How Volunteer Experience Can Help Job Seekers

Your unpaid work just might pay off!

Job seekers should consider a new mantra: “Give back, and you shall receive.” Including volunteer experience on your resume could help you land a job, according to a new survey.

Some 41% of nearly 2,000 professionals said that when evaluating candidates’ resumes, they consider volunteer experience to be equally as valuable as paid work experience, according to a survey from LinkedIn.

“There’s a misconception that volunteer work doesn’t qualify as ‘real’ work experience,” said Nicole Williams, connection director at LinkedIn and author of Girl on Top, a career guide that takes its lessons from the world of dating. What people need to keep in mind, Williams said, is that many qualities that make an applicant attractive, such as diverse, relevant skill-sets, can come from unpaid, part-time work.

“When you have a competitive labor market, and a hiring manager has 10 to 15 equally qualified applicants, volunteering can be the thing that ends up differentiating you and getting you over the line,” she said. In fact, 20% of the hiring managers surveyed said they have made a hiring decision based on a candidate’s volunteer experience.

Yet, only 45% of those surveyed actually include their volunteer experience on their resumes. To that end, LinkedIn has introduced a new feature, “Volunteer Experience and Causes,” a space for members to list volunteer work on their profiles. When you’re job searching, keep a lookout for ridiculous job listings. These help-wanted ads will make you laugh.

Nicole Kennedy, a Washington, D.C.-area non-profit industry professional, took on volunteer work after leaving a role in technology sales.

“While I was looking for a non-profit job, my friend suggested I try volunteering in the interim,” she said. “Some organizations have a time commitment — such as a certain number of hours they’d like you to work each week — but I was in such a state of flux as a job seeker that I didn’t know what I wanted to commit to.”

Kennedy began “microvolunteering” with, a San Francisco-based website which works to match the needs of charities with appropriately skilled volunteers. In Kennedy’s case, volunteering helped her discover what she wanted to do professionally (this story of a former president’s volunteer career will inspire you).

After volunteering at several organizations looking for help with their social-media strategies, Kennedy said she discovered her niche. “It made me see the importance of having a social-media strategy, and that I liked doing it.” Since, she has landed a full-time role with a national non-profit organization, helping with social-media, event planning and execution, volunteer recruiting and grant writing.

Among‘s users, Kennedy is not alone. According to a recent online survey the site conducted among its users, 87% use Sparked to showcase their professional skills, and 63% are currently looking for a new job. The company’s CEO, Ben Rigby, said he’s seen many Sparked users add their microvolunteering projects as jobs or activities on their LinkedIn profile.

Aside from gaining professional skills and expertise, taking on volunteer work can be rejuvenating, and can help stave off the doldrums that often accompany unemployment.

Visit for more on how volunteer work can help you find a job.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest