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Volunteer experience on resume: how to use it effectively

How to list volunteer experience on resume: Includes how to find volunteer work, different ways volunteer work can impact your future career, and where/how to put volunteer experience on your resume (with examples!).



Volunteering is an amazing way to deepen your life experience. You can learn new things, meet interesting people, and grow strong bonds with a community.

Whether you volunteer at home or abroad, you are sure to gain some valuable skills and connections through a volunteering experience.

Why volunteer?

For young people today, there is a lot of pressure to grow a career, and to do it in a timely fashion.

Especially in countries like the USA, you are expected to go right from high school to university, then get an internship and a job as soon as possible. You are expected to advance in your field until you have a prestigious position and a great salary.

But this path isn’t for everyone. Some people don’t know exactly what career they want. Some people want to take some time to explore the world, experience new things, and grow as a person before they commit to a career. Some people even make a career out of traveling.

Volunteering is the perfect way to try new things. You can travel, work in different environments, practice new languages, and do it all without any contracts or long-term commitments.

And if you apply yourself well and take it seriously, you can include your volunteer experience in your resume and use your new knowledge to help your future career.

How to have a volunteer experience

If you are interested in volunteering, think carefully about what type of experience you want.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you want to travel and live immersed in a new culture?
  • Do you want to volunteer at home and get more involved in your local community?
  • Do you want to volunteer in a field you are talented in and passionate about?
  • Or do you want to try something completely new and learn more about yourself?

If you want to include volunteer experience on your resume, consider picking a volunteer job that is related to the field you may want to work in.

For example, when I was 20, I thought I may want to pursue jobs in tourism and travel writing. So I volunteered at international businesses, hostels, and eco lodges doing tasks like writing, social media, and hospitality. These volunteer experiences related to the jobs I would apply for in the future, so they fit in well with my resume.

Alternatively, you may have a specific career in mind, but you want to gain life experience doing different things. You can volunteer at an animal shelter, at a permaculture farm, or help tutor a local family’s kids.

These may not relate to your job, but they are valuable experiences that you can still put on a resume, just in a different section. We’ll dive into that later.

Worldpackers is a great platform to start volunteering. This company offers a lot of different types of projects worldwide. Besides, they have a trained team to help you and your host to have a fun and safe experience.

From NGOs in rural towns to hostels in the most popular destinations worldwide, there's a huge range of volunteering opportunities.

Once you decide what kind of volunteer experience you want, Worldpackers makes it really simple to find a volunteer job. Using their online platform, you can search for the type of work you want to do or the destination you want to volunteer in.

Then you just directly message the hosts and discuss your arrangement. Be sure to discuss travel dates, whether visas are required or not, and what is included in your work exchange (such as accommodation, meals, etc.)

You can also message other Worldpackers travelers to ask them about their volunteering experiences.

If you are volunteering at home, you can just talk to local businesses in person about what sort of volunteer work they may be looking for. Use local job search websites as well.

How to put your volunteer experience on resume

Now that you know how to have a volunteer experience, let’s get into the topic of “how to put your volunteer experience on a resume”.

I will break the article down into the different types of volunteering I mentioned earlier, because that affects where you would put it on your resume.

The categories include:

  • Relevant To Your Career: Whether at home or abroad, this volunteer work gave you skills and experience that is relevant to the job you are applying for.
  • Not Relevant To Your Career: Whether at home or abroad, this volunteer work isn’t relevant to your career but was still a valuable experience.
  • Volunteering Abroad/Gap In Resume: If you took time off to go traveling and volunteering around the world, you will most likely have a gap in your resume. Here is how to list your gap year travels and volunteer work in an effective way.

How to list volunteer work on resume: relevant to your career

If you have done volunteer work that is relevant to the job you are applying for, you can include it under the “Work Experience” section.

The “Work Experience” section of your resume is usually the biggest, and the most important. This is where employers check to see if you have valuable experience in their field, and whether or not your skills will be useful.

