Let me ask you a question: do you use the Volunteer Experience box on LinkedIn? If you have volunteer experience, then I hope the answer is yes. I’m not saying it will be a difference-maker in getting you a job — you still need a solid core profile as well. What I am saying is that a good recruiter can tell a lot from that experience.
Showcasing your Volunteer Experience shows you’re altruistic
Volunteer work differs from work-work in one glaringly obvious way: volunteers aren’t paid. In today’s time-obsessed world, you’re a good person if you donate your time to a worthy cause. How does being a good person matter to your job search?
It shows you’re a good culture fit. Today’s business world is seeing a shift toward socially-conscious capitalism. Consumers, especially millennial consumers, demand brands to be environmentally and socially responsible. In order for brands to achieve the goal of such a reputation, they need good people from the bottom up. Not to mention your volunteer experience makes your more attractive to B-Corps and nonprofits.
Showcasing your Volunteer Experience can show off soft skills
This point piggy-backs on the previous — it’s pretty much impossible by looking at a person’s resume to tell if that person cares about anything other than themselves. You can’t tell if the candidate has interpersonal skills like compassion and a desire to help others. You can’t tell if the person is good at working with others.
Your volunteer experience shows off these interpersonal skills with concrete evidence. It can also show off other hard skills depending on your position. For example, being President of your fraternity or sorority chapter in college shows that you have leadership skills.
Your volunteer experience also shows you believe in something bigger than yourself. This is important when it comes to culture fit. A recruiter who sees this experience in a candidate is more likely to deduce that the candidate will be an employee who will fall in line with the company’s overall mission.
Showcasing your Volunteer Experience attracts networking opportunities
In my mission statement I outline my five drives, and one of them is embodied by this quote: “Your Network is Your Net Worth.”
I believe people should always pursue opportunities to grow their respective networks, which, in my opinion, is one of the greatest benefits of volunteering. It is emotionally rewarding in that you grow your network through the people you help, and it is professionally rewarding in the contacts you make with those you volunteer with.
Listing your volunteer experience on your LinkedIn profile provides an instant common ground with anyone who browses your profile and believes in the same cause. Even better, it can lead to meaningful connections with people who have also volunteered with the same organization. All of these could potentially lead to a job opportunity someday…you never know.
Like I said in the intro, I’m not hyping up volunteer experience to be the secret sauce of a successful job search (if you’re looking for that, then I have a book for you). All I’m saying is that if you have this experience, you absolutely should be highlighting it on your LinkedIn profile. Just because you weren’t paid, doesn’t mean the experience has no value.