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How to showcase your skills-based volunteering experience to help you find a job

Did you know that many hiring managers consider volunteer experience on your CV to be as important as paid work experience?

Why? Volunteering experience can tell a potential employer many things about you, including that you can take initiative, you’re committed to working towards a better world, and that you can be a team player.

Employers highly value these qualities, so it’s important to strategically approach how you present these in your CV and any professional online platforms.

Here’s how to make your volunteering experience really stand out:

Putting volunteer experience into your CV

A clear, well-written CV can be your most powerful weapon in immediately commanding a potential employer’s attention – especially when it’s free of common errors and tailored specifically to the position for which you’re applying.

If your volunteering experience is unrelated to the area in which you’re seeking employment, add a separate ‘volunteer experience’ section to your CV – the aim is to highlight your ability to take initiative and your inclination to make a difference.

If your volunteering experience is relevant to either the role you’re applying for or the organisation you’re applying to, you can include your volunteer work as part of your general work history, being sure to acknowledge that any positions were indeed voluntary.

In both cases, explain in practical terms how you contributed to the work of the organisation for which you volunteered. Which specific skills did you use? What initiative did you take? Detail how you made an impact, including the ways you may have helped others develop their skills.

When presenting this information in your CV, the same rules apply as for paid positions. Succinctly emphasise your skills-based experience, using bullet points where possible. Don’t take up too much space or use superfluous, subjective language like ‘amazing’ and ‘moving’ – focus on the facts and demonstrate your achievements, linking to relevant online examples where possible.

For example, if you spent some time volunteering in a marketing capacity at Oxfam, you might present it in the ‘volunteering’ section in your CV as such:

Digital marketing volunteer, Oxfam Australia

  • Helped to develop, support and execute promotional activities for National Close the Gap Day.
  • Worked with the marketing team to develop messaging for digital strategy, including instigating, developing and executing a promotional video that drew more than 30,000 views.
  • Managed over 25 other volunteers in the development of the promotional video, assigning roles and directing them accordingly.
  • Video available to view at www.oxfam.org.au

Putting volunteer experience into your online profile

1. Highlight your volunteering experience on LinkedIn

LinkedIn allows you to present your volunteering experience similarly to how you showcase your paid work history and qualifications on the site.

Applying the same principles you used in your CV, use the dedicated volunteering section to create a well-rounded volunteering profile – paying attention to both your volunteering experience and the causes you care about.

Next, ask your volunteering managers and colleagues for endorsements on your skills. Get the ball rolling by endorsing them first, as many of them will undoubtedly reciprocate.

Go one step further and request a written recommendation to appear on your profile – having a third party weigh in on your experience can be a powerful tool in getting a potential employer’s attention.

2. Keep a personal blog or Medium collection

More than just a great repository for your memories or portfolio piece, a comprehensive blog that reflects on the work you did, what you took away from it and the real-world impact you made can be a boon to your job-seeking efforts. It can demonstrate that you’re reflective, resourceful and creative. And because the simple act of reflecting back on an experience helps to cement learnings and new ideas, it can also maximise the impact of your experience. Be sure to include a prominent link to your blog in any applications or online profiles.

3. Partner with your host organisation to publish your story

Got an interesting story to tell about your volunteering experience? Approach your hosting organisation to see if they’d be interested in publishing it on their blog or website. It could be a video, article or photo essay – then be sure to add this to your LinkedIn profile!

Though you might volunteer for the simple purpose of making a difference in an area or organisation you’re passionate about, employers are increasingly valuing the impact that skills-based volunteering can have for the volunteers themselves. And you can put that value to good use long after your volunteering has come to an end.

This post is based on an article originally published by Devex.

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