There’s no doubt that volunteering abroad is enormously impactful to those who participate. And we know that employers like to see it in applicants. Up to 82% of job interviewers said they prefer applicants that have some sort of volunteer experience on their CV. Some employers even look specifically for applicants with international volunteering experience, saying it shows invaluable development of personal skills and an awareness of larger global issues.
The tricky part is knowing how to properly include it in a CV or job application. Well we’re here to help some tips covering everything from how to pick the best volunteering experience for you to properly placing that experience on your CV.
Choosing a Volunteer Experience
Choosing to volunteer is an extremely rewarding experience that will have a significant impact on both your professional and personal life. But with so many options out there, it can be overwhelming to find the best experience for you. Ultimately, it is most important to volunteer for a cause you are passionate about. It shows dedication to a cause and gives insight into your personality and what inspires you. Having a passion for your volunteering experience also provides a specific motivation for your volunteer work. A clear goal and direction behind your trip will make it more meaningful, most importantly to you, but also to potential employers.
Gaining Career Experience
If you are currently in university or a recent graduate, volunteering for an organization that aligns with your career goals can help you gain experience in your chosen field. This can be especially helpful for recent graduates who are looking for jobs and may lack professional experience. For example, through Volunteer Invest, medical students can work at a clinic in Ghana and work directly with members of the community. Getting hands on experience while helping others shows dedication both to your career and to giving back.
While interviewers may slightly prefer volunteer work that is specifically related to job skills, any type of volunteer experience is advantageous. All volunteer work develops crucial soft skills, such as adaptability, perseverance, and commitment. These skills can be emphasized even if your volunteer experience did not directly relate to your profession. If you volunteered with children in India for two months but are applying to a job in the finance sector, you can emphasize personal skills you learned abroad, such as how to be flexible in a quickly changing environment.
Should I Include my Volunteer Experience?
There are more than enough articles out there debating the pros and cons of including volunteer work on a job application. Ultimately, it comes down to a number of factors, the most important being relevancy to the potential job. If you were able to develop any relevant skills, whether they be job related skills or soft skills, including your experience on your CV will showcase this development. The time commitment involved with the project and how recent it was should also be considered. For example, if you volunteered abroad for two weeks six or seven years ago, it may be best to save that in case it becomes relevant in the interview rather than putting it on your CV.
It is also helpful to do some research about the company you are applying for. Many companies have strong social missions and encourage their employees to spend time volunteering. If this is the case, it will be especially beneficial to emphasize your experience abroad and to note how your values align with those of the company.
How to Properly Include Volunteer Experience on a CV
So you’ve decided to include your volunteer experience in your job application; that’s great! But how? Where do you put it? What do you include?
When including volunteer experience, it is best format your experience as you would format work experience. List the name of the organization as well as the position title you held, if applicable. Make your experience as quantitative and tangible as possible, listing specific examples of what you did during your volunteer experience and how your work made an impact on the organization you volunteered with. Interviewers want to know what you did and how great your experience was! If your experience was directly related to the job you are applying for, it can be listed under “Related Experience”, or even “Work Experience” if it was a long-term commitment. If it was not related to the potential job, listing it under “Volunteer Experience” works just as well!
Any way you include it, don’t underestimate the importance of your volunteer experience! Any type of volunteering is extremely valuable and shouldn’t be pushed aside on your resume or seen as “less important” than other work.
I Decided Not to List My Experience, but Still Want to Discuss it
Sometimes people choose not to include their volunteer experience on their applications for a number of reasons, even if it is something as simple as running out of room on their CV. However, that doesn’t make volunteer experience any less important. Even if you chose not to include your volunteer work, it still may be relevant in an interview or another part of the hiring process. For example, an interviewer may ask about a time you had to face adversity or adapt to a new environment. This would be the perfect opportunity to bring up your volunteer abroad experience! Even though it is not on your CV, it is still extremely relevant to the situation and it will definitely be noted by the interviewer.
The Take Away
In the end, volunteering abroad is an invaluable experience that will impact you both personally and professionally, no matter where you go or what you do. It is almost impossible to volunteer abroad and not have it change you, so let them know that in your application or interview! The impact of your volunteer experience can be as drastic as causing you to entirely change career paths to something as simple as making you a more flexible and patient person. Either way, it made an impact on your life and improved you, so let it shine through!
Want to read more? Hear about how Emily used her volunteer experience abroad to prepare for University and a medical career!
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