 2010 Giving, Volunteering and Participating (CSGVP) survey, approximately two-thirds of volunteers felt that they benefitted from improved interpersonal skills via their volunteering experience. Other benefits included improved organization, office skills and aspects of general knowledge such as politics.

While the survey displays many variables that lead to different levels of involvement in volunteering – such as age, income and marital status – it also reports that those who volunteer do so because they would like to directly contribute to their community.

During her own volunteer time, Corcuera learned that tasks as simple as serving soup to the needy became a chance to learn the basics of operations, coordination, communication, delegating tasks and problem solving. In addition, as a member of the Filipino Student Association, Corcuera gained leadership skills as she managed and coordinated team projects.

Kathleen Adams is an HR consultant at B.C. Housing and agrees with the importance of volunteer experience in future employment. She says volunteering is important in getting to know a job candidate at the personal level. With over 30 years of versatile HR experience, she feels that it is not a dealbreaker when making the hiring decision, but is something the HR members appreciate.

“In interviews, I usually ask questions about someone’s involvement with a particular volunteer organization to find out what motivates them, and that tells me a lot about the person,” says Adams.

Corcuera feels that for many of the human resources managers, volunteer experience will make a difference in the hiring process, as it shows that the person is in line with the company’s values and interests. She says that funding is currently being allocated towards programs with a community focus by many organizations in an effort to give back locally.

At the HR office where Adams works, there is a lot of support for volunteerism.

“We like our staff at all levels to be involved in volunteerism, and many do it through our organization,” says Adams.

This is in line with the CSGVP survey, which shows that approximately one-third of employed volunteers were supported by a program or policy by their employer, a number which has increased since 2004.

Corcuera also emphasizes the importance of volunteering for an organization or cause that allows for personal satisfaction, as well. The overall experience should be a good fit on multiple levels.

“When you’re looking for a volunteer position, you need to research the organization and pick the one with a cause that you believe in and motivates you. Then choose a volunteer role that matches your employment goals and learn everything about it,” says Corcuera.

With files from Shalini Nayar