What Makes a Good Volunteer Experience?

Did the template you used include a volunteer experience section when creating your resume? Do you currently have a volunteer section

By Larissa Lopes
Updated on July 25, 2022
What Makes a Good Volunteer Experience?

Did the template you used include a volunteer experience section when creating your resume? Do you currently have a volunteer section on your resume?

What Makes a Good Volunteer Experience
What Makes a Good Volunteer Experience

When should you include volunteer experience on your resume? What qualifies as volunteer work? And what types of volunteer work look best on your resume? We’ve got the answers for you below.

You can learn more about including volunteer experience on your resume here.

When to include volunteer experience

The volunteer work section on your resume is an optional resume section. It’s not required, so it is up to you to decide whether you will include it.

Certain circumstances may make using a volunteer section ideal. First, you can use a volunteer experience section to flesh out a skinny resume. If you’re having trouble filling the page, consider inserting this section.

Volunteer experience looks especially good on student resumes with little to no work experience. This is because volunteerism demonstrates positive, transferable qualities like responsibility, work ethic, and compassion.

Finally, you can leverage volunteer work if it is directly related to the job you are pursuing. For example, imagine you are making a change mid-career. If you’re seeking a teaching job, you can use a volunteer tutoring history to show you already possess valuable teaching skills.

So, on the other hand, if you’re having trouble keeping your resume to one page or if you have a thriving work experience section, feel free to omit the volunteer work.

What is volunteer work?

What counts as volunteer work? “According to the Department of Labor,” says one nonprofit resource, “A volunteer is someone who volunteers hours for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons without promising, expecting, or receiving any compensation for services rendered.”

Volunteer work, therefore, is an unpaid, non-employment service you perform for a nonprofit organization. Your volunteer work should benefit others in a tangible way. Common examples of volunteer service include tutoring, building homes for or providing meals to low-income families, raising money for charities, caring for pets at an animal shelter, cleaning up litter, or providing material relief following a natural disaster.

Some volunteer work may assist for-profit businesses like zoos, hospitals, senior living centers, etc.

Some pro bono work may qualify as volunteer experience. For example, suppose you build a website for a local charitable organization. In that case, you can include this experience in your Volunteer Work section – especially if web development or coding skills are relevant to the job you seek.

What type of volunteer work is best?

If you’re trying to select the best volunteer work to do with your resume in mind, your choice should fall into one of the following categories.

Do something you love to have a good volunteer experience

Choose a cause or an organization you are passionate about. You will enjoy the experience more, and you’ll still be learning valuable skills. If you speak about your volunteer work at a job interview or networking event, your enthusiasm – a valuable quality – will shine through.

You can also build your resume by participating in volunteerism related to your selected field. For example:

  • If you plan to be a veterinarian, volunteer at your local animal shelter
  • If you want to be a zookeeper, ask about volunteer opportunities at your local zoo
  • And if you plan to enter the medical field, volunteer at a hospital as a greeter or “candy striper”
  • To build construction skills, volunteer with Habitat for Humanity or a similar organization
  • If you plan to enter politics, volunteer to work the voting poles.

How to cite volunteer work on your resume

You can cite volunteer experience in two ways. So, the first and most common way is to include a Volunteer Experience section. You will then list the volunteer work in the same manner as to work experience. Consider the following template.

Volunteer Experience

Volunteer, [organization name], [city], [state], [date to date]

  • [A bulleted list of tasks]

Another way to include volunteer service on your resume is to present it in your job description. So, this method should be used if you have an established career and your volunteerism consists of pro bono work related to your job. For example, if you are a lawyer, your work experience might look something like this:

Work Experience

Licensed Attorney, XYZ Law Firm, New York, NY

May 2015 to January 2022

  • Conducted background research and visited crime scenes to discover evidence relevant to the defense of victims of violent crimes.
  • Provided pro bono assistance to needy clients, tackling 6 to 8 pro bono cases per year; judges ruled in favor of these clients in 88 percent of cases.

In Conclusion

You can leverage volunteer work to flesh out a student resume, assist with a career change, or bolster your work experience when you select passionate causes or align with your career field.