One aspect of a resume that many people overlook, but that I believe can be helpful in the job search, is work-related volunteer experience. Work-related volunteer experience can have a positive impact on a resume in that it can substitute for basic experience for those that have none, and it also speaks positively about someone’s goodwill and personality. I have personally witnessed applicants with little experience get hired by senior hiring managers because they were impressed with the technical volunteer experience on the resume, so I know first hand that it can help.
If technology-related volunteering is something you’re considering adding to your resume, the two questions you may be wondering are, 1) how do I go about lining up this experience, and 2) how do I know if the experience will be of value to me and my resume? Let’s address those questions now.
Lining Up Volunteer Experience
Most non-profits and local organizations have technical support needs but do not have technical support resources. With that in mind, brainstorm the organizations that you, your family and your friends are associated with. These groups are easier to get connected with because you’re already connected in some way. Consider what churches, recreation councils, non-profit organizations, private schools and small businesses are in your area. What are your personal interests and passions and what local organizations are related to these interests? Once you’ve narrowed down who you’d be interested in helping, connect with them and ask them how you can help. Give them time to consider what needs they may have. A good way to approach this is to ask them to consider their needs and let them know you’ll circle back with them in a week. Give them the opportunity to ask around the office and brainstorm internally. And do all of this in person. This is more effective than email. By far.
Making Sure the Experience Will Be Valuable
I’ve found one of the best ways to verify a project or volunteer experience will be resume-worthy is to measure it against three parameters. If you meet these three parameters, you are virtually guaranteed to have a great project or volunteer experience that a hiring manager will want to hear about.
- Need – Make sure the work you’ll be completing serves a true need for the organization. The last thing you want is a project that is just busy-work or one that really doesn’t move the organization forward. For example, if you offer to take out the trash for me, but it’s already been done or it’s something I can do for myself, then you’re not really meeting a need and are at risk of completing a project that doesn’t have much impact.
- Impact – Make sure your efforts will result in a positive impact for the organization. If you worked on a project that was needed, but they aren’t any better off for you having been there because you didn’t complete the project or deliver results, then that’s nothing to write home about. Make sure your work created a positive impact for the organization.
- Expertise – Make sure you’re leveraging your expertise and technical knowledge. There are plenty of ways to volunteer, but you want to make sure the work focuses on the skills you want to sell to an employer. Going back to our prior example, you could volunteer to take the trash out for me, but it’s far more impactful if you fix a computer system or provide some coding, because it’s much more likely to be something the organization can’t do for themselves. This is what makes it a strong addition to the resume.