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How Volunteering Equals Work Experience on Your Resume

Posted by Dawn Boyer

Many don’t realize just how important volunteer work is on their resume and how their involvement can open employment doors. A few hours a month given to a worthy cause can add up over the years.

Having this type of experience on one’s resume indicates several things. The volunteer is involved in the community, sharing their skills or hands towards a unique cause.  They are not scared of hard work – meaning they aren’t couch potatoes with little ambition or life goals. And they have a larger group of social contacts.

Volunteers hone their knowledge, skills, and abilities in environments or industries that open their mind to different viewpoints and new ideas. Their volunteer work provides a positive impact on their community and the recipients of the volunteers’ efforts.

There are many non-profit organizations (NPOs) desperate for volunteers (check out Volunteer.Truist.com or VolunteerMatch.org). Pick up the phone and call to offer your services. The volunteer services can be as simple as providing ideas in brainstorming sessions, picking up a hammer to assist in physical labor, or scouting for other volunteers with special skills to reach annual goals. Or the need could be as complicated as providing accounting certification audits for the NPO so they can go forward in applying for grants, or state and federal funding.

Volunteering has many benefits – to the volunteer or the job seeker – in many ways. As a member of a NPO, doors are open to business or social circles that one would normally never cross paths (i.e., meeting big corporate executives at a donor appreciation event). The volunteer can learn or develop new skills in parallel uses (i.e., a for-profit accountant can learn about non-profit financials). The work may also open one’s eyes to a social world one might never be exposed to otherwise (i.e., health and nutrition needs for at-risk, inner-city youth and the homeless).

As a volunteer, it’s also important to share your experiences. Talk with others about what you have learned or what you achieved for the NPO. This opens up speaking engagements to expose yourself as a vital and experienced professional to a room of potential new employers. Your diversity of experiences will enable future employers to study your skill sets and your capabilities to work in a broad scope of environments – including budget restrictions (getting more done with less). Your value as a job candidate grows with your volunteer activity.

A recent study of LinkedIn members asked whether a job candidate with volunteer experience is important and 41% noted the candidate would be looked at more carefully. The researchers indicated it was LinkedIn’s “corporate mission to connect talent with opportunity,” and further indicated “volunteer experience … showcases skills, initiative, and can … identify a shared point of passion with a potential employer or business partner.”

The LinkedIn survey of nearly 2,000 professionals in the U.S. indicated 89% of these professionals have personally had experience volunteering, but only 45% include volunteer experience on their resume, and “20% of the hiring managers surveyed agree they have made a hiring decision based on a candidate’s volunteer work experience.”  The conclusion was volunteer experience is a key piece of one’s professional identity.

Whether you are a teenager with little work experience, but plenty of time to offer charity organizations or a local NPO, or a corporate executive that volunteers on a NPO Board of Directors, the participation and experience gained is a vital and valuable work experience.  If you want to offer your time and skills, try the local newspaper or a quick Internet search to find a charity that needs your vital knowledge, skills and abilities to get ahead in their goals and objectives. Then add it to your resume as another ‘work experience’ bullet. You will get far more out of the experience than you expect!

Dawn Boyer is a career services coach, social media management, human resources, and business development consultant. Follow Dawn on Twitter @Dawn_Boyer.

This entry was posted on Thursday, October 03, 2013 8:39 am

One thought on “How Volunteering Equals Work Experience on Your Resume”

  1. A commentary posted earlier noted that their Intelligence positions don’t equate to volunteer experience, and there is no parallels. I would have to argue that point.

    Experience in the IA community relies heavily on 1) analysis, 2) time-management, 3) decision-making (based on relevance of potentially vital information).

    Now take those skill sets and relate those to the volunteer community. The volunteer organization may need someone who can look at the whole picture from the outside and provide ideas, suggestions, or improvements based on the capability to analyze what is in front of them. The volunteer can help the NPO manage their other volunteers for time, logistics, and management of assets. The volunteer can also point out what priorities are to be focused on and when, especially if a small organization is foundering and not sure where they need to go or to do first.

    Reverse those skills sets where a volunteer wants to get into the IA community or move up in positions of power.

    Being able to demonstrate analytical abilities, and on the resume showcasing those analytics to improve the performance of the NPO, or show where the assistance helped the NPO get further in their fundraising, or ability to reach out into the community to help more in benefits. Showing on your resume that volunteer work with the NPO helped them manage their time, manage their assets, logistically plan out their activities, can show that the job seeker has the capabilities to transition those skills sets into a ‘real job’ in the ‘real world’ – regardless of the type of work performed – including IA. Decision-making is very relevant to the IA world – you don’t want to report something that is not conducive to USA safety, but you also don’t want to ignore the ‘elephant in the room’ for it’s threats.

    If you can transition your skills sets generically, from work within a NPO, into your resume, you can see where employers can see your potential capabilities for performing a job well done in any industry (including the IA world).

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