Take credit for all of your life accomplishments. Just because you were
not paid, do not relegate your volunteer experience to the end of your
who has ever crammed volunteer work into a life full of work and family
obligations will attest: volunteering IS WORK! So why not include it on
should. People often choose volunteer work which either:
their strengths or their professional field. For example: a lawyer offering pro bono
services to low income families.
Fills a need or
interest that the person does not get from their paid job.
For example: a computer programmer who is an assistant youth soccer
cases, valuable accomplishments and refined skills result from the
volunteer work. Who cares whether you were paid?
YOUR MINDSET ABOUT VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCE
In reality, a potential employer doesn't care whether any of your
experience allowed you to be paid very well, very poorly or not at all.
What they do care about is, 'So, what's in it for me? How will this help
MY business?' That is the unspoken question your resume must answer.
start to categorize your volunteer experiences as work, you will see
that the exact same principles governing how we showcase paid experience
are also used for volunteer experience.
question to consider is, 'How have your volunteer experiences made you
into a better potential employee? Are you now more skilled, better
rounded, a better leader, negotiator or team player?'
truth is that companies hire new employees for only 3 reasons:
Make the company money.
Save the company money.
Improve the efficiency of the company (which
ultimately saves or makes money too). You have to PROVE you will
provide value to the company.
So how do
you translate volunteer experience to your resume? There are 3 major
steps to follow:
THE RELEVANCY TEST
One of my favorite words when it comes to resume writing is the word 'RELEVANT'.
Ask yourself, 'Does this experience communicate something that enhances
my employability to a potential employer?' Or is it just a 'nice to
know?' Or worse, 'Does it detract from a certain focus and make me
look at an example. Let's say you were the #1 Seller of Girl Scout
cookies in your troop. Should this information go on your resume?
it depends (it always depends). If the candidate was a 50-year-old
attorney? Well, no, it doesn't belong. It's too long ago, and doesn't
add much to the career skills needed. It is not RELEVANT.
if the candidate was a 20-year-old trying to get a sales position, or
someone trying to get a job with Girl Scouts of America? In those cases,
well, then YES, that accomplishment could become RELEVANT.
line: include volunteer experience on your resume where it provides a
specific example of a skill you have, or a wonderful personal trait such
as creativity or team leadership, when those traits are valued in the
position you are seeking.
JUST LIST IT: EXPLAIN IT!
Another common mistake people make in using volunteer experience on the
resume is to simply list it like this:
--Red Cross Volunteer
When I see this I am tempted to say 'So what?' Those statements might
mean you showed up for a few baseball games, paid your PTA dues and
maybe served juice at a Red Cross blood drive once 10 years ago...
Without a detailed explanation, employers will probably assume you did
very little. Now, look at the contrast below once we explain the
Little League team to its first winning season in 6 years through
improving morale/sense of fun and teaching basic skills
--Spearheaded quarterly PTA Bake Sale which raised funds for desperately
needed new band uniforms
--Gave monthly 30-minute presentations on the importance of blood drives
to community organizations
that the kinds of skills needed to achieve the above accomplishments
could easily apply to a paid workplace instead of a community/nonprofit
organization. These include leadership, enthusiasm, patience, teamwork,
initiative, planning, and public speaking.
your resume do not just list the name of the organization you
volunteered for. That is like simply listing the names of the companies
you worked for with no details. How could that help an employer make a
decision to interview you?
POSITION IT CORRECTLY
One of the old resume-writing rules was that you had to list all
volunteer experience under its own heading at the end of the resume.
Usually the title of the section was something like 'VOLUNTEER WORK' or
'ASSOCIATIONS & ORGANIZATIONS.'
volunteer work has passed the relevancy test and you have specific
accomplishments that enhance your candidacy, consider folding your
volunteer experience into the body of the resume. The simplest way to do
this is by placing it before/after/alongside paid work experience. Title
the entire section 'PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE,' instead of 'Work
Experience' or 'Work History.'
bottom line is that volunteer work can be a valuable addition to your
credentials if handled properly. Give yourself the credit and present
your future employer with the facts that prove you will be an excellent
and skilled team player.
Copyright 2002 Frankly Speaking: Resumes that Work! All Rights
Frank is a Nationally Certified Resume Writer and Certified Job Coach
who offers outplacement workshops, resume writing and interview training
for small companies and individuals. She is a Harvard graduate with a
background in Brand Management and Marketing with Fortune 500 companies,
and as a trainer and consultant for top outplacement firm Drake Beam
Morin. See her website: