A high-quality resume contains neatly organized relevant information about you and your previous professional experiences. However, for some reason, people feel intimidated by the idea of listing their volunteering experience on a resume.
Just because you didn’t get paid, doesn’t mean the experience wasn’t valuable and beneficial for your professional career. As stated by Forbes, volunteer experience can give employers a unique insight into their candidates and allow to stretch their skill set. That’s why you must list volunteer experience on a resume., especially if you’re changing career in the Armed Forces to civilian life. It will help you create a better picture of your capabilities and how you can apply the skills you received in the military to civilian tasks.
However, bear in mind that you need to do it properly to make it count. If you’re wondering how to list volunteer experience on your resume to make you stand out from other candidates, just keep reading.
Here’s everything you need to know about properly listing your volunteer experience on the resume.
What Are Your Options?
How you list volunteer experience depends on the job you’re applying for and the type of volunteer work you’ve had.
With that being said, it's obvious you can't have one generic resume you'll keep sending out when applying for different jobs.
On the contrary, you need to:
- revise your resume before applying for every job
- make changes according to the specific requirements of a job
- list your volunteer experience accordingly
To understand exactly what you have to pay attention to, we’ll break down each of the possible scenarios and help you handle them all.
Let’s take a look at the situations you’ll be facing.
1.Volunteer Work in The Experience Section
As we’ve already covered, your volunteer experience is just as important as any experience gained at a paid job position. That’s why you need to treat it the same.
The first possible scenario that you may face is the following:
- you have volunteer experience closely related to the job position you’re applying for
This means that:
- you’ve acquired the skills necessary for performing great on the job
- you didn’t get paid for it
- it will contribute to your performance on the job you’re applying for
This is all the reason you need to list this volunteer experience in the work experience section. This is especially important if you have little or no paid experience before or after the military service.
Let’s look at an example to gain a better understanding of how to do it.
- You want to apply for the position of a copywriter for a content marketing business in need of top talent.
- You’ve already gained significant experience in this area of expertise.
- Your volunteer experience is relevant, valuable, and beneficial. List it in the experience section.
- Copywriting Experience
SkySteps, Content Marketing Department
- wrote over 100 SEO optimized blog posts
- brought 25% of the organic traffic
- managed brainstorming sessions and project planning strategies
- worked with 10+ team members in a dynamic, productive atmosphere
Your experience working for SkySteps is of great importance for your future business ventures. You’ve learned a lot and can apply that knowledge to the job you’re applying for.
It would be wrong and ineffective to list this experience in the “additional experience” section:
- volunteered as a copywriter for SkySteps for 6 months
No one's even going to acknowledge this as valuable when you write it like this.
- Takeaway: If your volunteer experience gave you the skills, knowledge, or insight you can actively apply on the job you’re applying for, list it as work experience.
2.Volunteer Work in a Separate Section
The second scenario you may be facing requires a different approach to listing your volunteer experience on a resume.
The situation you may find yourself in is the following:
- you have a lot of paid experience but you have relevant volunteer experience as well
A lot of experience, both paid and volunteer, may make a mess out of your resume if you don’t list it properly. It’s important not to leave anything out, but you need to make a clear distinction between the actual work experience and volunteer work.
Naturally, most employers or hiring managers will be interested in learning about your work experience first. However, they’ll appreciate reading about your volunteer work as well.
This requires you to:
- create a work experience section
- create a volunteer experience section
- list all the relevant volunteer experience
- show them just how professional, informed, and experienced you are.
Let’s take a look at another example to help us comprehend it all easier.
- You're applying for the job of an HR specialist. You've already worked in HR, and have a lot of paid experience on the position of an HR specialist.
- However, before that, you’ve volunteered as an HR Intern.
- This volunteer experience is perhaps less ground-breaking than the paid ones, but it shows you've started at level zero and climbed your way up to where you are now.
- List this volunteer experience properly:
- Volunteering Experience
HR intern at GroundBreak
- assisted HR specialists and managers
- maintained personnel records
- prescreened job applications
This volunteer experience has made you who you are today, and it needs to be visible in your resume.
Don’t leave it out just because you have paid experience which might be “more important”. Let the hiring managers decide that.
- Takeaway: If you have relevant paid experience, but relevant volunteer experience as well, don't leave anything out. Separate it in a different section but list all of it.
3.Volunteer Work in Additional Experience
Finally, there’s one more scenario you may be facing when listing your volunteer experience on a resume:
- you have volunteer experience which is not directly related to the job you’re applying for
Does this mean you should leave it out?
Lindsey Cohen, a recruitment specialist for Top Writers Review shared: “Just because volunteer experience isn’t relevant for the job you’re applying for, doesn’t mean it won’t be valuable for the hiring manager reading your resume.”
On a pile of 100 resumes all looking the same, your children’s hospital volunteer work may be what catches the eye of the hiring manager and gives you a shot for an interview.
This means that:
- you need to list your volunteer experience regardless of the direct relation to the potential job
- you should leave out nothing
- you can count on volunteer experience helping you seem more likable, or different from other candidates.
Here’s an example to illustrate it.
- You're applying for the job of a graphic designer.
- You've already listed your paid work experience and your relevant volunteer experience.
- However, there’s more to say about your previous experiences.
- Create an “Additional Experience” section, and list your other volunteer experiences properly.
- Additional Experience
- volunteered at Saint Martin's Children's Hospital for 3 years, working with a team of 14 volunteers, organizing and managing fundraisers, children's activities, and family support groups.
Once a hiring manager read this interesting fact about you, he’ll definitely remember you and form a more specific opinion about you. Consequently, that will separate you from a ton of other candidates with similar resumes.
- Takeaway: Just because a volunteer experience isn’t directly connected to your potential job, doesn’t mean you should leave it out. List it in a separate section.
Volunteerism is more than just working for free with the goal of climbing the corporate ladder. On the contrary, it’s a valuable experience which benefits your personality and makes you a better human being.
Here are the major benefits of volunteerism:
- developing a sense of empathy for others
- contributing your local community or doing something for a greater cause
- helping others selflessly
- gaining career experience and acquiring new skills
- having a sense of purpose
- having something truly valuable to write in your resume
According to Forbes, “60% of hiring managers see the act of volunteerism as a valuable asset when making recruitment decisions”.
Therefore, don’t hesitate in investing your time and energy into something that isn’t necessarily a strictly professional journey.
Use volunteerism to learn about yourself, help others and boost your self-image.
Volunteer experience is valuable, especially if you’re looking for a job after leaving the Armed Forces. Hiring managers and future employers respect it and might find it equally as important as the paid experience you've had. With that being said, it's more than clear you should never leave a volunteering experience out of your resume.
You do need to pay attention to how you’re listing it. Use the advice we’ve listed above and apply it to your resume today. Think about each of those bullet points carefully and decide where and how to list your volunteer experience on you resume.