According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, candidates with volunteer experience are 27 percent more likely to get a job after being out of work than those who did not volunteer.
Many hiring managers, particularly those in the nonprofit sector, have a deep appreciation for candidates who give their time to organizations that are meaningful to them. “Volunteering sends a strong message about your commitment to a given issue area or organization. I always urge leaders to share their volunteer work on their resume, either because they’re looking to focus full-time on that social issue, via a career shift, or because they want to share more about themselves and their interests,” said Kathleen Yazbak, Founder at Viewcrest Advisors.
Aside from being personally rewarding, volunteer work and board service carry a host of career-boosting benefits:
Adding your board service and volunteer experience—as its own section—to your resume can be a smart and strategic move. While it can help build your resume if you lack professional experience, giving your most valuable asset—time—is evidence that you’re committed to professional and personal development. It also shows future employers relevant experience you have that might not otherwise be reflected on your resume.
For those in the nonprofit sector especially, volunteer work can be beneficial in setting you apart from other candidates. It displays your dedication to your community or cause, civic mindfulness, and your experience with organizations that have similar missions, goals, and work cultures as the field in which you’re exploring a career.
Just like any experience you add to your resume, consider how your board service and volunteerism apply to the overall sector or role you’re interested in. The goal is to highlight related experience, special skills, leadership, or fill gaps in your resume.
Call particular attention to leadership and executive oversight experience, goal setting and strategic planning, expertise within the sector, and problem-solving abilities. Like with the employment positions on your resume, include specific titles, the scope of your responsibilities, and how it moved the needle for the organization.
Where you include volunteer experience on your resume will depend on your circumstances. If you’re an entry-level professional with little work experience, volunteer and board service can shine in a central location on your resume. It can be included in the experience section, but be sure to note the volunteer status. This also applies if you’re reentering the workforce, as it shows what you were doing during gaps in employment.
If you’re on a steady career track, volunteerism and board service still have a place on your resume, but you may not have space to include as much information. Your professional experience should still take center stage. In this case, you can list it toward the end of your resume, with the organization's name, a brief description, and the dates you volunteered.
If you’re an active volunteer, you may have to choose the most recent experiences or those that had the greatest impact to highlight. Modify your volunteer section to reflect the values of the companies that interest you, Monster.com notes.
Including volunteer experience and board service on your resume can be a great way to highlight your skills and relevant experience, and can help set you apart from other candidates vying for the same position. It can boost your confidence and brand and do a world of good for the organizations benefiting from your knowledge and expertise. Weave it into your resume, and you’ll find your volunteer experience does a world of good.
Impact Opportunity would like to thank Karen Butterfield, Founder of KE Butterfield, LLC. a communications firm, for her work in writing this article. And Kathleen Yazbak for her expertise and insights, Founder and President of Viewcrest Advisors an executive search firm that identifies transformative leaders who build organizations that deliver ambitious social outcomes.