Is Your Volunteer Experience Resumé-Worthy?

So you finally graduated college and have the coveted degree you need to find a job. But somehow after those four long years of school, your resumé just looks empty. You can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience without a job—and so begins the endless cycle of job hunting. Although this situation might seem hopeless, there’s a way to use other experience to your advantage.

Volunteer work is a great way to give back to the community, while also developing experience in your field. Careful, though: not all of your volunteer experience will be a great fit for your resume. The following tips and guidelines can help you discern between what’s appropriate and what you might want to leave out.

Ask Yourself, “So What?”

So you spent five years in Africa building wells so the locals there could have access to clean water. So what? This experience undoubtedly had a major influence on your life and your character, but is it really relevant to the resumé you’ll be sending in for that position in business management? Probably not. Alternatively, that year you spent teaching English to students in China would be perfectly relevant to the teaching position you’re applying for.

Of course, some volunteer experience may fall into a gray area that isn’t as obvious as these two examples. In these cases, use your best judgment by answering the question, “So what?” when you cite your experience. If you can provide a solid answer as to how this experience relates to the job you’re applying for, it’s probably safe to include it in your resumé.

Choose the Right Volunteer Project

If you don’t yet have any volunteer work under your belt, completing a few projects after you graduate—or better yet, while you’re still a student—is a great way to prepare for the professional world. If you want to travel and volunteer during or after school, volunteer abroad programs can give you the unique opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Try to choose a location that might be useful for your future career. For example, if you want to work with an electronics company that has partners in Japan, your volunteer experience in Japan would be an asset to the company because it would improve their outreach to professionals there.

Tailor Your Resumé to the Job

There’s a good chance you’ll be applying for several different jobs during your hunt, which means that your resumé will have to be tailored to each position. Even if you’re applying to multiple jobs in the same field, the relevance of your volunteer experience will vary depending on the specifics of the job description. Make sure to carefully consider the position you’re applying for and weigh it with your experience, as well as all the other information you plan to include on your resumé. Employers will notice if you just send out a mass-produced document, which will likely cause them to simply toss it aside.

Once you start out with volunteer work in an effort to gain experience, you might find it to be a valuable experience worth continuing in your daily life even after you secure employment. Volunteering is one of the most effective ways to stay active and gain a better sense of well-being because it teaches you how to live a selfless life. In any case, even just a few experiences certainly can’t hurt your chances of finding a job, so it’s worth the effort.

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