Should I Add Volunteer Work to My Resume?

Should I Add Volunteer Work to My Resume?

Whether you’re planning to do some volunteering this holiday season or have ample prior volunteer experience from the past year (or years), figuring out if you should list that work on your resume isn’t always easy. Many candidates assume that unpaid experience isn’t resume-worthy. However, that is a misconception.

Relevant experience from any source – including volunteer positions – can make great additions to your resume, barring a few exceptions. It allows you to showcase valuable skills and traits. Plus, it can close resume gaps, which is helpful.

If you’re wondering if you should add volunteer work to your resume, here’s a look at when it is (and isn’t) a smart move, as well as how to list it on your application.

When You Should (and Shouldn’t) Add Volunteer Work to Your Resume

Generally speaking, positive volunteer work that lets you highlight job-relevant skills and traits is typically worth including, particularly if you’re early in your career or need to close a current resume gap. It allows you to showcase the capabilities and characteristics the hiring manager wants to find. Plus, most hiring manager views these experiences the same way they do traditional jobs.

Focus on achievements or skills that relate to the position you’re trying to land. For example, many volunteer roles involve customer service, organization, planning, time management, and other universally valuable capabilities.

However, there are some situations where listing volunteer work on your resume isn’t a wise move. First, if you’re a mid-career, are currently employed, and your volunteer experience isn’t particularly relevant to your career, you might want to skip it. That gives you more space on your resume to discuss your work-related expertise, which may work in your favor.

Second, if your volunteer work reveals certain personal details, such as membership in a protected group, you may want to forgo it. Otherwise, it could incidentally open you up to discrimination, even if it’s technically illegal.

Finally, volunteer work related to anything controversial or highly divisive is best avoided. For example, volunteering with a political organization may be risky if your career isn’t focused on that sector, so you might want to keep that private.

How to List Volunteer Experience on Your Resume

The best way to list volunteer experience on your resume may vary based on your situation. In most cases, any volunteer positions that relate strongly to your chosen field should go in your work history. That allows you to showcase additional relevant experience, which can make you a stronger candidate.

If you’re currently volunteering but not working in a traditional job, then listing that volunteer experience in your work history may also work in your favor if it’s also relevant to the job. It prevents the hiring manager from seeing a recent gap, as you actively contribute to an organization. Just make sure you focus on skills and accomplishments that are relevant to your career and openly note that it’s a volunteer role for transparency.

Other than those situations, you can create a new resume section labeled “Volunteer Work” instead. That can also close a resume gap or highlight soft skills, even if the activities relating to the volunteer position aren’t overly relevant to your career. Plus, it allows your related experience to take center stage in your work history sections.

Volunteer work can boost your resume, making you a stronger candidate. If you’d like to learn more or are seeking job opportunities, GSG Talent Solutions wants to hear from you. Contact us today.


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