Does Volunteering Count As Work Experience? Maybe Not!

Are you going to graduate from college and start a job search? A few years ago, I was in your shoes, so I can sort of figuring out a few things you are struggling with. One of them is what to put on your resume when you don’t have much experience. 

The employment landscape is becoming increasingly competitive, especially for new graduates. Despite being categorized as “entry-level”, a quick glance at a job description can leave you discouraged when you see the dreaded “3 to 5 years of previous experience”. 

How are you supposed to gain experience when even entry-level jobs require experience? Perhaps you are crying out. But hey, there might be a solution for you, and it’s called volunteer work! 

In case you find yourself wondering, “Does volunteering count as work experience?”, read on. In this article, the JobandEdu team will reveal the answer and how to use volunteering in a resume to put you ahead of the pack! 

Answering A Common Question: Does Volunteering Count As Work Experience? 

What is considered “professional experience”, or “work experience”? According to user “brotherazrael” in a r/jobs thread, “When people bring up work experience, it means the experience an employee gains while working in a job, particular field, or profession.” 

is volunteering the same as work experience
So, does volunteering count as work experience? – Source: Unsplash

A short explanation, but definitely on-point. With that in mind, many recruiters and hiring managers out there agree that you can’t count volunteering as real work experience. What sets them apart from each other is that the former won’t reveal as much about your work ethic as the latter. You can take part in volunteering only in your free time, and the level of responsibility required is different from actual work.

Hence, it shouldn’t be put under the “work experience” section. But that doesn’t mean you can’t list volunteering as experience on your resume. If you play your cards right and are smart in presenting them, volunteer work can supplement more traditional work experience and put you ahead of the job-hunting game. 

Reasons Volunteering Can Make You Stand Out Of The Crowd 

In some cases, it’s still a good idea to include volunteering on your resume. This will extremely benefit you when:

  • You are early in your career without much professional experience under your belt. In that case, listing volunteer work will help you tailor your resume. 
  • Your volunteering can put you in a better position for the job you are applying for. 

For instance, you are interested in a marketing job, but all of your previous work was in retail. To gain experience in marketing, you help promote an event for a local charitable organization. That’s when volunteering will showcase your skills and interest in the field more than other experiences. 

  • You work in an industry associated with volunteer work, such as academia, healthcare, or nonprofits. 

As part of a survey conducted by Deloitte, 82% of U.S. hiring managers and recruiters stated that those with volunteering experience included on their resumes have a higher chance of being hired. Additionally, 85% suggest that the inclusion of volunteering would result in candidates’ flaws being overlooked. 

In case you wonder why, there are several reasons: 

Volunteering Is Considered A Credible Way To Gain Real-World Experience 

If you choose volunteer work related to the role or industry you want to work in, it can help you gain necessary insights into it. In fact, as long as your volunteering experience is relevant, 85% of recruiters will consider it as credible as professional experience. 

Adding Volunteering To Your Resume Help Showcase Your Skills 

Volunteering opportunities can offer the same skill-boosting opportunities as internships, but with the extra benefit of improving others’ lives. 

You can gain soft skills from volunteering
Volunteering is an excellent way to sharpen your soft skills – Source: Unsplash

The training and hands-on experience you get while participating in volunteer work can help you gain vital skills and improve the ones you already have. For instance, if you advocate and raise awareness or funding for something that interests you, you can obtain public speaking, socializing, marketing, and other hard and soft skills that are valuable on resumes.

Volunteering Demonstrates Valuable Personality Traits

Beyond what they can see from your resume, volunteering gives your potential employer a more precise portrayal of who you are as a person. If you have been laid off, including volunteer work will let the recruiters know that you have been staying active and productive during job hunting. It highlights an eagerness to learn and grow and emphasizes that you tend to spend your time proactively. 

Furthermore, it’s widely acknowledged that volunteering benefits the community, leaving you glowing at the fact that you are willing to do something good for those who need it most. 

