Volunteer Experience

SC&C volunteer experienceVolunteering is absolutely fabulous for younger members of the workforce that don’t have a lot of practical work experience.  But what completely amazes me is that some people think that the youth are the only individuals that can benefit by volunteer experience.

Volunteering works well even for seasoned professionals.  Consider Greta (not her real name), the Manhattan bank manager who was approached by a charitable organization to help with an art charity event.  With her input and connections the event was so incredibly successful that soon people were clamoring for her to help run additional events.  Needless to say, she is no longer a bank manager, and has one of the more successful event organization companies in the state.

Sometimes, unexpectedly, volunteerism just resonates.  It can end up changing your whole life, the direction of your career, even the level of your wealth.  And even if that doesn’t happen, it generates new skills; it lets you discover inner abilities that you didn’t know you possessed.  So volunteering is never a bad thing.

New research from LinkedIn shows that one out of every five hiring managers in the U.S. […] have hired a candidate because of their volunteer work experience. Your volunteer experience counts and if you don’t include it in your profile, on your resume, or when you’re negotiating for a promotion, you’re not getting the credit you deserve—Nicole Williams

Recording it on your Resume

If volunteering is your thing, then it might make sense to include all your volunteering experience under one heading and simply listing the places where you have done work.  It gives you something to elaborate on in an interview and provides them fodder for questions of their own.

SC&C highlight volunteer skills that are applicable to jobOn the other hand, if your volunteer experience extends to only one or two organizations, but it lasted for a protracted period of time, feel free to elaborate on your accomplishments and the skills you acquired.

Volunteer experience can be used as boilerplate text on sparse resumes to fill space.  However, unless you suspect the skills section of your resume is so eye-catching that they won’t even bother to read it, it’s probably a really good idea to fine-tune this section like any other portion of your resume.

Show how the skills that you gained volunteering are useful to this new organization.  Show how you increased utilization, solved a problem, expanded membership, or improved community relations.

Think Twice

There are very good reasons why employers cannot ask your age, sexual orientation, religion, or even whether you’re thinking about starting a family soon.  Think carefully about whether you want to include volunteer experience related to the touchy subjects mentioned above.  The same consideration might be given to political activism.

All those things help paint a better picture of you as an individual. You wouldn’t want to work for an organization where you’d have to hide it—Shawn Graham, author of Courting Your Career

Conversely, maybe those roles define you.  If anyone would discriminate against you because of those roles, would you actually want to work with them?  Just sayin’…

Is it worth including?

If it looks like a fish and it smells like a fish…it’s probably a fish.  Volunteer work is still work, and it counts.  Aside from any skills you picked up that might be valuable to a potential employer, it also says a great deal about you and your values.  

If you handled some big event for the last four or five years, and that involved organizational skills, teamwork, promotion, or management, and you did it without the expectation of being paid, it not only speaks to your capabilities but it speaks to your dedication and commitment.

A recent LinkedIn survey reported that 45% of the people with volunteer experience did not include it on their resume; 41% of hiring professionals reported that they equated volunteer work with paid work when evaluating job candidates.

You may have lots of volunteer experience, but if you’re not telling anybody about it, you’re cheating yourself.  Write it down; connect it to the job you’re applying for; and make that experience work for you!