You are putting the finishing touches on your resume. You have updated your work experience. You have included your education and certifications. You even mentioned several of your hobbies to help your resume stand out. But what about all that time spent volunteering with youth groups or at the local food bank? Does it deserve a spot on the limited-available space remaining?
Volunteering is an altruistic endeavor, but that does not mean you cannot benefit from it. Just like prior work experience or your education, volunteer experience is a powerful way to showcase key skills, interests, and further your overall resume storyline.
Prioritize Related Volunteer Work
Your resume should tell a story. A recruiter or hiring manager should be able to pick it up, and see a narrative that shows how you are qualified for the open position and how you have worked towards the open position.
Your volunteer experience should help tell that story. Focus on volunteer work that aligns with your overall career objectives. Unrelated volunteer work can still have a place, but it should not occupy as much space on your resume as more relevant volunteer work.
Choosing the Right Placement
There is no right or wrong way to go about this. The organization of your resume often changes as you gain more experience and your career progresses. For example, when you first graduate and have little work experience, you will likely lead with your educational qualifications. But after years of work, you will probably adjust and promote your work experience to the top spot.
As a general rule, format your resume according to relevancy and length of time. If you have done something for a long time that is closely related to the position you are applying for, move it up. So if you are applying to be a developer and you worked at McDonald’s for six weeks, but also volunteered teaching children how to code for several months, you better believe your volunteer work takes priority over your Big Mac experience.
Also, there is no rule prohibiting you from listing volunteer work with work experience.
Exceptions to the Rule
As stated, sharing volunteer experiences is great. Even if it is not always related. But it is possible to overshare on your resume to your detriment.
Generally, you should avoid posting that you have volunteered with polarizing groups or organizations. For example, Political organizations can be particularly divisive. Activism experiences should also be avoided. This is not to say that the causes you believe in are not important, but if a hiring manager happens to share a view or belong to a group contrary to your listed experience, it could ruin your chances.
That said, as always, those experiences can be shared if they tie in directly to the job you are applying for. And further, you never want to hide your identify and your values.
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