Does volunteering count as work experience?
If you are looking to gain some work experience, then you might consider volunteering. But is volunteering considered work experience?
As defined by the Department of Labor, volunteering is doing time of service without pay for an organization with charitable, humanitarian, or community purposes.
In other words, you are willingly working for an organization without payment so as to help others. Which is a commendable thing to do. And it is something that indeed benefits you in terms of work experience and employability!
And that’s what counts the most!
So let’s take a closer look at how volunteering can help you further your career and professional development.
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Is volunteering considered a job or work?
Volunteering is neither a job nor a work as far as labor laws/regulations in most states and countries are concerned.
Volunteers do not have employment contracts and are not considered employees of the organization that receives the hours of volunteering.
Volunteers don’t have official job descriptions, they are not on the payroll, and don’t have employee benefits.
Volunteering is a willingly accepted role within an organization without the expectation of compensation. However, in most states and countries, volunteering is under the radar of the local governing bodies so there are usually some rules attached to it.
Volunteers, like all people, members of the public, have rights. Therefore are protected by all local laws such as Health & Safety, and those against harassment and exploitation.
If you consider volunteering for an organization, make sure to check what your local laws and regulations say about this activity and what your rights are. And don't forget that you can acquire work experience through an internship.
Does volunteering increase employability?
Is volunteering considered work experience by employers? I say yes. Volunteering definitely increases employability, no matter where it took place and under what circumstances.
It is a valuable experience, especially for someone who has no previous work experience.
Volunteer time is something that can be featured in a work resume and most employers will be happy to see if it is somehow relevant to the job you are applying for.
So you can definitely take the time to explain in detail what you did during your volunteering time and how it made you a better professional. Also, volunteering is great but if you are after full-time employment, you can check our guide on getting a job without previous experience.
How does volunteering enhance your skills?
Volunteering can enhance your soft and professional skills in multiple ways, depending on the nature of the work that you are doing.
Here are a few examples of professional skills that you can acquire or improve during volunteer work for various organizations.
- Communication and negotiation skills
- Critical thinking and problem-solving
- Project development and management
- Planning and time management
- Public (customer) service
- Language practice
- Research skills
But the fact that you don't have previous work experience doesn't mean that you can't apply for some jobs.
Can you use volunteer work as a reference?
If you have volunteered before and you are about to apply for a job, you might be wondering – does volunteer work look good on a resume?
I definitely urge you to use your volunteer work as a reference in your resume. You can contact the organization that you volunteered for and ask them for a written statement about the work that you did for them and your qualities.
It would be best if you can directly speak to the person who was in charge of you. Hopefully, they were happy to have you as volunteers and appreciated the work that you did.
I am sure that they will be willing to spare a moment a write a few good words about you. On another note, have you considered applying for a seasonal job since they usually have low entry requirements?
What counts as volunteer work on a resume?
Pretty much any type of volunteering that you have done, be it for school or for some other organization, counts as volunteer work on your resume.
But should you put volunteer work on your resume if it is not relevant to the position you are applying for? Absolutely!
The purpose of including volunteer work on your resume, be it relevant or not, is to show your potential employer that you are a reliable person who can carry out preestablished duties within a work environment. So you can include anything that fits this category.
If there is a particular organization that you want to join, then here is how you can approach them through email.
How to include volunteer work on a resume
You can include volunteer work on your resume any way you see fit. There are no special rules or requirements about volunteer experience on a resume.
Can you put volunteer work under work experience? Yes, you can! Even though volunteer work is not “official work experience” it is still relevant work-related experience so you can list it without worries.
It all depends on the particular template that you have chosen for your resume. Some have designated sections where you can mention volunteer work any other types of “out of work” activities such as organizing a book club for example.
So don’t worry about where to put volunteer experience on your resume. You’ll be just fine as long as you mention it somewhere.
Still, if your volunteer work experience is highly relevant to the position you are applying for, don’t be afraid to list it under work experience.
No HR professional or manager will look at your resume and be like “Hey, this is not listed under the correct category, we can’t hire this person!” After you send your resume, you might get a phone call from a recruiter – find out about the signs that your phone screening went well here.
- Volunteering is not considered official work experience but it can still be relevant experience when applying for a position.
- Volunteering increases your employability because it shows that you are a capable and reliable person.
- Volunteer work can benefit your professional development by helping you to acquire professional and soft skills.
- Can you put volunteer work as work experience? Absolutely! Do it even if it is not relevant to show that you are a reliable hard-working person.