When Should You Incorporate Details From Volunteer Experience Into Your Resume?

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Many architecture, engineering and construction professionals question when they should add specific details regarding volunteer work to their resume. As with many resume-related topics, there is not a hard and fast rule for job seekers to follow. Volunteering can help throughout the job search process; e.g. it enables networking, provides learning opportunities and can serve as a great resume-booster. However, to be as effective as possible, resumes should be tailored to the job. Adding too many details about the volunteer work risks detracting from the overall message. The key is often understanding when to be concise and when it makes sense to elaborate.

When to Incorporate Details from Volunteer Work into Your Resume

If volunteer work is unrelated to the desired role it might distract the hiring manager from the relevant content, especially if a great deal of extraneous information is included. While this is a risk, there are instances when it makes sense to include volunteer experience on a resume. The following situations are prime examples of when to incorporate volunteer work into your resume.

When it Fills Gaps in Employment

Having a gap in your employment history can be a substantial hurdle when you are seeking a new position. However, if you volunteered during that time, it could help compensate for the gap. Potential employers will want to know what you were doing during that time, and volunteer work indicates that you were still actively involved in a meaningful pursuit while you were unemployed.

It’s generally beneficial to include volunteer work when in this situation, regardless of whether the responsibilities directly relate to your former or ideal future roles. However, when providing this information, be especially mindful of how it is presented. While it might be tempting to literally fill the gap under work experience on your resume with a volunteer position, it needs to be distinguished in order to ensure that a reader can easily discern between it and any paid, full-time employment. Otherwise it will look like you were misrepresenting yourself. Recruiters and hiring managers will inquire, verify information and question someone’s integrity if it looks like they were being deceitful. Avoid this issue by being transparent from the start.

When it Bridges (Hard) Skills Gaps

In some cases, you may have the chance to develop hard skills that can benefit your career through a volunteer position. On-the-job development of specific skills can be limited, depending on the role and the company. If a volunteer opportunity allowed you to add more hard skills to your repertoire, listing the position provides valuable context to the hiring manager regarding how you gained your level of competency.

When it Shows the Development and Utilization of Necessary Soft Skills

Soft skills are also vital in the eyes of employers. A volunteer position may present you with professional development opportunities that were not available through your traditional employment, such as the chance to lead a team. Listing applicable work performed for a non-profit allows you to demonstrate where you acquired your skills, increasing the odds the hiring manager will view your assertions favorably. Additionally, you may also be able to obtain a professional reference from a member of the organization, further showing that you have the soft skills the company is seeking.

When it Highlights Character and Emphasizes a Cultural Fit

Volunteer experience can set you apart from the pack during a job search, as it provides insight into your character. Many hiring managers view the presence of volunteer work favorably, particularly if it has been an ongoing commitment. It also provides insight into a job seeker’s priorities and passions, as it shines a light on who you are outside of your traditional career. Knowledge of a job seeker’s volunteer work can also help a hiring manager determine whether the individual will likely fit well within the company culture, especially if it aligns with the organization’s values.

Take the Next Step in Your Career with RealStreet

If you are interested in learning more about how to effectively list your volunteer experience on your resume or are seeking a new architecture, engineering or construction position, the professionals at RealStreet can help. Contact us to speak with one of our knowledgeable team members today and see how our services can benefit you.

The RealStreet folks are always helpful. They were instrumental in landing me a rewarding FEMA assignment in Southern California.

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