How to Showcase Your Volunteer Work on Your Resume

Volunteering With Children in a School
Margie Politzer/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

Maybe you are reentering the workforce after a career break, or maybe you are looking to change careers. Either are good reasons to contemplate including volunteer work on your resume. The answer of whether or not you should all depends on the position you're applying for.

Whether to put volunteer projects on your resume depends on how relevant the work was to your career or future career and as well as how deeply involved you were in the organization. A key thing to remember is to be scrupulously honest to avoid misleading hiring managers about unpaid work in your past. If done right, having a volunteer resume section could help you stand out in a crowded field of job applicants.

The Pros and Cons to Sharing Volunteer Work

You may wonder whether to include volunteer work for your children's preschool or the Parent Teacher Association. Are you worried that by including this would tip off the hiring manager that you're a working mom and that's a strike against you?

If you do list it and the company doesn't consider you, think about this: Would you really want to work for an organization that doesn't support working moms? You can't change the fact that you are a working mom, and it's nothing you should have to hide.

When you are called in for an interview it's already on the table that you're a working mom. When your future employer knows this fact you'll get a good idea during the interview process how their company culture views working parents.

If you don't list your volunteer work you may be leaving out a piece of the puzzle that describes who you are as a person. Are you passionate about the volunteer work that you've done? If so, by letting your future employer know about it you may bet the opportunity to talk about something your passionate about besides your past positions.

Also, if you do not include it, you are keeping your resume strictly professional. This may need to be the case depending on your field of work or the position you're applying for. If the position has 50% travel you may not be considered if they know you're heavily involved at the school. (But also you should consider if you would want a position that would take you away from what you're passionate about.)

Examples of Volunteer Work You Should and Should Not Include

When you're putting together your resume, volunteer work you might consider listing could include:

  • Leadership roles, whether of an entire organization or an active committee.
  • Any experience that's relevant to the job you want. For instance, if you are applying for a graphic designer position and you designed your daughter's elementary school yearbook, that is probably worth including.
  • Service to organizations that share the same mission as your prospective employer, i.e. the companies you're targeting in your job hunt.

Don't think this means you need to add every single role you've held. The danger in putting anything on your resume, including volunteer work, is that an interviewer just might ask you about it. So you might consider keeping off your resume any volunteer positions such as:

  • Work that involved little effort on your part, such as a one-time walk to raise money for cancer research.
  • A supporting role, such as stuffing envelopes at a fundraising event.
  • That involved controversial or sensitive organizations. Think about the subjects that are borderline in polite conversation: politics, sex, and religion.

Where to Showcase Volunteer Work on Your Resume

How you'll present volunteer work depends on the type of resume you have. If you have a chronological resume, you can include volunteer work in a section titled "Related Experience."

If you have a functional resume, which is common among stay-at-home moms returning to work after a career break, you can include meaningful volunteer work alongside other positions, whether paid or unpaid. List the position you held and include a description of skills used and outcomes that are specific and as quantitative as possible.

For instance, if you organized a fundraising dinner for your local children's hospital, be sure to include that the event included a guest list of 600 people, raised $50,000 for cancer research and had overhead costs of only 15 percent. Mention any transferable skills, including sales (when you solicit people for donations), management (when you keep tabs on three dozen unruly volunteers) and event coordination (all the day-of-dinner details and last-minute crises).

How to Showcase Volunteer Work on LinkedIn

Are you're already using LinkedIn to network and job hunt? If so, did you know that LinkedIn offers a special section for volunteer work? It's titled "Volunteer."

To add this to your LinkedIn profile, first log in. Next, click "Improve your Profile" at the top, scroll down to the "Volunteer" section and click on "Add Volunteer Experience".

Follow the same rules that you would for volunteer work on a traditional resume. You can include deep, meaningful experiences that you would want to discuss in a job interview in hopes of making a good impression on the interviewer.