Have you been thinking about joining an organization or doing volunteer work? Are you unsure whether it makes a difference or not? When I suggest volunteering or joining a professional organization to people I advise, most respond with they don’t have time. Actually, it doesn’t have to require a lot of time. You can volunteer as much or as little as your schedule permits. It could mean a few hours a week answering phones, handling correspondence, mentoring a youth group or assisting an organization with its website. Being able to show volunteer work on a resume demonstrates that you have interests beyond the office/classroom. Nothing in the rule book says that when you list experience on your resume, you had to be paid for it. Experience is experience whether paid or non-paid. Every day millions of people do important work for which they are not compensated. Volunteer work and involvement with professional organizations is one way you can gain legitimate experience in your field.
It’s no secret that employers look at volunteer work and professional affiliations when screening candidates. Not having it will not necessary keep you from getting a job, but it does let employers know you can network and foster positive relationships in the community. This may prove to be beneficial if you are hired with them because you can get new clients and new business for them. It makes you more well-rounded. Almost all volunteer responsibilities require some kind of skill that an employer could use – definitely if you are in a leadership position. Most professional organizations are geared towards a particular industry and can bring you closer to employers in that industry. It is a good way to network as some organizations have local, state, regional and national levels.
When listing volunteer work on your resume you can list it as “Community Involvement” or “Professional Organizations” or “Volunteer Work.” If you had a leadership position and it is related to your field or a field you want to go in, combine your volunteer work and jobs and call it “Relevant Experience” instead of “Work Experience.” Saying work experience implies that you got paid for it and “relevant” could be paid or unpaid. Then list your accomplishments while volunteering just like you would list your accomplishments for a job. When you are in a job interview, be sure to describe your volunteer work in terms of your achievements and highlight the skills that you learned. For example did you raise $10K? Did you manage a budget or accomplish goals on schedule? Did you get experience with public speaking, writing reports or newsletters? Did you plan projects or train other volunteers? All of this could show that you have the ability to motivate others and be a leader. Describe your activities and achievements fully. Don’t overstate what you did, but be sure to give yourself the credit you deserve.