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Putting Unpaid and Volunteer Work in Your Resume

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volunteer work with dogs

We often do a lot of volunteer and unpaid work as a labour of love or for a cause where the goal is not monetary benefit but the achievement of a desired outcome and we know our efforts count to achieve something greater than ourselves. Very often we learn soft skills that we might not in the corporate world like managing a group of 4 year olds at a birthday party or babysitting. My two cents – it requires the qualities of patience, tact and alertness as any parent would tell you. 

So why put your unpaid and volunteer work in your resume?

Well, for starters would you like to change your career? Have you been out of work and need to justify how you spent your time other than putting it down in your resume that you have been applying for jobs in a recessionary market? Everyone knows how difficult it is but yet the question can be asked at an interview.

Sometimes an opportunity comes along where it is your outside office work and interests that can make or break your being a winner, a point that I made in my post on hobbies and interests in a resume.


As a successful criminal lawyer friend of mine who often does pro bono work tells me repeatedly, if you have done the work, put it in your resume. Experience counts. 

As an example, let us look at volunteer work for the local canine shelter. The skills would vary depending upon the kind of work you did but there is responsibility and team work.  So you could write:


Volunteered my time for Bow Wow Canine Shelter for 2 years where my key role and responsibilities included

  • Reported on time in the morning  to walk the dogs/ change dressing of injured dogs

  • Planned and co-ordinated fund raising and pet adoption drives

  • Liaised with local authorities when abuse cases were brought to the attention of the shelter

  • Provided unpaid staff leadership in the absence of the supervisor

  • Was in charge of petitions for preventing cruelty to animals

There may be milestones you achieved. For example getting stray dogs vaccinated through the local municipal office’s sponsorship, more volunteer surgeon vets for serious cases, more adoptions and more awareness of kindness to animals in general.

As a starting point, make a list of all the unpaid or volunteer work you have done. Like with regular jobs, compile the dates of the beginning and ending of the volunteer/unpaid work, organization name, position held, job description and any significant achievements and contributions.  Depending on the job you are applying for; bring out the specific skill sets you used. 

Last but not least, do remember to ask the organization that you volunteered for to give you a reference.

Written By: Vatsala Shukla

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2 Responses to “Putting Unpaid and Volunteer Work in Your Resume”

  1. Tamuria says:

    It is so easy to overlook all the skills we have to offer through unpaid and volunteer work. Years ago I did a TAFE course specially designed to get stay at home mums back into the workforce. None of us felt we had much to offer (I had been a journalist, but that was years before) until the teacher pointed out all the multi-tasking skills required to run a home efficiently and raise children. When we added volunteer work to our list we all came up with pretty impressive resumes.This is a great reminder not to overlook all the wonderful and skillful things we do that we do not get paid for.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      That is so true, Tamuria. I’m so glad you’ve shared your story.

      In the days when my Mom stayed at home to look after my sister and me and play hostess for my father’s career diplomat job, my father acknowledged her contribution and role and would often tell us that Mummy’s skills were good enough to administrate an office! My mother did a lot of charity and volunteer work in those days as the Secretary of the International Women’s Group and I am sure that had she wanted to take up a career at a later date, she would have gotten a job. It is another story that she found self-expression through her art. One must not discount unpaid or volunteer work because there are skills that we learn which others may have to pay to learn. 🙂

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When my clients first come to me, they are not in a very happy place and need clarity about themselves and their chosen vocation. Their professional problems are playing havoc with other areas of their life. They know they need to take radical steps to change the status quo but they also know that they need support and accountability to get them their desired result.

I really get it, because at one point, I also experienced getting lost in my work rationalizing decisions that were detrimental to the other aspects of my life. I’ve struggled with and won battles of stress management, life balance and career decisions to emerge in a place where I can confidently say that I live my desired life according to my personal Manifesto and have created a business that provides me with a platform for my desired lifestyle and self-expression for myself. I want that for you too!

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