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How to make volunteer experience count on your resume

Maggie Stamets is a writer for BUILT BY GIRLS, which prepares the next generation of female and non-binary leaders to step into their power and break into their careers. WAVE is the backbone of BUILT BY GIRLS: it’s a 1:1 matching program that connects high school and college students with top tech professionals across the country. For more information and to sign up check out

Volunteering is an excellent way to build your skills, network, and simply keep yourself busy while looking for a job or on break from school.

Many nonprofits or social-good organizations will gladly accept help from a college student or recent grad looking to build their professional skills. But when you’re only getting paid in experience, it’s important to make it count on your resume.

Just because you didn’t receive a paycheck, doesn’t mean your work wasn’t valuable enough to include on your resume — especially if you have limited professional experience. Here’s how to make that volunteer work help you land your next job:

(Photo credit: BUILT BY GIRLS)
(Photo credit: BUILT BY GIRLS)

Include your volunteer experience in your ‘Professional Experience’ section

To give these roles the same amount of weight on your resume, include them with your other professional experience. This is especially important if you don’t have any or very little professional experience. Be sure to format this role as you do any of your paid jobs.

Connect your volunteer experience with the role you’re applying for

Highlight the valuable skills and experience you gained while volunteering. Maybe you grew your managerial skills by organizing scheduling at a food bank. Or you could have honed your partnerships and community-managing skills through reaching out to your mailing list for holiday donations. Consider the skills that are likely important to your potential employer and include those.

Make a Volunteer Experience section for unrelated volunteer work

Even if you didn’t work on any skills that directly relate to the role you’re applying for, hiring managers will appreciate seeing you as a whole person. The causes and organizations you choose to dedicate your time to say a lot about who you are and what you value. These experiences may have informed your career path in one way or another and can be used as conversation starters in an interview.

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To include these experiences, add a section at the end of your resume. Title it “Volunteer Work” or “Volunteer Experience.” Then format it similarly to your professional experience section with the name of the organization, your role, and the dates you worked there. You may not need to include any bullets about your tasks.

If you’re short on space you can just list them out like this:

Volunteer Work: Food Bank of Denver, Stock Organizer, Jan 2016- Feb 2018 l LGBTQ Center Denver, May 2018- August 2019

Think about the skills you developed while volunteering

While your volunteer work may not warrant a space under your professional experience section, the skills you develop may be important to call out.

And don’t forget to make your resume digital friendly and tailored to each job.

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