Volunteering can be a fulfilling, meaningful, and life changing experience both for the individual volunteers and for the organizations they support. It can increase happiness, decrease depression, and even make you live longer. But volunteering isn’t just good for the soul; it’s also good for your career.
MovingWorlds has spent the past few years speaking with hundreds of volunteers, hiring managers, recruiters, and career coaches about their experience with job candidates who come in with solid volunteering experience. The perception of volunteer work on a resume was overwhelmingly positive, especially when presented in the right way. So what exactly does volunteer experience communicate to these career professionals?
It shows that you’re passionate.
People who volunteer are doing it on their own time, without pay. This alone displays a true passion for the cause and dedication on the part of the individual. These qualities are valuable to employers just as much as they are to non-profits.
It shows that you take initiative.
Volunteers are there because they want to be. They aren’t being handed an assignment or told to meet a quota. Volunteering shows that you create your own goals and follow through with them. This is a great predictor of an employee who will probably go “above and beyond” in the workplace.
It shows that you know what you’re strengths are.
Making a real impact on the world isn’t easy. Volunteering requires effective communication and strong teamwork. There’s often a lot to get done, and not enough people to do it. Volunteers therefore have to be able to focus on where they can create the most impact, meaning they need to be in tune with their own strengths and weaknesses as well as the organizational goals. This is an important quality to employers. An ability to make impactful contributions in line with personal and team strengths is exactly the kind of leader employers are looking for.
So how do you talk up your great volunteer experience? Include the volunteer projects you are most proud of as real work experience. Don’t put them under “interests” or in some other section that could diminish the experience or put it at risk for being breezed over. Make sure you list exactly what and how you contributed to each project, as well as the results. Give it the respect and recognition you would any other job on your resume. Recruiters and hiring managers will take notice.