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Ask an Expert VOLUNTEERING / JAN. 21, 2017
version 5, draft 5

How can I add my volunteering experience to my CV?

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Dilemma:

I’m a recent marketing graduate, and I’ve been unemployed for the past few months. I’ve sent loads of applications to different companies for entry level positions, but it seems that without experience you can’t get a job, which is crazy. How can you get work experience without having a job?

To make matters even worse a vacancy has just come up at a media company I’d really like to work for, and I’m worried that without any relevant experience my application will be rejected. Do you think my volunteering experience will be useful? I used to work for my university newspaper and manage their social media profiles, is this the kind of experience employers look for?

Any specific tips and suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Kyriaki says:

Hey there, you are right! Unfortunately, without relevant experience, it can be difficult for anyone to find work in today’s job market. The competition is fierce, and unless you can show that you have what it takes to get a job, you are going to wander around for a long time until you find the opportunity you want.

However, not everything is lost and to answer to your enquiry; volunteering experience can go a long way to making your job application more powerful. So, if you have volunteered in the past, you should definitely include this on your CV. Being a volunteer not only shows that you have an interest in the field or the job you are applying for, but it also shows that you are a well-rounded individual who takes the initiative and goes after what he/she wants. Since you are just starting out in your career, it’s important to include on your CV all the information you think can make you a desirable employee, and this also includes your interests and hobbies.

If you decide to add volunteering experience on your CV, make sure you do the following:

  • Put volunteering experience after work history: this will help to make it more obvious. If you have no paid work experience, you can replace this with your volunteering activities, internships and any other work placements you have undertaken.  
  • Provide the necessary information: include the name of the organisation, title and how long you volunteered.
  • Be specific: if the role you had as a volunteer isn’t clear, make sure that you give examples of what you have done, referring to your duties.
  • Highlight achievements: demonstrate how volunteering has prepared you for the role you are applying for through the skills you have built e.g. leadership, teamwork, time management, cultural awareness or language skills – if you have volunteered abroad.

If you manage to present this information effectively on your CV, it can give a great boost to your chances of getting a job.

University newspaper and social media experience is exactly the kind of volunteer experience you need to have to get a job in the modern media industry. Also, nearly every employer is using social media as part of their recruitment strategy so including a link to your LinkedIn profile and an updated blog can be a great addition to any CV no matter what job you are applying for.

If you need any more help, let me know! In the meantime, you can check out the following articles to get some relevant advice:

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