Revved up: The influence of volunteer experience on career path


Benefits of volunteering alongside persons with disabilities include enhanced problem-solving skills and the ability to adapt in various situations; however, little is known about how these volunteer experiences influence volunteers' career paths. Revved Up, a community-based assisted exercise program for persons with disabilities in Kingston, Ontario, integrates program members with student volunteers from Queen's University. The purpose of this study was to retrospectively examine the experiences of former Revved Up volunteers to explore how their experiences may have influenced their future career decisions and pursuits. Hour-long telephone interviews, whereby the interview guide was developed using were conducted with 12 former Revved Up volunteers. A life course perspective was taken to inform the interview and examine how experiences with Revved Up informed trajectories within one's career. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and subjected to dialogical narrative analysis. Three distinct narrative types were identified, each of which demonstrated differential career trajectories, with Revved Up having a varying degree of influence on the volunteers' career path. The core of each narrative type was shaped by the specific career fulfillment being sought by individuals (e.g., desire to have one-on-one meaningful connections with patients or clients vs. desire to affect and see change in patients' or clients' health). These narratives offer a unique understanding of how a physical activity program context is able to facilitate a purposeful volunteer experience which in turn can influence volunteers' decisions and pursuits that relate to one's career trajectory.