In a world where Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a real department in many large corporations, it’s becoming more and more important to show that personal social responsibility is a priority for you too. Right or wrong (there are plenty of arguments on both sides) companies are spending more and more of the marketing budgets on causes related to their communities and industries. Increasing CSR marketing equals an even better opportunity to work with companies that share your same passions. It’s also a great opportunity to show companies you share their passion for volunteering in the community.
Your volunteer experience is something you certainly want to highlight on your resume. Unless the volunteer experience has equalled that of a full time job (and some certainly do), I recommend listing the experience at the end of the resume. Be sure to include the organizations you’ve volunteered for, their location, and the role you held such as board member, marketing committee member, etc. If the volunteer position has provided you the opportunity to gain specific experiences, be sure and list those too. Lots of valuable information can be gleaned from experience as a volunteer and it’s certainly worth highlighting.
The other reason to list volunteer experience is because it provides an opportunity to relate to the interviewer. Perhaps you’re interviewing with an employer who serves on the United Way Board of Directors in your area. Highlighting your experience reading to school children through a United Way program is going to give you something to talk about. This will also give the interviewer potentially mutual contacts who can act as references. Never underestimate the power of a reference from those you volunteer for/with. One of your top 5 goals in an interview is to show that you’re a good fit for the company, volunteering shows the interviewer you have compassion and you want to give back.
Volunteering is also a great way to network professionally. People do business with people they like and with people who keep their word. Volunteers learn real quickly who is committed to their cause and who isn’t. A shared passion for a cause will often lead to shared professional opportunities or at the very least people who are willing to be references for you when making a change. Those you volunteer with are often well connected in the community and may also have connections that will help you move ahead. When building your list of connections, be sure to include those you volunteer with and who they may know.