Looking for a Job? Leverage Your Volunteer Work

Man and woman volunteer at a clothing drive.Volunteers demonstrate a variety of skills when lending their time to an organization, including the ability to communicate, make decisions, lead and consider how actions impact communities both locally and globally. If you’re currently looking for a job and have been leaving volunteer experience off of your résumé, you’re missing out on a valuable opportunity to showcase these important skills to future employers.
Listing volunteer experience on your résumé can make the case to an employer that you have the skills needed to complete the job if you don’t have an extensive work history or are switching career fields.
Employers are increasingly looking to hire individuals with a social conscience and who show a demonstrated commitment to their community. With a lot of well-qualified people competing for the same job, talking up your volunteer efforts can also help you stand out in a crowd of people who may have similar education and work histories.

Tips for Putting Volunteer Work on Your Résumé

If you have volunteer experience that you’re not showcasing to prospective employers, start by jotting down details about your volunteer history, including the organizations you worked with, the timeframe you worked with them, important projects you worked on and the skills you gained from the experience.
Start to shape your list by implementing the following practices:

  • Integrate volunteer and work experience. If you’re using volunteer experience to flesh out a limited employment history, combine these sections under one header called “Experience” instead of listing them separately. Never place your volunteer experience at the end of your résumé, where it’s likely to be viewed as less important.
  • Include descriptive titles. Instead of “volunteer,” come up with a more accurate description of the work you performed. For example, if you tutored elementary school children, call yourself a “tutor.” If you coordinated a food drive, list your title as a “project coordinator.”
  • Talk about results, not just responsibilities. Employers want to know more than the literal tasks that were assigned to you during your time as a volunteer – they want to know how you performed at those duties. Provide concrete examples and numbers that illustrate your ability to excel and achieve results.
  • Incorporate volunteer work in your online profiles. LinkedIn, the Internet’s largest professional network, recently added new volunteer fields to its profile options, giving job seekers the chance to add volunteer positions, causes they care about and organizations they support. A large number of employers are using the site to find and screen job candidates, so make sure you have a profile and that it accurately reflects your abilities.

Don’t forget — when talking up your volunteer experience, traditional résumé rules still apply! Check out Goodwill’s top ten tips to write a résumé at any age for more advice on preparing a professional document that will help you get your foot in the door at a company.
Looking to build your volunteer experience? Search Goodwill volunteer opportunities online or visit VolunteerMatch to view all positions in your area.