Volunteer Experience Is Work Experience

There are several reasons job seekers include volunteer experience on a résumé: To show involvement in the community; to highlight their interest in and a commitment to a particular cause that may or may not be job related; and to demonstrate skills that are not apparent from other résumé information.


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In addition, job seekers sometimes cite volunteer experience to compensate for lack of so-called professional experience or to help bridge employment gaps.
While recruiters and hiring managers often consider volunteer experience, they typically don’t give it as much weight as “work” experience. This can be a mistake.

When Volunteering

Volunteering provides an opportunity to use an array of skills, and develop new ones.
Among the many skills that volunteering helps build are these 22 identified by job-search expert Noelle Gross, which she shares at her Career Strategy website:

  1. Teamwork/Ability to Collaborate
  2. Strong Work Ethic
  3. Dedication
  4. Persistence
  5. Compassion
  6. Commitment
  7. Perseverance
  8. Sense of Mission
  9. Relationship Building
  10. Project Management
  11. Optimizing Limited Resources & Tight Budgets
  12. Communication
  13. Decision Making
  14. Problem Solving
  15. Planning
  16. Organizing
  17. Prioritizing
  18. Info Processing
  19. Analytics
  20. Influence Others
  21. People Management
  22. Leadership

Gross refers to these as transferable skills, for obvious reasons.
Similarly, Youth Volunteer Corps, an organization aimed at addressing community needs and inspiring youth, notes that volunteering allows for skills development that will help its audience, young people, land a job. It indicates that volunteering helps develop these 20 skills:

  1. Timeliness
  2. Ability to work with a variety of managers
  3. Time management
  4. Leadership
  5. Communication skills when talking to people of all ages
  6. Professionalism
  7. Teamwork
  8. Ability to work with people different from you
  9. Work ethic
  10. Customer service
  11. Confidence
  12. Public relations
  13. Teachability
  14. Organization
  15. Following instructions
  16. Flexibility
  17. Problem solving
  18. Planning
  19. Creativity
  20. Training

In the Workplace

There are a few duplicate skills on the two lists, but only a few. And clearly, all items on both lists are applicable to the workplace.
Nevertheless, identifying the extent to which volunteer experience is relevant depends on many factors, including breadth and depth of volunteer experience as well as your particular job requirements.
Finding a match may take a closer look, and an exploratory conversation. However, by considering volunteer experience, you may uncover a highly qualified candidate.
Career changers, people returning to the workforce after an extended absence, and entry-level workers are among the many job seekers who may have skills acquired or honed while volunteering—skills they can put to use working for your organization.

Paula Paula Santonocito, Contributing Editor for Recruiting Daily Advisor, is a business journalist specializing in employment issues. She is the author of more than 1,000 articles on a wide range of human resource and career topics, with an emphasis on recruiting and hiring. Her articles have been featured in many global and domestic publications and information outlets, referenced in academic and legal publications as well as books, and translated into several languages.

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