How can I leverage volunteer work on my CV?

Mon, 17/09/2012 - 13:47 -- nick

There are many reasons leading up to opting in for volunteer work. The important thing to remember is contributing your time and effort has a directly beneficial effect on your current or future career path.

Employers find volunteering work on a CV a valuable distinguisher. Whether the work was taken during a job or in between, it shows a pro-active approach to better yourself in a productive way.

Knowing how to format your volunteer work on a CV is dependent on your choice of career and current level. Making these all work together on your document can help you make a positive impression in the early stages of a review for a prospective position.

Upcoming graduates
If you’re just starting to get ready to enter the world of work with little experience, a greater emphasis on volunteer work can help show how your time was well implemented towards a useful cause. With the job market becoming increasingly competitive, new graduates can find themselves with little information to fill their CV with. Volunteering work gives the ability to highlight communication and planning skills as well as working as part of a team to achieve a common goal.

Remember to treat the volunteering information as if it were a paid position. Take time to list out the detail such as name of the company involved, personal title, duration of the position, responsibilities and achievements.

Changing your career
Volunteering can also be seen as a great way to develop and demonstrate new career oriented skills. You may find new areas that you have not previously had the opportunity of exploring and discover an innate ability to thrive in a specific environment. All of this combined can help in positioning yourself for new career prospects in a relatively short amount of time.

If currently in between jobs, highlighting the benefits of having taken part in volunteer work can help outline your new found interest in areas very different to previous work experience. This helps in opening up a discussion with an employer in explaining your reasoning behind the career change.

Employed with stability
Sometimes when looking for a new job, it is important to emphasise the right areas. If you possess relevant experience to the job in question, volunteering work should play the role of a passenger instead of the driver. A simple name of the organisation and duration will suffice giving priority and detailed insight to paid work.

It may even be a good idea to place all volunteer work in its own dedicated section keeping “work experience” free for the paid, long-term positions. This helps to use the skills and abilities learned during volunteer work as a supplement to the paid positions, strengthening the CV with the right ingredients.

Know the employer
Although rare, it could sometimes occur that a prospective employer would frown upon particular volunteer work. Which brings you the question, on whether to leave it out completely or highlight key skills without being too specific?

This will be also dependent on the amount of information in your CV that currently showcases all of your strengths and offerings. If the CV begins to look bare and out of date then the inclusion of your volunteering work can help add a bit more depth. On the other hand a CV with job after job can also turn an employer off, as it sends the message of short term employment and little relevance to the job in question.