Volunteering as Work Experience
Author: Mike Scaletti
At The Job Shop volunteering is part of our mission statement and a huge part of our company culture. We think it is vitally important to be a responsible part of our community as a small business, and we encourage individuals to do the same! Not only is volunteering rewarding, it can also provide valuable experience and make you more desirable as a candidate.
When writing a resume your goal should be to provide employers a quick and easily digestible example of why you are a great fit for the role they have available. Normally you do this by listing your skills, professional experience, and education, however, you might also want to consider adding volunteer work. Volunteer work can help display to a potential employer your interests, skills, and commitment to self and community improvement. It can also help fill out resumes that have limited (or even no) professional experience.
Reasons to Include Volunteer Work On Your Resume
There are many reasons you might want to list your experiences volunteering on your resume. Among them are:
Giving examples of transferable skills. This is especially true if they are skills you wouldn't have been able to get in your previous position, and if you are changing careers.
Providing context for resume gaps. If you spent some of your time between jobs volunteering that can help mitigate any perceived resume weaknesses those gaps might cause.
Lending experience and skills to resumes that lack extensive professional experience. This is especially important for recent graduates who have limited or no experience working in their desired field.
In addition, if you are applying for a position in a field where volunteer work is highly valued, such as the non-profit sector or academia, listing volunteer work on your resume can be HUGELY beneficial.
How to List Volunteer Work on Your Resume
The first, and often best, option for including volunteer work on your resume is to simply include it in your professional experience section. This is an especially good option for those who have very limited professional experience, or who have had long gaps in employment.
Remember that you should generally only include the three to five most recent and relevant positions you have held in your professional experience section, so if you DO have expensive professional experience you may not want to include your volunteer work in that section.
In that case, the other option is to create a separate section for your volunteer work. It is important in this situation to include your volunteer work AFTER your relevant work experiences and internships on your resume.
Once you have those written out, create a new section, formatted the same way as your professional experience section but clearly labeled as volunteer work, and list any relevant volunteer positions you have held. This allows you to introduce the skills and experiences you have gained from volunteering without overshadowing or drowning out your professional experience. This could also be very valuable if you find out that the employer that you are applying with values hiring and supporting employees with rich non-professional lives (like The Job Shop!).
Additional Advice for Listing Volunteer Work
Be aware that like every other section of your resume, any volunteering that you include should be specifically tailored to the position you are applying for. You should be creating a bespoke resume that matches each job listing that you are responding to, both by studying the job listing itself and by researching the hiring company. This will ensure that any volunteer work you include gives you the best chance possible of landing the job.
One of the ways to do this is to scan a job listing for keywords and then include them in your resume. You want to pay special attention to the qualifications, required skills, and required experience sections for this. When you begin to understand what the employer's ideal candidate is, you can decide whether to include your volunteer experience and how you want to do so.
Finally, remember that everything you include on your resume is there to give you the best chance possible to land a job. Sometimes this will mean including your volunteer work and experiences, but often it will not. You should ONLY include your volunteer work if it works to give you an edge. In general, hiring managers only spend a few seconds scanning your resume, so make sure to consider carefully what you are including, and do a cost-benefit analysis. You have limited space and limited time. If you include your volunteer experience, what might the hiring manager not see instead, and is that worth it?
Good luck, and if you need further help with your job search, or with getting your resume ready, don't hesitate to reach out to The Job Shop!