Sharing your volunteer work on a resume has numerous benefits for job candidates. It shows that you are a responsible, charitable, and caring person. Also, it aligns you with organizations that will garner attention from hiring managers. When you are against stiff competition for a job, volunteer work will make you stand out against other candidates.
There are multiple ways to effectively showcase your volunteer experience 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 a resume.
In this post, we’ll highlight exactly how volunteering can help you secure an interview or transition careers as well as where to put your volunteer work on a resume. Let’s get started!
Increase your chances with volunteer work on a 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. This is definitely a smart move. According to The Guardian, 75 percent of employers say that adding volunteer work on a resume 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.
In fact, a study by the Center for Economic Policy Research found that “volunteering is in fact associated with a significant improvement in job prospects.” But that’s 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 possibly even find a mentor.
Where to put volunteer work on a resume
Your volunteer experience doesn’t have to be relegated to a paltry mention at the end of your resume. Instead, you want to make sure you draw attention to it. Adding volunteer work to a resume will make you stand out if done correctly, so don’t hide it!
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 is a valuable experience you can bring with you to a job. That’s because it introduces you to a variety of work environments and gives you the opportunity to learn how to navigate them.
Volunteer work on a resume can help you change careers
If you are a mid-career or late-career employee looking to change careers, volunteering can help. On your resume, you can 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. Non-profits are always in need of good event staff, making volunteering a fantastic way to get your foot in the door. Contact one near you and gain experience that you can add to your resume. For example:
- Set-up and take-down of events
- Arrange for speakers and venues
- Manage volunteers and staff tables
- Help with outreach
These are all among the experiences sought after by those looking to fill event marketing roles.
Plus, volunteering helps with networking. If you are looking to cross over into another industry, chances are that you need to know more people in it to effectively make that transition. Volunteering introduces you to people who can help you accomplish this.
Volunteer work adds keywords to your resume
Gaining experience relevant to the field you want to be in gives you the chance to impress people who might be able to offer referrals. It also gives you the opportunity to bolster your resume using keywords.
Succinctly describing the relevant experience on your resume will drastically boost your chances of securing an interview. Recruiters and hiring managers using applicant tracking systems only have a few seconds to parse through your experience. That’s why you need to make sure your resume 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 outside of the standard chronological format. Hybrid resumes blend chronological and functional resume formats. They focus on skills and experience and provide a year-by-year timeline of your past roles.
Even if you aren’t looking to change career fields, volunteer experience can still help you stand out as a candidate. In a job market where each role posted online receives an average of 250 applications, every applicant faces stiff competition.
Volunteer work can increase the number or range of skills you list in your technical section. It can even enable you to share a distinction such as an award for your service with a potential employer.
You should also take the steps of adding your volunteer work to your LinkedIn profile and connecting with others involved with the same organization or cause. No matter your experience level or career goals, volunteer work can pay dividends.
But make sure the keywords you’re using from your volunteer work align with those in the job description. We can help! Copy and paste your resume—including your volunteer work—and the job description below to see how well it matches.
Trista Winnie contributed to this article.