Your voluntary experience might be more relevant than you think

You would expect to see details of previous employment on any CV, but in what cases should you make reference to your voluntary experience? And, how seriously is such information likely to be taken by recruiters?

Many employees will have felt some sort of job uncertainty in recent years and for whatever reason may have taken up voluntary positions in order to simply keep busy or learn new skills to broaden their horizons. It may be that a student or school leaver approaching the time when employment is calling may have seen a voluntary position as a good way to gain experience or simply show willingness to work.

Valuable experience

The bottom line is that valuable experience will have been gained from voluntary work. Many placements will include exposure to tasks such as fundraising and campaigning, allowing volunteers to learn useful skills. Having had such access to general life skills whilst testing existing teamwork, communications and leadership understandings can only be a positive.

It would be all too easy for employers to simply overlook voluntary experience at the risk of actually missing out on a whole pool of talented individuals by doing so. Where someone has taken it upon himself or herself to make the most of their time by investing back into the community, it shows something about the person individually. It can also serve as a good example to younger people about ways to go about gaining relevant experience and confidence. Actual work, whether in a paid or voluntary setting, also gives individuals something other than simply qualifications to refer back to. Many companies these days are fully aware of their social responsibilities, so for someone to show this form of awareness fits in well with the modern sense of corporate consciousness.

Wide ranging skills

From an employer’s point of view, having staff with wide ranging skills can prove extremely advantageous. Many businesses now have to be conducive to change and ready to diversify in order to survive. Employing people with the ability to move between disciplines and emerge with enhanced and new skills fits in well in modern times. It also helps to prove and ensure that employers remain progressive and forward thinking. Talent and potential can present themselves in very different ways and at differing stages of people’s lives, meaning that this is applicable to workers of all ages and experience.

Indeed, rather than waiting to be informed of such experience perhaps employers should actively enquire after such experience and view it as something extra to be placed in the ‘positives’ column. Any bridge that can be made between a company and its community has to be positive and the added skills that are usually evident as a result suggests that evidence of social or voluntary action should be integrated more widely into any organisations people development and resourcing strategy.