It’s common to think that only paid work is relevant, but unpaid voluntary work can be a great addition to your CV. It can help you to incorporate more
skills, demonstrate your commitment to helping others in your community and show off some of the person behind the career. But how should you present volunteering on a CV?
There are two main categories of job seeker who could add voluntary work to their CV – those just starting out in their career and those who’ve already made some progress up the career ladder.
If you’re looking for your first job
At the very beginning of your career, you may feel like you have nothing to write on your CV.
With no formal or paid work to include, voluntary experience can very well plug the gap. Here are just a few examples of volunteering to get you started – there are bound to be plenty more!
- Work experience through school or college – it may only have been for a week or two, but every little counts
- The volunteering section of your Duke of Edinburgh award – even if you no longer do it, you’ll have gained valuable skills and experience
- Helping friends, family and neighbours – for example cleaning cars, babysitting or feeding pets
- Positions of responsibility related to your
hobbies – maybe you led a sports team or looked after younger children at a club you belong to, for example
All of these voluntary jobs are worth including on your CV if you’ve never had a paid job. As your career progresses, you’ll probably choose to remove the less relevant ones and focus mainly (or even solely) on paid work, but this initial volunteering on your CV can be invaluable in convincing potential employers to consider your application.
If you’re established in your career
If you’ve already made inroads into your career and have a decent amount of paid work experience behind you, the approach to putting volunteering on your CV will vary depending on your situation.
If you’ve had a
career break, you could include voluntary work in your Career History section to help explain any gaps in the chronology. Minimal detail is necessary, unless it’s directly relevant to your career.
If you’re looking for a new job that’s more related to your voluntary work than your previous career, you might like to make your volunteering the focus. The easiest way to do this is to add a Voluntary Experience section above the Career History and put the details in there. Focus the volunteering on role-specific responsibilities and the career section on transferable skills.
In any other situation, it really depends on how much value the volunteering would add to your CV. If it’s not really relevant to your current career aspirations, you may not want to mention it at all, or you could simply include one line at the bottom saying that you volunteer in a particular role at a particular organisation.
Otherwise, if you’ve gained
skills from your volunteering that aren’t evident elsewhere on your CV but could be relevant in your next role, add a Voluntary Experience section below your Career History. Explain not just your responsibilities, but which skills you’ve gained, how you’ve used them and how this has benefited the organisation.
If you’re in a position of significant responsibility or leadership, for example a Trustee or Board Member, it’s always worth a mention in some capacity. Whether you give it a single line or a whole section is up to you – everyone will give it a different weight, depending on their previous career, current objectives and
space available on the page.
How to add volunteering on your CV
You’ll need to include the position you held (guess at a relevant job title if it wasn’t a formal position – for example Dog Walker or Babysitter). You could add “(Voluntary)” after the job title, if you wish, or even just use “Volunteer” as the job title, if you’re really stuck.
Then list the name of the organisation you worked for, the dates you worked there and your responsibilities. The focus of the responsibilities could be transferable skills, if the volunteering isn’t related to your target role, or role- or sector-specific skills, if it is. Show how you contributed to the organisation or made a difference – it’s great to show a potential employer what you’ve
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to including volunteering on your CV. The key to getting it right is viewing it from the perspective of a potential employer, asking yourself how you can use the experience to better sell your suitability for the role and influencing the reader to progress your application. Above all, try to keep details of your volunteering relevant, concise and in line with the requirements of the job you’re applying for.