How to Showcase Volunteer Work to Boost Your Résumé

Volunteering and community service can be amazing experiences. The feeling of helping someone is enough, but it can also help your résumé. Here's how!

When talking about résumés, everyone tells you how your summary, key skills, and professional experience are the most important sections. Not enough emphasis is given to the importance of the volunteering section. No one tells you how adding a volunteer work section can do wonders for your job application. Any social or volunteer work you did or are doing can increase your chances of getting your dream job by 20%, according to a survey conducted by LinkedIn. These opportunities can be a town fair event you helped plan, your contribution at the local animal shelter as a volunteer, or even a fundraising event you helped with in a small way. The point is, it matters. Here’s how adding social and volunteer work can increase the impact of your résumé and help you land your dream job.

Illustrate your skills on your résumé

Working as an intern or having a full-time paid job aren’t the only ways to develop new skills or enhance the ones you already have. Doing social and volunteer work is a great way to acquire new skills and enhance the old ones in ways that internships and full-time jobs fail to do. For instance, in a volunteering setup, you end up in the mud while working with like-minded people who are as driven as you. You innovate, you improvise, and most importantly, you work as a team. Be it raising money for charity or helping at an old-age home, this exposure will help you cultivate soft skills like leadership, teamwork, character analysis, and compassion—which go on to build the fabric of your being and make you a more socially attuned professional. And the best part is you can include these skills in the “Key Skills” section of your résumé, therefore increasing your chances of getting on those coveted shortlists.

Related: Infographic: Skills to Put on a Résumé to Land the Job

Great way to justify employment gaps

If you have employment or academic gaps, adding a social cause/volunteer work section to your résumé is a great way to show that your professional absence counted for something. It helps you paint your absence in a positive light. Many people take professional breaks—it’s okay. But the argument remains rock solid: You should be able to justify why you needed extended time off. Your volunteering engagements are a great way to do this. This shows that while you took a gap year, you weren’t wasting your time sitting idle at home. Instead, you were out there changing the world, contributing to a social cause you cared about in the small ways you could—and that is something to be proud of.

Helps if you’re looking for a career switch

Many professionals find their true calling after years of doing the same work and repeating the same cycle. The world is not black and white. An original career preference might not be the most viable option for you, and this might take years to realize. But once you do, what do you do? Where do you go? How do you start over? The answer lies in social and volunteering work. Once you learn your current job proves to be a bad fit, there’s no point in continuing something that fails to inspire you. You may have figured out what to do next—or maybe not. Either way, it’s okay.

Go volunteer somewhere or join a social cause you care about. Not only will it help you cut through the monotony, but it will help you clear your head and open your eyes to fresh perspectives and new avenues. For example, if you’re a sales professional and now want to switch to the event planning domain, doing relevant social or volunteer work that involves event planning can not only give you a taste of what it would be like to work in this setup but also help you demonstrate to a recruiter that your change of profession is backed by a solid foundation brimming with relevant experience. What’s the worst that can happen anyway? You probably don’t like event planning so much either, which means that now you have a solid reason not to pursue it, saving you the time to clear your head, re-strategize, and elope with the wind in search of a professional fit.

Increases employment chances and social network

According to The Corporation for National and Community Service, professionals who are or were involved in some kind of social or volunteer work have 27% more chances to get a job. When you join a social cause or volunteer for one, you end up meeting new people who have the same interests as you. This helps you expand your social network, which may present you with great career opportunities. While you might end up striking a conversation with a volunteer, he or she might help you connect with someone who may be hiring in the industry you’re interested in. It’s also possible that while you don’t find a job, you take home a treasure chest of valuable advice from an experienced professional who may help you organize your thoughts and give them structure, helping you with a career strategy that works. What we’re trying to say is your social and volunteer work will never be a waste. Job or no job, you should pursue it (and talk about it in your résumé).

Related: Top 10 Career Fields in America: What You Should Know

Time to update your résumé!

Adding a social and volunteer work section to your résumé will present you not only as a professional who’s concerned about the community but one who has developed skills that matter. The next time you send your updated résumé to someone or apply for a job, make sure your résumé has a sparkling illustration of your social causes and volunteer activities.

Did you know you could also earn scholarships for your social and volunteer work? Find free money with our Scholarship Search tool.

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About Aditya Sharma

On a quest to help professionals across the world land their dream jobs, Aditya Sharma lives and breathes Hiration—an online résumé building platform that helps job seekers find their way in the treacherous job market—where he’s a cofounder and the unofficial CPO (Chief Problem-Solving Officer).


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