“Volunteering depicts personality traits that a CV or an interview cannot cover”, says Bec Miller, Head of SEEK Volunteer, “What’s more, it can tell us a lot about a candidate’s commitment and devotion to causes.” 

By adding volunteer work, you are showing your reliability and willingness to contribute – Source: Unsplash

Therefore, including volunteer work in your resume also reveals your trustworthiness and social responsibility – two things any employer would seek after. 

What Type Of Volunteer Work Should Be Listed On Your Resume? 

But not any volunteering should be added to your resume. Those benefits only come if you choose the proper volunteer work that best highlights your skillset. 

First, the best type of volunteering I’d recommend are those that take place on a regular basis, such as weekly or monthly. Recruiters would like to see a persistent dedication to a job, so this can be proof of your commitment and consistency. One-time events should be avoided unless they are extremely related to the target position.

That leads us to the second key point: Relevance. As the previous part mentions, relevant volunteering experience can be as valuable as work experience. Also, this is a bit of a side note. Still, if you’ve completed a volunteer program that’s related to the position you are applying for, it can be a great source of both character references and professional references. 

Volunteering experience should be relevant
It would be a big plus to add volunteering experience relevant to your target position in  your resume – Source: Unsplash

What if you are a new job seeker with little to no work experience, and the volunteering experience you have on hand is not directly linked to your working field? In that case, any volunteer work that includes socializing, call/email, appointment setting, or technological skills like programming language would be valuable. 

Last but not least, volunteer work should be something you can tell a story about during an interview. In most cases, hiring managers may ask you about some of the experiences you mention in your resume. When that happens, you will want to talk about it in a way that will position you well for the job.

So How To Include Volunteer Work On Your Resume?

At this point, you already know that volunteering doesn’t count as work experience, and it shouldn’t be listed below a “work experience” section of your resume. So, how do you bring up volunteer work in your job application?

There are a couple of ways. The first option would be adding volunteer work to a general “experience” section, along with other related experiences you have for the job. I think it’s the best approach for new job seekers as you can put all the relevant experience, including volunteering, internships, or shadowing, in one place. This helps you fill in the blank space on your resume and showcases that you are still a considerable candidate. 

You might also include it in a “volunteer experience” that’s separated from the “work experience”. This method would be helpful if you want to add more to your professional background or showcase some relevant and impressive volunteer work.  

The video below will give you some good tips and perspective on where to put volunteer work on a resume:

How to include volunteer work on your resume? 

Nowadays, a LinkedIn profile serves as an online resume, a must-have if you want to expand your network and get more opportunities. Hence, it’s understandable if you want to know how to add volunteer experience to LinkedIn as well. Here’s a quick guide: 

  • Log into your LinkedIn account.
  • Access the “Add profile section” in your bio.
  • Select the “+” beside “Volunteer Experience” from the drop-down menu.
  • List your experience, then press “Save”.

Volunteer experience can help beef up your LinkedIn profile

Find An Opportunity For Yourself! 

Now, you no longer have to wonder, “Does volunteering count as work experience?” anymore. Although it’s not considered professional experience, volunteer work will still look great on your resume if you present it strategically. More than your skillsets, volunteering can highlight your self-development and willingness to contribute.

I’m sure that the skills you list on your resume are nothing short of impressive. But what if you use them to help the community, even when you get nothing in return? Well, that makes you look not only qualified but also conscientious.

Iris Vida

Well, Iris Vida is very into reading books from different eras, cultures, and anything that has been going viral lately, etc. Her passions can't be put in a few words only. Whether it's the "Jazz Age," a Neil Gaiman notable novel, the pitter-patter melodies of Taylor Swift's music, or anything else, she always sends the best materials to her top-notch writings, engaging all readers everywhere. Moreover, like Nick Carraway, who captured global attention with his rich and glamorous look, she leaves readers with a satisfying sense of wonder and an urge to learn more with her compelling writing style.