Love to Volunteer? Here’s How to Translate Your Hours of Giving Into True Work Experience!

Love to Volunteer
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For volunteer junkies, the payoff for donating hours and energy is often getting the chance to make a difference with an individual or organization they feel passionate about. It’s the feel-good sensation of knowing they have an impact, that because of them, someone’s life is going to be a little better.

But all those volunteer hours are worth more than the change they make in the world. Today more than ever, volunteer experience is an invaluable asset for your resume, whether you’re up for a part time job, internship, or scholarship. Volunteering shows potential employers, and the world, that you care, that you have a range of interests, and that you step up to the plate and go above and beyond what’s asked of you. And in a world where differentiation means everything when it comes to landing the gig of your dreams, that goes a long way.

LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network with over 120 million members has even just added a new section called “Volunteer Experience and Causes,” further proving that volunteer experience is nothing to gloss over.

According to a recent article by Fast Company Magazine called “Volunteering Will Save Your Career (Or Put You in a New One),” companies are often impressed by someone with a social conscience, and volunteer experience just gives candidates another way to distinguish themselves from other candidates who might have the same educational background and work experience.

“Nicole Williams, Connection Director at LinkedIn, tells Fast Company that hiring managers are looking at volunteer experience as real work experience, if job candidates are able to talk about their achievements while volunteering in a quantifiable way. For example, talking about how you grew the Twitter following for an event you managed as an event coordinator would make a strong impression. The goal is to translate the description of your volunteer work into the vocabulary of employment, Williams says.”

So, without further ado, here are some tips for translating your volunteer gigs into resume boosting experience:

  • List your experience under the heading “Work Experience” as opposed to something like “Employment” because, paid or not, your volunteer experience is exactly that…work.
  • Even if you didn’t have an official job title in your volunteer capacity, come up with a title that is accurate for the work you did rather than list your title as “Volunteer.” Volunteer as a title is generic – you want your job title to help clue people reviewing your resume into exactly what you did, an important factor, as most people quickly scan resumes, letting their eyes rest only briefly on each job title. Give them a reason to want to read on! For example, if you volunteer at a local Boys and Girls Club and create art activities for young children, you could call yourself a “Youth Activities Coordinator” or “Youth Workshop Facilitator.” Get creative!
  • Under each job title, describe your role in that position by specifying what you actually did and achieved. You’ll want to focus on the tasks you took on, the skills you acquired while doing so, and what the outcome of these tasks actually was. Using the above example, you might list things like: Developed original art activities for more than 30 children each week; introduced and supported children in understanding a variety of art mediums, including pastel, cut paper, and charcoal; organized and ran an end-of-summer art show event attended by more than 50 families.
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