3 key takeaways
- Why you should include volunteer work on your resume
- Where to put your resume volunteer work (including sections, formatting, and order)
- How to use the free Teal AI Resume Builder to add relevant volunteer experience to your professional narrative
Your experiences outside of traditional work have a significant impact on your personal growth and development. And just because you weren’t paid for those opportunities doesn’t mean the skills you’ve picked up along the way are any less valuable.
Highlighting volunteer experience on a resume can be incredibly beneficial for showcasing relevant skills and achievements that are transferable for the role you're applying to. Learning how to weave these moments of volunteer work into the bigger picture of your career history will help you stand out as an empathetic and hard-working person with valuable, relevant qualifications for any potential position.
Why include volunteer work on your resume?
Every section of your resume counts toward creating a comprehensive and relevant overview of your professional journey, skills, and unique achievements.
And experiences outside paid work can be just as impactful in showcasing your abilities and character. Volunteering, in particular, often provides a rich experience that can reveal a lot about your skills, values, and adaptability.
So, when and why should you consider spotlighting your volunteer work on your resume? Here are some compelling reasons:
The volunteer experience is relevant to the job
Hiring managers sift through countless resumes and seek relevant experiences that align with the position they're trying to fill.
Suppose your volunteering experience showcases similar key skills and overall responsibilities. In that case, it can be a strong indicator that you already have a foundational understanding of the role (even if you weren't compensated for it).
You have limited work experience
If you're writing a resume with no experience and your professional history feels sparse in relation to the job you're eyeing, volunteer work can be a goldmine to bridge the gap.
Resume volunteer work demonstrates your dedication, drive, and proactive attitude, showcasing initiative outside of traditional work history. This willingness to learn and contribute to volunteer jobs on your own time speaks volumes about your character and can compensate for a lack of formal experience.
Volunteer experience spotlights your unique skills
Sometimes, professional roles can be pigeonholed, limiting the range of experiences and skills one can exhibit. Volunteering experience provides diverse opportunities that might not be present in a traditional job setting.
If your volunteer time gave you a unique perspective, skill set, or accomplishment that isn't obvious in your paid positions, it's a prime candidate for inclusion on your resume—diversifying your skill set and introducing a depth of character.
You want to highlight values and commitment
Volunteer work can also shine a light on personal values, dedication, and a commitment to causes or communities. This can be particularly impactful if the company or organization you're applying to shares similar values.
Networking and collaboration
Another strong reason to include volunteer work is to showcase your ability to network and collaborate outside of a formal work setting. Engaging in volunteer activities often means working with diverse groups of people, and it can demonstrate your teamwork, leadership, and interpersonal skills.
Benefits of listing volunteer work on your resume
- Volunteer work shows you have initiative: Volunteer work illustrates drive and dedication. Taking on responsibilities without compensation signals that you're motivated by passion, commitment, or a genuine desire to gain experience and make a difference.
- A volunteer position demonstrates your collaboration: Volunteer work often involves working with people from different backgrounds and walks of life. By highlighting your volunteering experience in such diverse settings, you showcase your ability to adapt, focus on teamwork, communicate, and cooperate with various individuals.
- Volunteer experience shows how remarkable you are: Volunteering reflects character, generosity, and a broader perspective on community and global issues. Employers appreciate candidates who bring skills, values, and a broader sense of purpose to their roles, making them more holistic contributors to the company's culture and mission.
How to list volunteer work on a resume
Now that you understand when and why to incorporate resume volunteer experience, it's time to learn how to weave this unique community involvement into your professional narrative.
Step 1: Determine relevance
It’s important to select volunteering experiences that clearly connect to the role you're applying to. Whether it’s community service or some other form of volunteer work, the experience must be relevant to the responsibilities and nature of the position to support you as a qualified candidate.
If you have multiple volunteer experiences, consider which have the most relevant impact and professional skills gained and prioritize them.
Step 2: Incorporate volunteer experience strategically
If your volunteer position is directly relevant to the job you're applying to (for example, if you're applying for a marketing position and you've led a fundraising campaign for a non-profit), consider incorporating it as work experience on your resume.
If the volunteering is less directly relevant but still showcases vital skills or character traits, it might fit better in a dedicated resume "Volunteer Experience" section. This approach allows you to emphasize the range of your experiences without minimizing your professional expertise.
Step 3: Be specific
Clearly list the organization you volunteered with, the duration of your involvement, and your role or title.
Step 4: Highlight achievements
Just like any paid work experience, you should highlight specific accomplishments, projects, and impact. Did you lead a team, raise a certain amount of money, or make a tangible difference? Quantifying your resume wherever possible draws attention to how you used your hard and soft skills to get results.
Step 5: Showcase transferable skills
Emphasize the skills you acquired or used during your volunteering that are relevant to the job you're applying for. These should also align with the keywords in the job description of the role you're applying to. Whether leadership, project management, or communication skills, make the connection evident for hiring managers.
Bonus Step 6: Provide context
If you volunteered with lesser-known organizations or in unique roles, provide a brief description to give prospective employers a clear understanding of your responsibilities and the nature of the organization.
This can also help you incorporate more keywords from the job description into your resume, making it easier to find in Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).
When to leave volunteer experiences off your resume
As you create your resume, remember that quality matters more than quantity. The role of your resume is to showcase the top 10% of your experience that's 100% relevant to the position you're applying to. Because of this, it's essential to focus on relevance, clarity, curation, conciseness, and professionalism.
Much like extracurricular activities on a resume, not every experience adds value to your candidacy for a specific role; some might even detract from it.
