Putting Volunteer Experience on Your Resume: Transferring your unpaid skills, knowledge, and insight to the workplace

By J. Carroll, K. Wolfe

Volunteer projects and programs teach life skills. Communication, citizenship, decision-making, leadership, interpersonal relations, and community/global awareness are central to volunteer participation in community activities. These skills help prepare people for their next steps, whether in school or the workplace. Sometimes translating the unpaid experiences to an employment, award, or school application can seem difficult. Unpaid experiences at any level can count toward your next goal. Here are three common questions about how to transfer volunteer skills, knowledge and insight to the workplace.

1. Which volunteer skills and experiences are fitting for future jobs, award applications, or academic interests?

a. Be aware of and pay attention to your skills and knowledge. This is an on-   going process,so you'll answer this question many times.It's important to get started. Make a list. You can look in your calendar at past programs and activities to remind you of experiences you have had in your community.

Example: Ask yourself: What can I do? What can I do well? What do I really like to do? What are some of my favorite accomplishments? What are my best skills? Pretend your best friend is writing an introduction for you--what would it say?Don't forget your personal qualities, too.

My skills, knowledge, and personal qualities __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________

b. Begin to decide your work-related goals, then examine your experiences and values that support your workplace and career goals.

Example: Maybe you would like to be a television news person or a teacher. Have you presented to a public group, taught a class, done demonstrations, illustrated talks, or other speech arts presentations? Do you enjoy them? How can they be improved?



Experiences & Values


Work and Career Goals

















c. List 5 - 10 realistic action steps. Check them off when completed.

Example: Choose activities to enhance and expand what you already know and have experience doing, as well as activities to help you learn new skills. If youhaven't already worked in teams, look for opportunities to get experience with working with others. Ask about committees and delegations you can work with. Get started!



      Action Steps


       Date Completed






















2. How do you organize your experiences and effectively record and present them so employers and schools can get a good idea of what you really can do?

a. Calendar or diary: Keep track of the timeyou've spent, deadlines set and met, problems faced and how you solved them, and decisions you made.

Example: This summary will illustrate your ability to use resources, including time, materials, and people. With so many activities,it's common to forget details of different accomplishments. Your calendar and/or diary can help you remember. Keep minutes of meetings you've attended, to document your attendance.

b. Portfolio: record all your volunteer experiences and keep them together with your copies of resumes, letters of reference, certificates, and work samples (ribbons, certificates, photographs, news clippings or anything else you have to show your work.)

Example: When you hold an organization office such as parliamentarian or president, save a copy of an agenda you especially liked. This portfolio will document your ability to acquire and information.

3. What is a resume and how do I create one?

a. A resume is one way of presenting your background and your strengths. It should incorporate much of the information in your personal portfolio.

Example: Working with information is an important skill. You show your ability when you put together your resume. Your thinking skills in organizing materials and your ability as a communicator will also show through.

b. In general, you will put your strongest and best materials first; keep your resume brief (one page if possible). Keep it simple. Avoid personal material. Use active positive language, without slang or jargon.

Example: You will show your ability to use technology when you create your resume on the computer. Remember to proofread it several times so there are no errors or inaccuracies of any kind.

c. A chronological resume is a good start. List your accomplishments in order, with dates and a few facts. A functional resume is often recommended, because it groups your accomplishments under broad categories such as Managing Resources, Interpersonal Skills, Information, Systems, Technology, etc.

Most people use a combination resume that highlights both your skills and your actual experiences. You can list two or three of your most important skills, and then a chronological account of three or four of your most recent related experiences.

Example: You could also group your skills and experiences under Basic Skills, Thinking Skills, and Personal Qualities . Another way would be to list the volunteer skills you have especially learned.

d. Share your resume to get feedback from friends, neighbors, teachers, and others. Consider their suggestions as you make your resume tell your story.

Example: You can use the various systems you work within for feedback: work, school, family, local volunteer organization, etc.Sometimes it's easy to see the leadership experience you are getting; don't forget you are also learning about how different people and things work together.

4. Where can I see some sample resumes?

a. Most word processing programs have resume templates. They look nice and they are easy to adapt to your needs.

b. There are several sites on the World Wide Web. Just search for "resume" and you will get to them.

c. Libraries and school counselors have lots of resume references.



Kirby A. Student

123 West First Street

Anytown, State 01234

(123) 456-7890


Opportunity to use education and to demonstrate skills and abilities in support of a successful youth organization.


Hometown High School                                                                               1998

ANYTOWN, STATE                                                                             GPA 3.82

Activities& Awards:  Student Council President, Sophomore Class Vice President, Pep Club Best Writer Award, Highest GPA in American Literature Soccer MVP, Track State Qualifier


Day Camp Assistant                                                           Summers, 1996 - 1997 COUNTY 4-H PROGRAM                                              ANYTOWN, STATE

  • Assisted with design and delivery of programming for 45 day campers. Activities included games, crafts, music and dancing, sports, contests, and field trips.

Day Camp Junior Assistant                                                   Summer, 1995 COUNTY 4-H PROGRAM                                                  ANYTOWN, STATE

  • Participated in activities with 33 day campers. Learned procedures and practiced assisting with younger campers.

Junior Superintendent & Dairy Bar Worker                     Summers, 1992 - 1997 WHATEVER COUNTY FAIR                                          NEARBY, STATE 

  • Performed as directed in assisting management of all aspects of General Department of County Fair. Followed instructions and initiated action when necessary to assure smooth running of judging, awards, and refreshments.


  • Communication: Co-Presenter at State 4-H Conference; Speech Arts Champion; Master of Ceremonies for Speech Arts Contests and Achievement Nights
  • Citizenship: National 4-H Conference, National 4-H Congress, 4-H Washington Focus, Colorado Close-Up #
  • Decision-making: Colorado 4-H Youth Fund Advisory Board; Larimer County 4-H Youth Advisory Board
  • Leadership: One of six Colorado youth selected to attend National 4-H Conference; District representative to State 4-H Conference, District Vice President, Interim President, Historian; Larimer County Day Camp Co-Chairman/Chairman; County Overall Outstanding Junior Leadership Award
  • Interpersonal relations: Mentored new 4-H Club, All-American 4-H Club President
  • Community/global awareness: Special Olympics volunteer, International Intrigue Project

Updated Tuesday, August 05, 2014