Creating and updating your resume on a regular basis is important whether you’re an active job seeker or currently employed. This way, you’ll always have an up-to-date list of your relevant experiences and you’ll be ready to take advantage of career opportunities as they arise.

This begs the question, “is experience outside of the work environment – such as volunteer experience – even worth putting on your resume?”

The short answer: absolutely. Not only will showcasing volunteer experience help you stand out as a unique job candidate, but it’ll also give the hiring manager a better idea of what really matters to you. Below are some tips to help put your best volunteer foot forward:

When is Volunteer Experience Most Impactful?

There are certain types of situations where including volunteer experience is more relevant than others. While every hour of your volunteer time counts, you also want to be strategic about the space you’re taking up. Here are some situations where it’s appropriate to add more volunteer experience:

  1. When don’t necessarily have much on-the-job experience, but need to highlight proficiencies. For example, as a recent graduate or candidate transitioning into a new field.
  2. If you need to explain a time gap on your resume (due to unemployment or other working pause in working), but also want to demonstrate a commitment to professional development
  3. You’re applying for a job where you want to highlight specific examples of skill sets that are most directly connected to volunteer experience, such as event planning, time management, organizational skills or project management.

What to Include

It’s hard to know exactly which details to include about your volunteer experience, but a great place to start is with the job description itself. The most impactful type of experience for employers is most often skills-based. If you were involved in an opportunity where you learned a key skill that will relate directly back to your work, expand on these points because they will show the hiring manager that you care about professional development, as well as impacting your community.  

If you feel other opportunities are important to include but don’t necessarily tie back to any skills, you can certainly include those as line items as well by just listing the organization, your role and the years you were involved.

In general, there are a few tips to keep in mind when it comes to exactly what to include:

  • Try to stick to experience that relates directly to the job or industry
  • Choose your most recent positions and/or experiences
  • If possible, quantify your experience
    • Ex: I managed a 14 person team to help raise awareness around ‘XXX’ cause

Where Does this Type of Experience Go?

There are a few different ways to determine where your volunteer work will be on your resume, but the placement will depend on your current situation and the job you’re applying for.  

If you are a recent college graduate, you can put your examples in the “Volunteer and Leadership Experience” section which usually follows “Professional Experience” section. This placement will draw attention to the skills developed during volunteer efforts, boosting a resume that might be lacking in professional experience.

If you are currently employed or you’re trying to fill a gap of unemployment, you have a few options for placement. First, some actually prefer to put their volunteer experience in the “Professional Experience” section, especially when the individual picked up skills that are directly applicable to the job at hand. A second option for those who want to highlight the fact that they were involved with certain organizations, but don’t want to dive too deep on repsonbilbites, is the choice to craft a separate “Volunteer Experience” section that can at the bottom, just before or after the “Education” section.

Why is it Important?

Finally, the question everyone has been asking, “why should I include my volunteer experience?” Luckily, there are tons of reasons why it’s a great idea to touch on your involvement in the community.

First and foremost, this shows hiring managers that you’re involved with an organization outside of work. Not only does that scream, “this person cares!” but it can also lead the hiring manager to think about the skills you pick up from being a volunteer, such as teamwork, organization, project management and more.

Not to mention, by highlighting your volunteer involvement, you earn the opportunity to showcase your personal achievements through volunteer experiences and choose concrete evidence of how you made a difference in your community and to your professional development.

Finally, volunteerism can be a way to stand out among job applicants. Not only does it show that you care, it could also open up doors to connecting volunteerism and career in ways you never imagined.

Volunteerism is almost always a resume-enhancer, so don’t be afraid to use some extra room to highlight your experience. If you have any other tips on how to include your volunteer experience on your resume, join the conversation in the comments section below!