Adding Volunteer and Board Service on Resumes Can Boost Your Job Prospects
Updated: Jun 9
This is a guest blog by Karen Butterfield from Impact Opportunity
According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, candidates with volunteer experience are 27 percent more likely to get a job after being out of work than those who did not volunteer.
Many hiring managers, particularly those in the nonprofit sector, have a deep appreciation for candidates who give their time to organizations that are meaningful to them. “Volunteering sends a strong message about your commitment to a given issue area or organization. I always urge leaders to share their volunteer work on their resume, either because they’re looking to focus full-time on that social issue, via a career shift, or because they want to share more about themselves and their interests,” said Kathleen Yazbak, Founder at Viewcrest Advisors.
Aside from being personally rewarding, volunteer work and board service carry a host of career-boosting benefits:
Professional development: Serving as a volunteer or board member in an organization demonstrates that you possess knowledge and experience specific to your field. It enables you to build your personal brand while also increasing your value as a professional. Gain experience in areas like fundraising, budgeting and financial management, stakeholder communication and engagement, and event planning, which are the key to success for many nonprofit organizations.
Establish influence: Serving on the board for an organization in your core area of interest or expertise—or in another field you’d like to transition your career to—can help your resume shine, especially if you want to move from for-profit into the nonprofit sector. Not only can you hone transferable skills, but you can grow your expertise outside of your current skill set and, most importantly, demonstrate that you have a realistic and grounded view of what it will take to be successful in that field. Nonprofit board members have fiduciary responsibility which require training and diligence. If you can’t serve on a board, whether it’s because of scheduling conflicts or a lack of vacancies, even volunteering or providing pro-bono work can help make your resume more noteworthy.
“I am always impressed to see substantive board or volunteer service. If volunteering, showing a track record on a project or initiative counts, for me, as real experience. If on a board, chairing a committee lets me know that someone has delved into high-level decision making, strategy, governance and, no doubt, collaboration given this is how the work gets done. As either a volunteer or board member, there are ways to speak of tangible individual or group accomplishments. I definitely see in our search work that a leader’s future job search is strengthened by volunteer service,” Kathleen Yazbak said.
Networking opportunities: Volunteering exposes you to people you may not meet otherwise, and up to 85% of jobs are filled via networking, a LinkedIn survey shows. It’s a bonus that those serving alongside you also have similar passions and interests and can both serve as a reference and introduce you to other connections. And often, you’ll be the first to hear about new opportunities, as roles are often shared internally before being promoted to the general public.
Incorporating Service into Your Resume
Adding your board service and volunteer experience—as its own section—to your resume can be a smart and strategic move. While it can help build your resume if you lack professional experience, giving your most valuable asset—time—is evidence that you’re committed to professional and personal development. It also shows future employers relevant experience you have that might not otherwise be reflected on your resume.
For those in the nonprofit sector especially, volunteer work can be beneficial in setting you apart from other candidates. It displays your dedication to your community or cause, civic mindfulness, and your experience with organizations that have similar missions, goals, and work cultures as the field in which you’re exploring a career.
Best Practices for Including Volunteerism on Your Resume
Just like any experience you add to your resume, consider how your board service and volunteerism apply to the overall sector or role you’re interested in. The goal is to highlight related experience, special skills, leadership, or fill gaps in your resume.
Call particular attention to leadership and executive oversight experience, goal setting and strategic planning, expertise within the sector, and problem-solving abilities. Like with the employment positions on your resume, include specific titles, the scope of your responsibilities, and how it moved the needle for the organization.
Where you include volunteer experience on your resume will depend on your circumstances. If you’re an entry-level professional with little work experience, volunteer and board service can shine in a central location on your resume. It can be included in the experience section, but be sure to note the volunteer status. This also applies if you’re reentering the workforce, as it shows what you were doing during gaps in employment.
If you’re on a steady career track, volunteerism and board service still have a place on your resume, but you may not have space to include as much information. Your professional experience should still take center stage. In this case, you can list it toward the end of your resume, with the organization's name, a brief description, and the dates you volunteered.
If you’re an active volunteer, you may have to choose the most recent experiences or those that had the greatest impact to highlight. Modify your volunteer section to reflect the values of the companies that interest you, Monster.com notes.
Including volunteer experience and board service on your resume can be a great way to highlight your skills and relevant experience, and can help set you apart from other candidates vying for the same position. It can boost your confidence and brand and do a world of good for the organizations benefiting from your knowledge and expertise. Weave it into your resume, and you’ll find your volunteer experience does a world of good.