List it the same as you would a normal job, and put “Volunteer” as your job title. Be sure to list how long you volunteered, where you volunteered, and the types of tasks you did there.

You don’t need to list every little thing you did, but mention the most important and valuable things.

Another reason to include volunteering in the “Work Experience” section of your resume, is if you don’t have much actual work experience in your field.

Whether you are young, or you’re changing careers, include volunteering if it is somewhat relevant, and you have no other experience to list.

Examples of volunteer experience on resume 

If you are applying for an admin role, here is an example of volunteer work that may be relevant, and how to list that on a resume.

Hostel Receptionist Volunteer, XXXX Hostel, London UK

July 2020 - September 2020

  • Ran the reception desk in a busy hostel in Central London
  • Duties includes checking in international guests, organizing bookings, handling payments
  • Practiced customer service, organizational skills

If you are applying for a media marketing or writing role, here is an example of how to put volunteering on a resume.

Social Media Volunteer, XXXX Local Business, South Africa

July 2020 - September 2020

  • Managed the social media accounts for an up-and-coming local business
  • Created all content including photos, videos, and blogs to showcase new projects
  • Practiced photo editing, video editing, copywriting, researching, and formatting on Wordpress
  • Gained 30+ new followers per week and increased engagement by 10%

How to list volunteer work on resume: not relevant to your career

If you had a unique volunteer experience that was not necessarily relevant to the job you are applying for, you can still include the volunteer experience on a resume.

Instead of listing it under “Work Experience”, create a new section for “Volunteer Experience”. Many employers still like to see volunteering experience on a resume. It shows you are a compassionate and well-rounded individual.

If the volunteering isn’t related to the job, you don’t have to go into as much detail. Just include bullet points that list the most important things you did and learned. If you gained any language skills abroad, include that as well!

Volunteer experience on resume examples

After work experience, include a section like this:

Volunteer Experience

  • Volunteer at the local animal shelter once a month
  • Worked as a housekeeper in a family-run Airbnb in France to practice French
  • Volunteered as an activities coordinator at a hostel in Thailand
  • Worked on a permaculture farm in Mexico to learn about sustainability

These may not be relevant to your job, but they show your employer you have a wide range of skills and experiences that could be useful in the future.

How to list volunteer work on resume: volunteering abroad/gap in resume

If you took time off to volunteer abroad, still include it in your resume because it accounts for the gaps in your work experience.

When employers see gaps in a resume, they want to know why you weren't working. Were you contributing to society and doing something interesting or productive? Or were you just doing nothing? Volunteering is a great way to show travel in a constructive way.

If you just decided to backpack and party around the world, there isn’t really anything work-related to put on your resume (even though traveling is usually valuable whether you volunteer or not.) 

But if you volunteered while traveling, you can show that you weren’t just gallivanting around the world, you were growing and learning.

You can list it on your resume like this:

Volunteer experience on resume examples: gap year

Volunteer Experience

Took a gap year to gain valuable life experience and immerse myself in new cultures. I volunteered in the following places:

  • Local school in Vietnam from Jan-Feb 2020
  • Animal shelter in Cambodia from March-April 2020
  • Eco farm in Thailand from June-August 2020
  • Local hospitality restaurant/hotel in New Zealand from Sep-Dec 2020

Now you’ve accounted for an entire year of your resume where you weren’t working a traditional job at home. This shows you have decided to travel and learn about new cultures, while giving back to the community and practicing interesting skills.

Conclusion: volunteer experience on resume is always a good thing

The key to putting volunteer experience on your resume in an effective way is just deciding WHERE to put it.

If it is relevant to your job, put it under work experience and include all the useful skills and tasks you had. If it is not relevant, list it under volunteer experience so employers can see it, but it’s not the focus.

If you took time off to travel and volunteer, list that on your resume but emphasize that you still were productive.

For more tips on how volunteering can be conducive to finding a career, check out these articles:

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