Does Volunteer Work Count on Your Resume?

The only certainty about the world of resume writing is that it is always changing. It’s hard enough to know what goes where the objective used to be and how far back to outline your experience, much less what to do with items such as volunteer work. But the good news is that what used to be seen as a precarious placeholder now represents  all the possibilities that a prospective employee has to offer.  There are three main instances in which the declaration of volunteer work on a resume is invaluable.

Mitigating Limited, Professional Experience

Students and college graduates in particular often feel intimidated when writing a resume that appears unbalanced by a lack of professional titles. However, what one lacks in experience can easily be made up for in skill – particularly when those capacities have been proven in a voluntary role. If one can excel out of their own volition without pay, just imagine what is possible when the stakes are monetarily measurable?

volunteer at food bankProviding An Employment Gap

There are many times when prospective candidates have sustained periods without work due to caring for children or an aging parent or merely a change in life circumstances. In these cases, volunteer work is an especially powerful indicator of current skill sets and abilities. Unpaid contributions to schools, healthcare causes and reputable organizations are vital contributions, nonetheless.

Highlighting Transferable Skills

For many job seekers, the hardest part has less to do with writing the resume and more to do with adapting it to fit a newly desired role. When changing industries or careers, volunteer work is an ideal way to gain and highlight transferable skills. That school fundraiser you organized from beginning to end may be an ideal example of your aptitude as an event planner, or your successful revamping of the budget during your stint as school board treasurer just may serve as the basis for a future accounting role.

If you still need convincing that volunteer work offers a true edge, Volunteer Match proudly reports that volunteers are 27% more likely to secure a job than non-volunteers. Moreover, employers esteem such experience in several measurable ways. The Business Journals found that 85% of hiring managers were willing to overlook resume flaws when a candidate has volunteer experience because of perceived overall success. Additionally, a widely-reported Deloitte survey declared that over 80% of US hiring managers prefer applicants with volunteer work, yet only 1 in 3 job seekers discloses unpaid service on their resumes. Furthermore, 92% of interviewers said that volunteer activities build leadership skills. This leads into the next and perhaps most important asset of volunteer work – the hidden benefits!

In all honesty, work is often something you do because you need to – while volunteerism is something you do because you want to. The motivating force of pursuing our passions often drives us into truly testing our potential. Skills such as leadership, time management, organizational abilities and character building often develop in the lower-pressure environment of unpaid service. Volunteer positions often enable us to experiment with new fields and roles… and then see if we can turn our passions into our livelihoods.

In the spirit of resume presentation, it’s important to note that the most powerful display of your volunteer work is rarely compiling it in a section called ‘Volunteer Work’. In the style of a functional resume, you may find that your skills create a greater impact when penned ‘Event Experience’, ‘Fundraising Achievements’ or ‘Accounting Responsibilities.’ Wherever you place the volunteer efforts, ensure that the description captures the essence of your role, your responsibilities and your achievements – including quantifiable descriptors (raised X number of dollars, coordinated with Y number of vendors and managed Z number of participants).

The only thing that rivals the skills you gain from volunteer work just may be the people you meet along the way. You often encounter people who inspire you, who challenge you and who work tirelessly alongside you. These same individuals are often more than honored to serve as a reference for your work ethic, dedication and adaptability to the skills at hand. Don’t forget to ask your fellow volunteers if they would be willing to serve as a reference and if you can do the same for them. After all, the best way that we can all get to where we want and need to be is together.


Resources Used:

Here’s Why You Should Put Volunteer Work on Your Resume:

How to Include Volunteer Work on Your Resume:

3 Easy Steps That’ll Make Your Resume Stand Out (And Take Less Than 1 Minute):

Guide to Listing Volunteer Work on a Resume (With Example)

How Volunteering Gives You An Edge In The Job Market: