Volunteering with Girls Scouts (or any other nonprofit) is good for the community, and for the soul. It helps us learn new skills, broaden our social circle, and become more well-rounded individuals. It can also make up an important part of work experience in a professional résumé.
Just because you didn’t earn a paycheck, doesn’t mean you didn’t acquire and develop skills that are valuable in the workplace. Here are a few tips for incorporating what you’ve learned from volunteering into your existing résumé.
- Focus on experience that is directly relevant to the position for which you are applying.
Stuffing hundreds of envelopes takes a lot of stamina, but that won’t necessarily impress your potential new employer if you’re applying for a position in middle management.
- Be descriptive (and a little creative) when listing the skills you’ve developed, but don’t go overboard.
For example, if you’ve assisted with successfully planning pick-up schedules and supervising inventory distribution within your Service Unit during “Cookie Season,” you could legitimately include your experience with logistics. If you simply drove to the warehouse to pick up your own troop’s order, that claim would be a bit of a stretch.
- Brag about specific volunteer accomplishments as they relate to the job position.
If you’re applying for a sales position, and your passion for Girl Scouting led you to recruit a significant number of new volunteers for your Service Unit, present this as a sales achievement. Be specific and share measurable results, i.e. “through targeted recruitment events, increased the number of new volunteer troop leaders within geographic region by 9%.” After all, selling a volunteer opportunity requires the same people skills as marketing a product or service: finding the right audience, identifying an individual’s needs, and presenting an opportunity that meets those needs.
- If you are a new college graduate, or if you’ve been out of the job market for a while, volunteer experience is not just résumé fluff. It’s a godsend.
You have to start somewhere, and volunteering can help young adults acquire and hone basic skills that are valuable in any number of workplace settings. Those more experienced candidates who’ve been out of work due to layoffs, downsizing, or personal life events can show an employer that they are truly self-starters who value the importance of staying active in the community, making new contacts, and continuing to build upon their skill sets.
- Speaking of making new contacts…
The connections you’ve made while volunteering in the community can be a valuable asset to a potential employer. While no one likes a “name dropper,” it may still be appropriate to talk briefly about high-profile groups and people you’ve worked with directly during your job interview.
- Don’t forget about your LinkedIn profile.
If you’re using LinkedIn as a tool in your job search (and you should be), be sure to include the same volunteer information in your profile as you do in your résumé. Ask paid non-profit staff you’ve worked with to endorse the related skills on your profile.
- In general:
- With all the different résumé formats in use today, you’ll want to tweak these tips to accommodate your preferred layout. You may find that using a functional (skills-based) format instead of a chronological listing will allow you to incorporate volunteer experience more seamlessly.
- For example: You may choose to incorporate the relevant skills you’ve acquired through both paid work and long-term volunteer service together under a single heading such as “Related Experience.” Unrelated volunteer experience and shorter assignments can be included under “Other Volunteer Service” or “Other Experience.”
- Be sure to clearly distinguish between paid employment and volunteer service, however, so a potential employer won’t think you’re trying to misrepresent your employment history.
Have you had success in incorporating your volunteer experience into your résumé? What additional tips would you share?
~Lori Tomlinson is the Manager of Communications and Marketing for Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, Inc.