Volunteering has numerous benefits for job candidates, and there are multiple ways to effectively showcase it with your resume format. The formatting option that’s best for you depends on the kind of volunteer work you do (or have done), and your reason for including your volunteer work on resume.
Increase your chances with volunteer work on resume
If you are a high school or college student, or someone just starting out in your career, you might turn to volunteer work in order to bolster your experience. According to The Guardian, 75% of employers say that volunteer work boosts a job applicant’s chances. Volunteering on a regular basis gives you a chance to prove that you are reliable, hard-working, willing to learn, and interested in going above and beyond. Anyone can list these qualities on their resume, but having a regular volunteer activity is a surefire way of backing them up.
A recent study by the Center for Economic Policy Research found that “volunteering is in fact associated with a significant improvement in job prospects,” but only among those who volunteered for more than 20 hours per year. Volunteering regularly will also give you the chance to build relationships, expand your network, secure good references, and even find a mentor.
Where to put volunteer work on resume
Your volunteer experience doesn’t have to be relegated to a paltry mention at the end of your resume. When you create your resume, you can list your volunteering gig—with details about your accomplishments and duties—with the rest of your relevant experience. Just name this section “experience” rather than “professional experience” or “paid experience.” Many employers favor hiring people who are already employed, and even if you aren’t employed, a regular volunteering gig shows that you are spending your time productively. Volunteer work can also be a great way of getting introduced to a variety of work environments and learning how to navigate them.
Volunteer work on resume can help you change careers
If you are a mid-career or late-career employee looking to change careers, you may choose to include volunteer activities that highlight skills outside of those typically used in your current job. Volunteering can serve as an effective stepping stone in your transition to a new field.
If, for example, you want to get into event marketing, then there are countless ways you can show you are motivated to work in that industry. Set-up and take-down of events, arranging for speakers and venues, managing volunteers, staffing tables, helping with outreach—these are all among the experiences sought after by those looking to fill event marketing roles. Non-profits are always in need of good event staff, making volunteering a fantastic way to get your foot in the door.
Volunteer work adds keywords to your resume
Gaining experience relevant to the field you want to be in not only gives you the chance to impress people who might be able to offer referrals, it also gives you the chance to bolster your resume using keywords. Being able to delineate relevant experience on your resume will drastically boost your chances of making it past a screening from an applicant tracking system. These systems reject or advance applicants’ resumes based on how well their content matches up with the job description.
If you are looking to change careers and highlight skills gained from your volunteer experience, you might consider a resume format other than the standard chronological format. Functional resumes or combination resumes (which blend chronological and functional resume formats) focus more on skills and experience than on a year-by-year timeline. These formats can serve to better highlight what you know rather than when you did it.
Even if you are already well into your career, and not looking to change fields, volunteer experience can still help you stand out as a candidate. In a job market where each job posted online receives an average of 250 applications, according to ERE, every applicant faces a lot of competition. Volunteer work can increase the number or range of skills you list in your technical section, or even lead to a distinction such as an award for your service. You should also take the step of adding your volunteer work to your LinkedIn profile, and connect with others involved with the same organization or cause. No matter your experience level or career goals, volunteer work can pay dividends, and your resume format can help you show it off.