By incorporating volunteer experiences on your CV you can increase the quality of your application. Highlighting your voluntary work will not only show off your philanthropic efforts, but can also provide evidence of your overall value as a potential future employee. Of course, there are ways to best accentuate these benevolent endeavors depending on your candidacy and career target.
Similar to the work experience section, a volunteer experience description should include the following information:
- your volunteer role/title
- the name of the organization, non-profit, or humanitarian group
- the start and end dates
- a brief description of the organizational mission and purpose
- your principal responsibilities and accomplishments
This guide will inform you of the benefits of including volunteer experience on your application, how to incorporate this voluntary work on your CV, the structure of writing a volunteer experience description, as well as practical examples.
Benefits of adding volunteer experiences to your CV
The advantages of including volunteer experiences on your CV are not solely to demonstrate your altruistic spirit. In fact, by including voluntary work that directly aligns with your desired job area, you can further display your career-specific skills and knowledge, as well as your dedication and commitment to the field. This is especially important for current students and recent graduates, as they will most likely not have as much paid work experience within their career field. Thus, students and grads should always play up their relevant volunteer experience.
For those job seekers who are looking to change career paths or those who have experienced a period of unemployment, highlighting volunteer experience that is in someway applicable to your new job industry can greatly enhance your application. Even if your volunteer work is unrelated to the job position that you are applying to, the key is to emphasize transferable skill sets and knowledge that you will be able to apply to the job at hand. In this way, hiring managers will take your candidacy more seriously, despite your lack of professional experience in the occupational area.
How to incorporate volunteer work on your CV
Job-related volunteer work:
In order to demonstrate your relevant experience within a specific career field, you can incorporate job-related volunteer work within your work experience section. This is especially beneficial when you do not have as much paid work experience within this particular area of work. In this case, you may want to consider changing the section title to “Relevant Experience” or “Related Experience.” You can even incorporate a customized career field section title that employs your specific occupational field. i.e.: (“Relevant Career Field Experience”). For example, if you are applying to a teaching position and your volunteer experience is relevant to the field of education, you can utilize the title “Relevant Teaching Experience,” and list both your paid teaching positions as well as your voluntary educational experiences. This can be applied to any career field or job position.
Another option may be to separate your work experience sections into critical skill-based categories. For instance, if you are applying for a marketing position you can divide your work experience sections into required skill areas such as “Webmaster Experience” and “Social Media Experience.” Another practical example, in the case that you are applying for a public relations position, you can utilize two separate required skill-based sections: “Fundraising Experience” and “Event Planning Experience.” In this way, you can incorporate your related volunteer work within these sections, not only your paid work experience.
It is important to keep in mind that employers are searching for the best candidate to execute the job at hand. They will be looking for an applicant with certain skills and related experience. Yet, it is not necessary that your work history section exclusively list paid positions. As long as the experience is relevant to the job role that you are applying for, hiring managers will be intrigued. By incorporating volunteer work that directly relates to your occupation or that requires relevant and applicable skill sets, HR managers will better recognize your potential. Even if you do not have an extensive amount of paid work experience within your desired career, you can demonstrate your job-related knowledge and competencies gained through volunteerism.
Unrelated volunteer work:
In the case that your volunteer experience is unrelated to your desired work field and job position, it is best to create a separate volunteer experience section or list your volunteer work under an out of office/ interests section. This is especially beneficial for students and new grads, as they will most likely have more space to fill on their CV. For seasoned professionals, it is not as advisable to include a volunteer experience section if it does not concisely fit on a one page CV.
Although your volunteerism may not directly relate to the industry or company that you are applying to, most employers look highly upon the voluntary efforts of a potential candidate. Community service is valued among various work fields. In addition, including your humanitarian work will make you stand out from the crowd by differentiating yourself from other applicants who may not have volunteer experience. At the very least, it will catch the eye of recruiters and may even spark a conversation during an interview setting.
Volunteer experience structure
Whether using a separate section or including your voluntary work within your work experience, here is a list of the necessary information that you must include when writing about your volunteer experiences, as well as the correct order by which to organize these details.
- Your volunteer role/title, organization, start - end dates (Dates should include the month and year. You may also position the dates before the job title.)
- Brief organization description with purpose or mission.
- Description of responsibilities, the effect your time in this position had on the group, and accomplishments that you achieved or contributed to the organization. (If you utilized job-specific skills or technology to complete your responsibilities and these are some of the requirements for the position at hand, this is a good place to mention it. It’s also recommended that you utilize some kind of bullet point format for your responsibilities and accomplishments so as to make them more readable.)
- If you have not already mentioned your accomplishments, or you simply want to emphasize their importance, finish the section by mentioning your greatest achievements during each volunteer experience. (Don’t forget to try to use numbers to measure your success.)
Volunteer experience examples
No matter where you decide to incorporate your voluntary work within your CV, whether within a customized work experience section, an out of office/interests section, or a separate community service section, it will be sure to enhance your application. Below we provide several examples of volunteer work descriptions that can be used to help you write your own volunteer experience explanations.
VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCE EXAMPLE 1:
Fundraising Consultant | The Happiness Foundation | June 2016-December 2016
The Happiness Foundation is is a popular educational movement for social promotion which promotes the education of young students who come from impoverished and excluded sectors, so as to boost their personal development and social participation. As a Fundraising Consultant, my mission was to create and develop a fundraising and visibility strategy for The Happiness Foundation office in Quito, Ecuador.
- Raised more than $2,000 USD through events and workshops with stakeholders throughout 6 months.
- Increased foundation contributions by 30% over a period of 4 months.
- Collaborated on the creation of a long-term fundraising strategy to be implemented over a 9 month period.
VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCE EXAMPLE 2:
English Teacher | The Bernstein Literacy Coalition | April 2017-January 2018
The Bernstein Literacy Coalition provides trained volunteer tutors for adults who are 17 and older, not in public school, and test below ninth grade or a Student Performance Level 7 for English language learners.
- Completed a 16 hour tutor training program based in pedagogical and cultural awareness practices.
- Prepared weekly lessons based on the “Compelling Conversations” textbook.
- Taught ESL to 2 adult students for three 1 hour sessions a week, focusing primarily on vocabulary, reading comprehension, and conversational skills.
VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCE EXAMPLE 3:
Webmaster | Angels’ Animal Rescue | July 2015-Present
Angels’ Animal Rescue (AAR) is a local nonprofit organization dedicated to providing low-cost spay-neuter services, and life-saving medical assistance for needy animals who would not survive otherwise. I volunteer my time managing the AAR website.
- Oversee and manage technical maintenance of website functionality: including links, menus, back-ups, webmail system, Wordpress and other software updates, website domain and server host, website architecture and page maintenance.
- Monitor and analyze site performance (e.g traffic, conversions) using SEO and updated keyword-based content.
- Ensure quality creation and timely distribution of the monthly online newsletter and email communications with fellow volunteers and adoptive pet owners.
- Proactive updating of calendars, events, and other online features such as the home page and other reference pages.
There’s no question that voluntary work experience exhibits community involvement, a sense of compassion and commitment to others, as well as a general willingness to take initiative and get things done. Likewise, by incorporating these experiences within your CV, you can show off relevant areas of mastery and skills gained throughout your philanthropic endeavors. That’s why when employed correctly, volunteer experience can boost your application and give you an advantage over other applicants, no matter what stage you are at in your career.