When applying for work, experience is key. But does that have to be paid experience in a real-work situation?

There’s no doubt paid experience is powerful, but so is volunteer experience, say with a charity organisation. Volunteering is a great way to establish contacts and build skills. It also demonstrates your enthusiasm for getting your career off on the right track.

This expert article explores the value of including volunteer work on your resume.

Who is volunteering good for?

Volunteer experience is especially valuable if you’re a young jobseeker who hasn’t yet built on-the-job strengths. It’s also important if you’re transitioning careers and have volunteer experience that fills gaps in your resume. And last, but not least, it’s worth its weight in gold for those who have been in the workforce for some time, as added benefit.

Volunteering is powerful for showcasing attributes employers look for in talent. This can include your:

  1. hard and soft skills
  2. diverse knowledge of different sectors
  3. willingness to work hard even when not paid
  4. dedication to your community
  5. desire to make a difference
  6. leadership strengths
  7. interpersonal strengths.

How do I include volunteer experience in my resume?

Here are tips and examples on how to highlight volunteer experience in your resume.

Assess the experience

If your volunteer experience isn’t relevant to the position you’re applying for, then it’s not worth including it in your resume unless you can make the experience relevant. One way to do this is by thinking laterally about the hard and soft skills you’ve built through volunteering and how they add value to the position you’re applying for.

Read more:

Transferrable skills: More important than ever

Soft versus hard skills: Care about the difference

 

Provide example and links

Connect the dots for perspective employers on how your volunteer experience links to the role they’re advertising. If your volunteer role requires leadership or strong administrative skills, as examples, articulate this using the same language the employer uses in the job description or job advertisement. Always remember that it’s not the employees job to work this all out, so paint a detailed picture.

These examples illustrate how to highlight your volunteer skills. If the role you’re applying for requires:

  • leadership skills, include recruiting, training, mentoring or motivating other volunteers
  • project management skills, include back-up examples like planning and implementing a major event with many participants to raise funds
  • great communication skills, say how you work with stakeholders to drive real results
  • financial skills, outline how you manage a budget, pay invoices, reconcile accounts and handle banking requirements
  • strong interpersonal skills and a contemporary attitude, say how you work in an organisation helping carers to support clients with disability.

It’s important to use the key words used in the job description. Remember to join the dots and draw strong connections. Remember to tailor your resume to each position, to cover required skills, traits and qualifications.

Where to place volunteer experience on a resume

Where you locate your volunteer experience on your resume depends on the strength of your professional experience.

If your profession experience is strong, list your volunteer roles at the end of your resume, under a separate heading.

If you have little or no professional experience, put your volunteer experience first. It’s important to indicate in brackets after each role title that this is a volunteer position (for openness and transparency). Example:

[name of organisation]

Project manager (volunteer position)

May 2021 to present

Do I have to include my volunteer experience?

While it’s not mandatory to include your volunteer experience, it’s beneficial to do so if it adds value without detracting from your paid professional skills. In other words, don’t eliminate something key in a paid role just to squeeze in volunteer experience.

Also consider how much you volunteer. If you have many volunteer roles that take up a lot of time, an employer may wonder if you’ll have enough head space and quality time for your job!

Final tips

Weave your volunteer experience into your LinkedIn profile, following the tips in this expert article.

Think about volunteering as a great way to upskill for your future.

Learn more by reading these expert articles:

  1. How to get a job without experience
  2. Can a recruiter find you on LinkedIn
  3. How to write a winning resume.