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Unpaid Work That Could Actually Land Your Dream Job


Some career experts debate about whether or not to include your volunteer work in the relevant experience section of your resume. If you have 30 years of work experience in a field you love, you probably don’t need it. But in a lot of circumstances, it can be extremely beneficial.


Mind the Gap

Did you recently get out of the corporate world to raise children, take care of an aging family member, or just take a few years off to travel? Whether you took a year or six won’t matter. Even though your work wasn’t a job in the traditional sense (because raising children is certainly work), during that time you never stopped networking in your local community. The people you’ve met in your personal life are all people who could potentially help you get a job when you’re ready.


Stuck in Place

If you’ve been stuck in an industry or job for too many years and are itching to leap into the dream career you have always wanted, volunteer experience can help get you there. “They” always say if you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. What better way to find a career than volunteering your time for something you’re passionate about?


Experienced Applicants Only

If you’re a new grad who doesn’t have the experience, or a clue as to what you want to do in the real world, your hobbies, interests, and volunteer work will allow you to do some career exploration before securing that job to pay the bills (and one that you’ll love!).


Relevance to the actual job for which you’re applying is crucial. Include your hobbies or volunteer experience on your resume because it enhances what is already there. Be concise, don’t do it to just boast about all the things you have done, or can do.


Some good volunteering opportunities include:


Political campaigns. Local or national, they provide a variety of different jobs so you can dabble in a few different areas.


Sport clubs and organizations. Show your competitive nature and drive, but also gives a sense of how humble and gracious you can be win, or lose. Coaching has its’ own benefits, the strongest being leadership skills.


Work with youth. Right along with coaching, this will enhance your leadership skills (and patience). Plus, you have the opportunity to get them excited about college and careers, their



Charities. Have a favorite restaurant or bar? Set up a community event where a portion of the earnings go to a local charity in need. Grow your network with sponsorships and showcase your event management and organizational skills.


Animal shelters. Who doesn’t love play-time with a fur-friend? My college started a program that would bring dogs on campus during exam week and walk the dorm halls for a much needed study break. And a serious plus: Puppies.


Habitat for Humanity. If something a little more hands-on is your forte, building houses can represent how hard-working you are, and willingness to get down to the nuts and bolts (pun intended) of a project.


Your resume should show what a well-rounded employee you are. Your hobbies and volunteer efforts give potential employers insight into who you are, your work ethic, and show them you have the the initiative to gain knowledge and skills on your own. Communication and leadership skills translate into experience in just about any job you decide to pursue.


Be honest and authentic about your unpaid pursuits. If you enjoy running, be prepared to give examples of your favorite races or routes to run. If volunteering at animal shelters is your thing, take a look around (in between cuddling puppies) and see if there’s a process or system you can help improve. This is how you build discussion topics with interviewers, particularly when it’s something you’re passionate about. Passion shines through in interviews and every recruiter looks for it. If you care about something you’d do for free, you’re more inclined to care about what you do for a paycheck.


(Did we mention puppies?)


Last Updated: February 26, 2016
About the author

Cally Martin

Callan is a social media loving, blog writing, event planning freelancer who believes in the power of the oxford comma. Originally from America’s high-five (Michigan), she’s been in Austin since 2015 and doesn’t plan on moving anytime soon. When not attached to WiFi, she can be found running around the lake or drinking mimosas at brunch.