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Give Your Volunteer Work a Shout Out on Your Resume

Career, Self-improvement | January 7th, 2013 No comments

Whether you spent your summer volunteering abroad as a warrior in the fight against poverty in Africa, teaching English as a second language in Guatemala, working to preserve the natural beauty of the Galapagos Islands, or even spending a few hours a week helping out at your local animal shelter, volunteering provides a wealth of experience you just can’t get anywhere else. As another added benefit, did you know — aside from the fact that you’re providing an amazing community service and helping those in need — volunteering can work wonders on your resume?

Although conventional wisdom may emphasize only including paid positions on your list of accomplishments when applying for a new job, many employers believe exactly the opposite to be true. In fact, a recent survey by online networking giant LinkedIn found that 41% of hiring employers consider volunteer experience just as important as paid work experience.

Filling the Gaps

This is especially good news in context of the economic downturn; many people have been laid off or unable to find work, so filling gaps in the resume with volunteer experience makes a whole lot of sense.

Maybe you took a year off to “travelteer” – volunteering in another country – or you spent a few years at home with your children and served as the president of the PTA. Either way, including your volunteer experience not only shows that you kept busy, it also points to your commitment, character and involvement, all traits potential employers value.

Gaining Experience

Volunteering also provides hands-on experience that might just prove essential to your next job – even in ways that may not be immediately obvious. Maybe you volunteered at an animal shelter, but you ended up supervising a team of other volunteers, providing invaluable leadership experience. Maybe you volunteered to coordinate fundraisers for a non-profit, and now you’ve got a couple years of event planning, project management and marketing under your belt. The LinkedIn survey found that 89% of those surveyed had volunteer experience, but only 45% of them actually included it on their resumes. That may be a mistake.

Case in point: In an article for CNN, the owner of a bicycle and fitness shop stated that if he sees a job candidate has achieved his Eagle Scout, he’ll always give them a call for an interview. While he might not necessarily hire the candidate, volunteer experience piques his interest enough to warrant an interview. Even if the experience doesn’t seem particularly relevant, include it. You never know which groups or causes might be near and dear to your potential employer’s heart — and cause them to pick up that phone and call you for an interview.

How to Include Volunteering on Your Resume

When it comes to the logistics of including volunteer experience on a resume, you can choose from two routes: Create a separate section entitled, “Volunteer Experience,” or include your volunteering under your employment history under the more general heading, “Experience.”

When writing about volunteering, detail it just as you would any job. Use action verbs to describe the position, be as specific as possible, and provide quantifiable accomplishments that show what you achieved and learned. Be proud of your volunteering. After all, you’re out there improving the world, and you should shout that out – in writing, on your resume, that is — to future employers.

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