Looking for a job? There’s no question volunteering helps you expand your network, and networking is always key for job seekers.
Volunteering may help you get a job, but the question of whether or not to include volunteer work on your resume is a common one, especially for people whose best and most relevant experience for the job is unpaid work.
In the February, 2012 issue of Real Simple magazine (page 100), Laura Vanderkam, author ofÂ All The Money In The World (Portfolio, March 1, 2012) wrote an article, “How volunteering helps you land a job.” The following (in bold) are the points she highlighted, the commentary is my own:
List specific skill-building volunteer activities on your resume. It is so important to tie your volunteer activities to specific skills you will need for your target jobs. The article reminds job seekers to focus on quantifiable accomplishments. For example, “Raised $100,000 dollars, an increase of 25%, even in depressed economic environment.” Of course, if you only volunteer once a year, or don’t do any work related to your relevant skill set, you should not highlight it on your resume. (For example, if you once walked in a fund-raising event, it isn’t important enough to list.)
Don’t include work that might be considered polarizing. On one hand, it’s important to identify an organization and employers who will value you and where you’ll be comfortable. However, unless your political or religious beliefs are the most important factor for you in identifying an organization, you may want to avoid highlighting involvement in highly political or religious organizations on your resume. Vanderkam’s article notes, “Picking one candidate over another because of such factors is illegal in many cases, but it still happens.” My best advice? Make a conscious choice about listing these types of volunteer activities. Ideally, you will apply to organizations that will value and appreciate your efforts, but don’t be surprised if someone does not.
Let the volunteer work speak for itself — don’t bring it up at the interview. I’d add that it is okay to bring it up if it relates to a story about a success or accomplishment directly related to the job. Otherwise, it cannot hurt to wait until the employer asks about the experience. Additionally, if the employer is known to value volunteer work, it’s a good idea to make it known you volunteer regularly.
Don’t emphasize volunteering that directly related to being a parent. Laura’s article notes, “Researchers have found that women who cite volunteering related to motherhood on a resume — for example, Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) work — are less likely to be called back for interviews than are those who list a neighborhood group. She shared a few details with me about the study, noting, “The research was done by Shelley Correll, now at Stanford. Her team created fake resumes that were identical for two women, except one mentioned a volunteering stint at the PTA, and another a volunteering stint with a neighborhood association. The PTA woman fared much less well in terms of being called back.” (You can read a bit more about this study.)
Based on this information, the key would be to list such experience only if it’s highly related theÂ job that you’re seeking. For example, if you are applying to work at a school, and you have strong PTA ties, it should be helpful. Keep in mind, bias exists at every turn, so be very mindful of your choices when you decide what to include in your resume.
It’s important to remember, your resume must highlight how and why you are well qualified for the job. My advice is to use the best examples you have to prove you are a good fit. If that means a resume centered around volunteer work, so be it!
photo by gcaptain.com