Last week, there was news from LinkedIn about their new section allowing users to highlight their volunteer experiences, organizations you support and causes important to them. (You can read their blog announcing this news.)
- Find volunteer work in an organization whose mission you share.
- Offer your expertise.
- Show your range.
- Make yourself indispensable.
- Identify an organizational need.
- Incorporate your volunteer work into your resume.
The ebook (available to download HERE) offers practical tips and resources and reminds careerists to focus on the experience and its usefulness rather than expect that it will lead to a job.
Volunteering has many good potential outcomes. Some people volunteer to do work to gain experience (via internships, for example), or offer their services free of charge in order to keep their skills up when they are not engaged in paid opportunities. Others recognize the value of working with and meeting people who share a passion or interest. They may volunteer first because that is what they enjoy doing, but may also reap some secondary benefits — meeting new friends and contacts.
All of this is important to remember, but what is the best way to highlight volunteer experience if you’re job hunting? Even though LinkedIn now provides a whole, separate place to focus on your volunteer work, I usually advise clients to consider showcasing in-depth, significant volunteer work as “experience,” without specifically highlighting it as “volunteer work.”
There is no reason to designate your experience on your resume or job search materials as “for pay” and “unpaid.” Your experience is your experience, and if you have been engaged in working for or with an organization, and have skills to describe and accomplishments to showcase, it’s appropriate to do so within the “Experience” section. If interviewers ask if the work was a volunteer efforts, feel free to share why you chose that organization and highlight your altruism after you explain your accomplishments and the skills you used.
I think it’s great LinkedIn is giving everyone a place to showcase their favorite causes, but don’t include your work-focused volunteer efforts in the new section INSTEAD of in the regular experience section. Feel free to continue to highlight your experience as just that — EXPERIENCE!