One of the best side effects of the pandemic seems to be a vested interest in volunteering and helping people. I know I’ve noticed that many more people are talking about their desire and commitments to helping others.
Whether you are volunteering out of the goodness of your heart or volunteering because you’re looking to shift your career into a new field, that experience shouldn’t be discarded on your resume or LinkedIn profile. Those skills can be incredibly valuable as well as good for your fellow person and should be harnessed for your next adventure – especially if you’re using volunteerism as a leap into a new field.
Here are a few easy tips to tap into the career value of your volunteer experience:
Examine it like work experience
When you think about your work experience and putting it on a resume, you often tap into the skills that you’re honing – or the skills that connect with a job you’re applying for. Let’s be honest, the only time many of us update our resume is when we are applying for a new job or making a career change.
Look at the things you are taking part of at your volunteer gig: are you helping with administrative tasks or communicating with individuals? Take note of these responsibilities in the same way you would for a job. Make a list of all of them and keep track, especially the things that you now do well because of this service.
Focus on what you need
If you’re making a career jump or using the experience to fill gaps in your resume, take time to edit that list of skills developed to the ones that specifically apply to what you’re trying to do. For example, if you’ve never worked in non-profit education, but you volunteer with an after-school program at a local museum, you’ve built skills in working with students and in the public sector. That experience should go on your resume if you’re looking to make that transition and you’re applying to a job that fits that set of experience.
When you’re focusing in on the skills that connect with what you were doing or what you want to do, be sure to edit with gusto. Too often people leave on very small skillsets in their volunteering experience and it overwhelms the work experience on their resume. Pick the things that connect with what you’re trying to show, and remember that in this case, being specific and targeted is most effective.
Keywords and customization
Think about the job you’re applying for or the career change you’re making – what specific keywords are mentioned in the listing that can connect to the experience you’ve honed at this service project? While we mentioned this in the section on focus, think about making your resume, and specifically your volunteer experience, customized to each job you are applying to. Yes, this will be a lot of work! We are in a tough time for job seekers right now – if you see something that you are excited about, you should place yourself in the position as much as possible. Why risk the interpretation of the reader when you can place yourself in the role with your past work experience and incredible volunteer experience?
When you revise your resume consistently, and in turn have that volunteer experience that can be selected thoughtfully, you are placing yourself in the best possible lens for that hiring manager!
Use when needed
Above all, be sure to only use your volunteer experience when it is needed!