How is the word “volunteer” perceived on a CV/resume?

Monday, May 18th, 2009 - Blog

Perception of Volunteer

Amargosa Days 2009
Creative Commons License photo credit: Nevada Tumbleweed

Joanne asks: I sometimes hear that it’s detrimental to include the word “volunteer” on a profile, as it implies that the experience and training is not “real.” Many feel that the volunteer work should be listed, but without the word “volunteer.” However, does this imply that the work was done on a larger scale and as a paid position? Is that being dishonest? I am interested in how the word “volunteer” is perceived and not whether volunteer experience should be listed on a job application. Thanks!

In answer:

Interesting question, but I don’t think the word “volunteer” has ever had a negative or detrimental affect on any application, bar those to employers or individuals you may not want to work for.

As many are considering a work/life change towards the charity sector, the inclusion of volunteer experience would be wholly positive. Also, not all volunteer work would be perceived as less relevant that paid work: the emergency services, or the RNLI for instance; classroom assistant work is often taken up by return to work Mum’s, who easily use this relevant experience to then train as teachers.

12months ago, the words redundancy or dismissal could have been perceived as negative. Now it is accepted as just another part of this current economy. In 12months, I think a lot more people who have been out of work for more than 3/6 months will have the words volunteer or more likely rest period written on their CV/resumes. Personally, I would prefer to see volunteer over rest period.

The key issue of any period of work – paid or unpaid, work or study – you place on your CV/resume, is to address why you did it, and how it relates to your job application. Fail to do those two things, and any word can be perceived as negative.

Good Luck!

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