How to List Volunteer Experience on a Resume?

When I was growing up, I always wanted to volunteer and the experiences I gained in Greece and in the UK, were very rewarding. Having been brought up with people far away from being money-oriented I learned from an early age the unique benefits of volunteering from each perspective. Volunteer experience made me feel great. Regardless of the idea of the organization – food bank volunteering, environmental protection, health care etc. being a volunteer gives you a sense of pride and identity! This title provides you with a natural sense of accomplishment because as an individual you invest time and make a positive difference in people’s lives while gaining invaluable work experience with lots of charities especially in the UK to provide their members with high-quality training.

Volunteering is undoubtedly a great experience and especially for young people who are currently entering adult life, this learning experience will encourage them to take responsibility for themselves, become aware of the community’s issues and develop empathy towards others.  According to research by Pro Bono Economics, NGOs could see up to 2.5 million new adults aged 18-34 apply for volunteer roles across the UK this year

Question: What is the difference between volunteer and work experience?

Both volunteering and formal employment count as work experience. The main difference is that the former is usually unpaid and done during your free time. Volunteering usually offers a wider degree of flexibility when it comes to work patterns, with the degree of commitment varying based on the role and the goals of the organization.

Question: Should I include volunteer work in my resume?

As a rule of thumb, any certificate you earned from your hard work should definitely go to your CV but let’s examine more thoroughly the different options out there.

Undertaking volunteer responsibilities can be beneficial for all people regardless of their age range and their profession. It can even be a really beneficial experience to showcase your skills, especially if you are just starting your career, or you have a work experience gap.  However, whether or not you should include your volunteer work in your CV is a question that needs further consideration.

While having volunteer experience indicates that you are an active student/professional with a willingness to give back to the community, it’s not always going to be useful while job searching. There’s value in knowing when volunteering can be beneficial in improving your chances to get hired and when it can be dead-weight.

Here are some examples that indicate whether you should add volunteer experience to your resume:

Adding your volunteer experience to your CV might NOT be the best choice if…

-You volunteered ages ago

You are applying for a big company that has already received 40 applications, you know that recruiters mostly review or scan all applications quickly and the volunteering experience you have is from many years before.

-You have irrelevant volunteering experience and Limited space

You are applying for a very specific role, you have limited space, if you add your volunteer experience the CV will cover 2 pages in total and you can add some paid work instead which is relevant to the role you are interested in

Taking into consideration these two cases mentioned above keep in mind that a hiring manager will mostly focus on your paid experience and education – volunteering experience will just add a nice-to-have extra. This means you shouldn’t squeeze in irrelevant-from-the-role volunteer experience if it means cutting out more important sections from your CV.

Adding your volunteer experience to your CV might BE the best choice if…

-You have volunteer experience and no work experience
Now if the volunteer experience is irrelevant to the career path you would like to follow but you are a current graduate with less work experience and you still have white space to use in your CV, then volunteer experience would definitely be a good way to show off your transferrable skills and highlight any areas that could be more or less related to your current job application.

Let’s give an example of how you can include irrelevant experience in your CV smartly and how you can make your volunteer experience look relevant to the role you are applying for.

You are a young graduate with 2 years of volunteer experience working with young people at a children’s center for sports activities. You have a keen interest in Marketing, and you would like to create a CV that will help you maximize your chances of getting a job in Digital Marketing.

So, let’s have a look at how you could work on this scenario like a fox! Write down the responsibilities of the job of your interest and your current role in the volunteering organization and identify common tasks that you could highlight in your CV, you want to show how the volunteer experience ties you to the job you are currently applying for. Once you’ve done that, follow the format below:

Volunteering Position – Name of the organization

2020 – 2021

  • Helped develop an online platform for kids from 2-10 years old including term-time sports and dance activities
  • Wrote copy for an online platform called Step-by-Step Learning and created banners and brochures to advertise it in schools

Question: What format should I follow when it comes to volunteer experience?

In the volunteering description you should include:

  • Volunteering Position
  • Organization You Volunteered For
  • Dates
  • Responsibilities & Achievements

Question: Should I include my volunteering experience in the work experience section?

When your volunteering experience isn’t specifically related to the job you’re applying for, you’re better off creating a separate volunteer experience section and formatting it as mentioned above.

However, you can include the volunteer experience as part of the work experience section if the experience is super relevant to the job you are applying for or if you have little paid experience.

For example, let’s say you’re applying for a job in Digital Marketing, you’ve never worked as a professional in the field, but you have plenty of marketing experience from years of volunteering at your university’s department.

Digital marketing Experience – xx department

2020 – 2021

  • Volunteering experience as a digital marketing assistant for the University’s website.
  • Writing and editing press releases
  • Managing social media pages by posting updates and responding to comments and messages

Conclusion: Adding your volunteer experience is a great idea if you have currently finished your studies and you have limited work experience.

If you are a young professional with less experience, adding your volunteer experience will depend on the role description – relevant or irrelevant experience and the space available in your CV – don’t use more than 1,5 pages to build your CV.

Hope these different scenarios will give you a clearer picture of when and how to use the volunteer experience for your own benefit. For any questions let me know.

Have a good one!

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