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How to Showcase Volunteer Work on a Resume

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Resume
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Whether you're reentering the workforce after a career break, or you're simply hoping to show off the totality of your experience, you may wonder whether to put volunteer work on your resume. The answer: maybe.

Whether to put volunteer projects on your resume depends on how relevant the work was to your career and how deeply involved you were in the organization. You also must be scrupulously honest to avoid misleading hiring managers about unpaid work in your past.

Done right, having a volunteer resume section can even help you stand out in a crowded field of job applicants. The volunteer work on your resume may clinch the deal!

Volunteer Work to Put on the Resume

When you're putting together your resume, volunteer work you might consider adding includes:

  • Leadership roles, whether of an entire organization or an active committee.
  • Experience that's especially relevant to the job you want. For instance, if you are applying for a graphic designer position and you designed your daughter's elementary school yearbook, include it!
  • Service to organizations that share the same mission as your prospective employer, i.e. the companies you're targeting in your job hunt.

Volunteer Work to Leave Off the Resume

Don't think this means you need to add every single role you held. The danger in putting anything on your resume, including volunteer work, is that an interviewer just might ask you about it. So you might consider keeping off your resume any volunteer positions:

  • That involved little effort on your part, such as a one-time walk to raise money for cancer research.
  • That were only supporting roles, such as stuffing envelopes at a fundraising event.
  • That involved controversial or sensitive organizations. Think about the subjects that are borderline in polite conversation: politics, sex and religion.

You may wonder -- as some moms do -- whether to include volunteer work for your children's preschool or the Parent Teacher Association. Won't that tip off the hiring manager that you're a working mom? And could that be a strike against you?

There are two ways to look at this question. On the one hand, the job market is so competitive that you don't want to give a resume screener any reason to throw your resume in the reject pile. On the other hand, would you want to work for an organization that would view being a working mom as a negative? Ultimately, that corporate culture is unlikely to lead you to a healthy work-life balance.

How to Showcase Volunteer Work on a Resume

Suppose you decide to include your volunteer work on your resume. Where should you put it?

The answer depends on the type of resume you have. If you have a chronological resume, you can include volunteer work in a section titled "Related Experience."

If you have a functional resume, which is common among stay-at-home moms returning to work after a career break, you can include meaningful volunteer work alongside other positions, whether paid or unpaid. Just list the position you held and include descriptions of skills used and outcomes that are specific and as quantitative as possible.

For instance, if you organized a fundraising dinner for your local children's hospital, be sure to include that the event included a guest list of 600 people, raised $50,000 for cancer research and had overhead costs of only 15 percent. Mention the transferrable skills, including sales (when you solicit people for donations), management (when you keep tabs on three dozen unruly volunteers) and event coordination (all the day-of-dinner details and last-minute crises).

How to Showcase Volunteer Work on LinkedIn

I hope that you're already using LinkedIn to network and job hunt. Did you know that LinkedIn offers a special section for volunteer work? It's titled "volunteer experience and causes."

Follow the same rules that you would for volunteer work on a traditional resume: only include deep, meaningful experience that you could discuss intelligently in a job interview -- and make a good impression on the interviewer.

To add this to your LinkedIn profile, first log in. Next, click "Profile" at the top. Click the hyperlink that says "add sections" and then select "volunteer experience and causes." Finally, click the "add to profile" button and fill out the applicable fields.

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