How Do I List Volunteer Work on a Resume? 3 Smart Ways to Impress


volunteer work on resume

Are you looking for your first job or thinking about a career change? Including volunteer work on a resume can help you show more of your skills and you can land you the job you want.

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    Reasons to List Volunteer Work on a Resume

    Volunteer work on a resume can showcase your skills and demonstrate to a potential employer that you have more interests than just a 9-to-5 job. Non-paid work allows you to build skills outside of the job you have.

    If you are changing careers and have no paid experience, volunteer work will fill in your resume to give you relevancy for the job you apply to.

    Soft skills, the ones most likely to be transferable skills such as communication, teamwork and critical thinking, are becoming more important in the workplace. According to LinkedIn behavioral data, creativity is the most in-demand soft skill but it’s difficult to find. Another recent study predicts that as automation transforms the skills companies need, demand for creativity will rise sharply by 2030.

    Creativity is about coming up with original solutions to problems. Volunteer work can take you out of your comfort zone without hurting your paycheck. It can help you get a wider perspective on issues and a deeper understanding of what the problems are.

    Long-term volunteer work also shows potential employers that you have a strong work ethic and can stay with something for longer than a few months.

    The Downside of Listing Volunteer Work on a Resume

    When you list volunteer work on a resume it should fit the job

    But there are some downsides to listing volunteer work on a resume. It may not be looked at as valuable by some hiring managers. Anyone can sign up to be a volunteer, but it takes a person with talent and skills to earn money from their work. This is not necessarily true, but it is a bias.

    Listing volunteer work on a resume takes strategy. How do you link the work that may seem unrelated to the job you want to make it relevant? How do you do this without inflating or exaggerating your skills?

    The process of including volunteer work on a resume isn’t as puzzling as you think. You have to think creatively and do a little research to find the right way to word it, but it is worth the effort

    1. Look at Skills and Experience not Paid or Unpaid.

    When volunteering, you are essentially doing a job, but without pay. Meaning you have to accomplish certain tasks, use your skills and learn new skills. When you write a resume, you want to present the most relevant skills and experience to a potential employer.

    Determining the skills used and the tasks completed for each non-paid work experience takes a little time. But it is worth it. Let’s say you volunteered as a Scout Leader for the Boy Scouts. You could have done the following activities:

    • Scheduled and ran weekly meetings.
    • Researched, created and presented information to groups.
    • Communicated with group members to ensure tasks and goals were completed in a timely manner.

    Never mind you were talking to a group of 9 year-olds.

    2. Consider the Relevancy of the Volunteer Work

    Walking dogs at an animal shelter will go a lot farther for helping you find a job as a pet sitter or an animal trainer than a mathematician. You want to make sure if you are planning to list volunteer work on your resume that it makes sense.

    If you love reading to children for the sake of feeling joy, that’s ok too. But don’t just throw it on your resume to show what a good person you are.

    3. Use Volunteer Experience to Write an Engaging Cover Letter

    Volunteer work can make for a more interesting cover letter. In the three-paragraph cover letter you can use a testimonial from a leader in the volunteer organization to vouch for your contributions. If you live in a small town, this approach can be helpful. It’s likely that your prospective supervisor knows of this person. Just be careful who you ask for an endorsement.

    Now you can showcase your non-paid work experiences on your resume to help you attain your career goals. Good luck and thank you for sharing your time.

    Tracey Lamphere

    Tracey Lamphere, M.S. IMC is the editor of Job Affirmations, a publication that provides information and ideas to use mindfulness, positive affirmations, and visualizations to transform your career.

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