Show your worth to employers…Volunteer!

Finding a job is not always easy, it is time consuming and competitive. Everyone is trying to do the same thing, make themselves more marketable as a candidate. So how can you compete?! There is a lot of research on the competencies that companies are looking for (check out what NACE had to say), and more and more, they are siting that community service experience is a factor that plays into their decisions, and a way that people are learning these skills.

Many people overlook the power that volunteering can have in finding or changing your career. You have the opportunity to showcase the transferable skills you are developing, meet new people that might help you make connections, and show employers a cause you are passionate about and have devoted time to.

The Corporation for National and Community Service did a study to find out if volunteering increased the odds of the unemployed finding a job. They found, with statistically significant data, that volunteers have a 27% higher odds of finding employment than non-volunteers. The data was strongest for individuals without a high school diploma, but there is no doubt that volunteering helps develop skills necessary for the workforce for anyone.

SocialcapitalThis image was part of the study done by the CNCS to show how volunteering has a direct effect on social and human capital. By volunteering you are increasing the social connections and networks you have just by meeting new people. Since human capital is comprised of the education, skills, and training that you have, by volunteering in an office setting, you are learning new things and adding to your work experience.

If you are unemployed or a soon-to-be graduate, it can also show your willingness to learn more and develop. It is a great way to learn new skills that you have not had any prior experience with, or to further develop those that you do (no one is perfect at everything!). You can be developing skills in; communication, team-building, public speaking, management, you name it!

On the flip side, we can’t just focus on those that are unemployed- volunteering while you also hold a full-time job not only shows the commitment you have, but also your time-management skills. This is extremely valuable when looking for a new position or changing career fields. Employers want to know you can juggle multiple things, have a life outside of work, and are interested in the community.

So the question is…how do you showcase all of this on your resume? When you are looking for a job you carefully craft what is going on your resume, you think of all the details, the action verbs, the margins. It is no different when adding community service to it. You want to highlight both relevant and unique experiences that will make you a strong candidate. This can be done in many ways, there is no one right or wrong approach.

If you have enough paid work experience listed already, you might consider adding a section called “Community Service”, “Volunteer Experience”, or “Community Engagement” to separate the extra work that you do. This will show employers that there is more to you then your career, and will highlight the skills you are learning in a different setting outside of the office. If you do not have much work experience, you might want to add long-term volunteer work you have done under a combined category called “Work Experience”. Just because you are not getting paid, doesn’t mean that you did not gain the experience relevant to this position.

When you are adding the work that you have done at your volunteer site, it is important to note that you need to use that space to highlight tangible skills you have gained and soft skills that you developed as a part of being there. You must self-reflect and really think about this; did you help manage spreadsheets for a budget? did you have to present to a large audience or give a training? did you lead a marketing campaign? did you work on a team? Don’t’ sell yourself short, but be sure to give accurate details.

Don’t be afraid to ask the organization you volunteered with for help, maybe they can give you a title to list or specific numbers that were a result of some of your work. Don’t forget the soft skills too, it is not just about the hard skills and numbers.

Here is an example:

Marketing Coordinator, Nonprofit Organization XYZ

  • Assisted with the promotion and marketing of two large-scale fundraising events, bringing in over $6,000 in donations
  • Designed all marketing materials for volunteer recruitment; posters, flyers, web images
  • Maintained all social media content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
  • Participated as part of the marketing team to expand the reach to two new counties

If you are unsure of what skills you might have developed, you may want to check out some of Hands On‘s resources. Look into their Skills Based Learning Matrix to get an idea of what some types of work might develop. For example, being a tutor or a mentor might have helped you become more culturally aware, or good at motivating others and time management. I promise every volunteer position you have held has taught you something, it’s about identifying what that is.

Continue to do the great work you are doing, and know that it is okay to pat yourself on the back, and talk about accomplishments on your resume!

Checkout this interesting infographic displaying 10 attributes of an employee, many of which can come from volunteering:



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