You should consider omitting specific volunteer experiences if they're:
- Irrelevant to the role: If the volunteer work doesn't offer skills or accomplishments applicable to the job you're targeting, it might be best to omit it.
- Short-lived commitments: Unless they had a significant impact or were very recent, brief volunteer stints might not add much weight.
- Dated experiences: Volunteer roles from many years ago might clutter your resume, especially if they're not significant.
- Sensitive or controversial causes: Volunteer roles in divisive areas or with potentially polarizing groups should be cautiously approached.
- Redundant: If you have several volunteer experiences highlighting the same skills or attributes, prioritize the most impactful ones.
Where to put volunteer work on your resume
If you find yourself with relevant volunteer work, wondering, "Should it go at the beginning of my resume?" or "What about below my work experience?" You aren't alone. Your resume section order matters, especially regarding relevance, alignment with other professional experiences, and the narrative you want to convey, and it can be challenging to know exactly what goes where.
Here are some places you can incorporate volunteer experience on a resume to stand out in your job search.
Showcasing volunteer work in a dedicated "Volunteer Experience" section
If volunteer experience isn't the primary focus of your resume but is still important to showcase specific skills and impact, a separate "Volunteer Experience" section allows you to include these details in your resume without detracting from your career history.
Located beneath your "Skills" section toward the bottom of your resume, this separate section of volunteer experience should be formatted similarly to your work experience, like this, incorporating relevant impact and metrics if possible:
Pro Tip: The free Teal AI Resume Builder has a dedicated "Volunteering and Leadership" section, so you can easily highlight the most impressive and relevant work on your resume—whether you were paid or not.
Listing volunteer experience in your professional summary
Your professional summary, or 'About Me' resume section, is the highlight reel of your experiences. It's where you showcase your most impressive, relevant skills and impact—making the case for why a hiring manager or recruiter should dig deeper into your candidacy.
If volunteer work is the primary focus of your resume as a whole (say if you're changing careers to a new industry or writing a resume with no experience, and volunteering is where you acquired the majority of your skills), then incorporating it into your professional summary along with "Work Experience" is a great start.
Adding volunteer experience as work history
Your "Work Experience" resume section is a compilation of your most relevant professional accomplishments. And whether or not it was a paid or volunteer position doesn't actually matter. You can incorporate a volunteer position in your work experience as one "professional experience" or as part of a more comprehensive journey.
Let's say, for example, you have some relevant work history, but the majority of your background is in volunteering; in that case, you could create a section that incorporates both types of experience, like this:
Pro Tip: If you want to change the structure of your resume for specific roles you're applying to, the Drag-and-Drop Editor in the free Teal AI Resume Builder lets you move any section of your resume to any position—as often as you need to.
Examples of volunteering experience on a resume
Including volunteer work such as parent-teacher organizations, successful fundraising events, non-profit fundraising, and community service on a resume can provide a comprehensive view of your dedication, skills, and community involvement.
Here are some examples of how to present these experiences in a dedicated "Volunteer Experience" resume section.
Event Coordinator Volunteer Organizer for Annual Charity Run, Heartbeat Foundation
June 2021 - June 2022
- Managed logistics for an event that saw over 500 participants, securing necessary permits, garnering local business sponsorships, and liaising with the city council for route approvals.
- Led a team of 10 volunteers, effectively handling task delegation from registration to prize distribution.
- Pivotal in fundraising strategies, contributing to a groundbreaking $50,000 raised for cardiac research.
Marketing Manager Volunteer at Downtown Arts Festival's Digital Outreach Team
March 2021 - September 2021
- Crafted social media strategies boosting online ticket sales by 20%.
- Engaged with artists and vendors, ensuring apt online promotions of their sessions and products.
- Analyzed post-event online engagement data, offering insights for future promotional tactics.
Tutor Volunteer Math Tutor, Community Learning Center
January 2021 - December 2021
- Developed and implemented lesson plans for over 30 students, resulting in a 15% average academic improvement.
- Facilitated weekly group sessions emphasizing collaborative learning.
- Assisted students in homework and test preparations, with 20 students scoring above the 90th percentile.
Environmental Advocate Volunteer at Green Earth Conservation Group April 2021 - April 2022
- Launched a plastic recycling campaign, reducing waste by 40% within a year
- Conducted monthly environmental seminars, consistently drawing 100 attendees.
- Partnered with schools to integrate environmental education, benefiting over 1,000 students.
These structured examples of volunteer resume experience emphasize the importance of a clear, concise presentation in showcasing volunteer experience and community service on your resume. Not only do they spotlight skills, but they also underline a commitment to societal improvement.
Add volunteer experience to your resume with Teal
Your volunteer experiences aren't just commendable acts of service—they're also powerful indicators of your commitment, values, and diverse skill set.
Beyond the boundaries of paid work, volunteering offers insights into your character, adaptability, and readiness to collaborate across a variety of settings.
Whether you're showcasing your deep understanding of a role, bridging a gap in your professional history, or highlighting a unique skill set, the lessons and achievements from volunteering can be instrumental in catching the attention of any hiring professional.
But the greatest key to using your volunteer work to your advantage is presenting this experience effectively.
With the free Teal AI Resume Builder, harnessing the power of your volunteer experiences becomes more straightforward and strategic.
With Teal, tailor your resume sections to highlight your most relevant experiences for each role you apply to, use the Drag-and-Drop Editor to structure your resume seamlessly, and get up-to-date guidance on how best to phrase and position your volunteer work for maximum impact.
Ready to craft a resume that echoes your dedication? Turn your acts of service into a compelling career story with Teal.