How To Include Volunteer Work on Your Resume
Unpaid volunteering roles can reveal much about a graduate’s character.
While the barriers to entry for volunteering roles are lower, the fact that you are giving up your precious time for a worthy cause is laudable. It can also provide an extra dimension to your experience – on a resume that may not be packed with examples of paid work.
Whether you are an early-career professional, recent graduate, or current student, including volunteer work in your resume could make all the difference in setting you apart from your competition. How have these experiences made a difference to your career trajectory?
Volunteer work should not be an afterthought in your early career story.
Let’s explore why employers of high-potential talent value it so highly:
Why is volunteering work so impactful on a resume?
Because volunteer work is easier to secure, your choice of activity will speak volumes for your work preferences and career ambitions. Working in hospitality roles (etc.) to earn some money is not a choice for many students, so your volunteering activity will allow an employer to understand your true nature. Share your volunteering activities with pride and tell your future employer how they contributed to your development.
Not every student has a fixed idea of what they wish to do with their careers early on, so while initial internships and casual work might not be an ideal fit for their eventual career path, volunteering choices in their final years of education should allow them to show their future employer exactly where they are aiming. Even a few months of volunteering in the time immediately leading up to your job search can shift perceptions.
What sort of volunteer work could you include?
Ideally, the volunteer work should be loosely connected with the industry in which you hope to work and the degree that you studied at university. Potential employers want to understand that they are part of a deliberate career plan, so share your volunteering experiences with the sense that the job in question is your logical next step. Here are a few common areas for volunteer work:
- Environmental. Environmental conservation, farm work, climate activist, agriculture.
- Animals. Pet sitter, animal rescue, wildlife restoration, marine conservation.
- Social. Teaching, mentoring, youth work, community development, fundraising.
- Healthcare. Elderly or disabled care, counselling, holistic centers, hospital volunteer.
- Sports. Sports coach, umpire, personal trainer, disability sports, team logistics.
There is a lot of variety over and above this list. What have you done in the past that could be seen as useful for your choice of future career? You never quite know the interests of your future boss, so make sure that you share your volunteer experiences with passion.
Here is an example of how fundraising efforts might be shared on your resume:
Volunteer fundraiser – Stop Dementia
- Coordinated a team of 5 street fundraisers over a 3-month period
- Collected $75k – a 42% uplift on the previous fundraising tally
- Launched a social media presence and local Facebook group
Where can you list volunteer work?
To be clear, volunteer work does not need to be listed in a separate resume section – simply make it clear that it is not paid employment. So long as it is relevant to the job in question, it has every right to be in the work experience / employment history section. Establish trust at the beginning of the recruitment process by being honest about what was paid and unpaid employment – don’t be tempted to misrepresent the nature of your activity.
If the volunteer work was not directly related to your career, there is the viable option of a separate volunteering section. You might think that a long list of unpaid roles in the voluntary section reflects poorly on your candidature, but it is more important to an employer what you learned and how you developed.
One last thing: don’t be tempted to lie
As volunteer experience might not be paid employment, some people might thing that it is less of a misdemeanor to exaggerate your involvement. In fact, the rules around referencing for paid roles are far more restrictive, so it is easier to get a more extensive reference for a volunteering role. Do not lie about it – in the small world of social media it only takes a quick message for a future boss to verify your claims.
Every worthy graduate or early career professional should be able to list some relevant work experience on their resume.
If you have not got anything to share, have a look for something that you can do on your weekends right now. At least you can then have something current to share.
Including volunteer work on your early-career resume is essential.