Work experience inlcudes more than just paid employment. Volunteer work, church callings, and community service also have a place on your resume, as needed.

July 30, 2020 8:55 pm

By Shelley Hunter

I always think adding church, community, school and other volunteer work to your resume is a good idea because it speaks to your character and shows that you have skills and interests beyond your employment. The degree to which you showcase that service, however, depends on its relevance to the position you're seeking. 

In the post below, I'll address the following topics:

man talking to group

Why You Should List Volunteer Work on a Resume

When I worked at Bank of America back in the early 90's, the management team at our technology campus sponsored a basketball tournament to raise money for a charitable organization. The first year, I got asked to manage and play on the only all-women team in the tourney. The second and subsequent years, I played, managed the same team, and helped run the entire tournament.

Given the magnitude of the assignment, I added this extracurricular activity to my resume.

When I went to job interviews a couple of years later, I noticed that nearly every prospective manager asked me about my role in the events. Some interviewers were simply curious, some noticed that upper-management had hand-selected me for an assignment, and several commented that the volunteer work spoke to my leadership abilities. In addition to showcasing some of my soft skills, I also found that talking about the volunteer work provided a nice converation "ice breaker," allowing us to chat casually before getting into the usual back-and-forth focused solely on job requirements and past work.

Whether you volunteer for your church, community or other organization, consider adding that experience to your resume. In addition to giving you something to talk about and showing off your soft skills, time spent serving is part of your personal brand that demonstrates you have interests beyond just career aspirations.

woman comforting an older woman

When to List Volunteer Work on a Resume

Below are a few instances in which volunteer work should be prominently mentioned:

  1. When You Need to Cover a Gap on Your Resume. If you have been out of the paid workforce for some time but have been actively volunteering in your church, school, or community, then you can list various volunteer positions and assignments as "experience" on a chronological resume. This is particularly true if your volunteer work includes leadership positions or skilled work such as handling the finances for a non-profit or organizing vendors for an event. 
  2. When You Want to Showcase a New Skill. If you're an accountant by trade, but you lead the children's organization at your church and want to transition into a job that involves working with kids, teaching, or maybe even keeping the books for a children's store, then highlighting this part of your background is a good way to prove that you have the experience and interest necessary to be considered for the job.
  3. When Continued Involvement Has an Impact. If you go on an extended service mission every summer, need to attend church or other meetings on weeknights, or do not plan to work on the Sabbath, then I believe it is best to have those conversations up front. I wouldn't list work restrictions or availability on your resume, but showing that volunteer work is important to you can open the way for a candid discussion during an interview.

Read this blog post for specific tips on how to list church missionary work on a resume.

young man missionary

How to Add Volunteer Work to a Resume

To list church callings and other volunteer work on a resume, the most important thing to do is translate the "cultural" or "customary" words into language that people outside of your church or other organization can understand.

For example, I once held a position called the Young Women President at my church. This is a pretty intense leadership position that includes watching over and ministering to several girls while also planning weekly activities, teaching lessons, meeting with leaders from other groups, and more. A few years before and after, I served as a primary teacher which involved preparing and leading an engaging gospel discussion with elementary-age children once a week. For a couple of years, I served as the Relief Society visiting teaching coordinator. In that now-defunct role, I helped organize the women in the congregation so that each received a monthly visit and had someone to call if they needed help. With the aid of several supervisors, I gathered data and created a monthly report that helped the president of the organization know who needed extra assistance and where to direct needed  resources.

To make volunteer work such as those positions listed above relevant to the workplace, you need to adapt the language in two ways:

  1. Translate the job title. Rather than write "Young Women President," I would write "President of Youth Organization" or "Youth Director." A "Primary Teacher" would be a "Youth Instructor" and a "Visiting Teaching Coordinator" could simply be a "Service Coordinator." Don't overthink this part, just use words other people might understand.
  2. The job description matters more than the title. It's not unusual for different organizations to use different job titles. I guess that's why we add job descriptions to resumes in the first place. So when listing a calling, describe the role you had, your responsibilites, the people you served, the size of the organization, and so forth. Try to explain the job function using words that match up with the job you're seeking. (Here are more tips on how to tailor a resume to a job.)

I know it can be uncomfortable to talk about church callings in such a pragmantic way. It might not feel right to boast about your skills and achievements in those roles rather than focus on the joy and blessings received through the service. But I encourage you to consider that perhaps one of the reasons we receive callings that stretch us is to gain experience we wouldn't obtain otherwrise.

I do not believe the Lord sees our lives as fragmented as we do. We see parts of our day dedicated to work, parts to service, parts to parenting, parts to play, and so forth. But the Lord sees each of us in the totality of who we will become. So doesn't it make sense that you are learning and growing in every aspect of your life to help you reach your potential? Whether you get paid for it or not?

Here are two resources that elaborate more on that thought:

See how volunteer work has helped other

Stay-At-Home Moms Return to Work.

woman sewing

Examples of Volunteer Work on a Resume

Below are some examples of church callings translated into work experience. If you belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you'll recognize these callings as a Young Women Advisor, a Primary Chorister, and the Relief Society Secretary. If you're not of my faith, I am sure you have similar callings in your church--someone who works with the youth, someone who teaches children, and someone who helps organize bible study and other activities for adults.

If youre volunteer service is outside of a faith-based congregation, that's alright too. Simply translate the volunteer job description to words commonly used in the workplace.

Read this post for more information on how to tailor a resume to a particular job.

Youth Advisor

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

June 2016 to April 2019

Responsible for helping young men (ages 12-18) adopt high moral standards, learn to serve others, and minister to members of the community. Taught boys how to lead out through weekly activities, weekly group discussions, and adhoc service efforts. Worked with each member to develop individual goals and create a plan for achieving goals.

Significant Contributions

  • Took a group of 25 boys with varying physical abilities on a week-long backpacking trip through parts of Idaho and Montana.
  • Mentored boys in leadership positions on how to plan and execute weekly activities to help members of the group become united, resulting in increased enjoyment, engagement, and attedance.
  • Served as merit badge counselor for Personal Finance, Entrepreneurship, Game Development, Inventing and other areas of interest.
  • Received mentor pin from four boys who achieved rank of Eagle Scout in the former Boy Scouts of America.

Children's Chorister

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

May 2015 to Present

Under the direction of the president of the children's organization, responsible for planning, teaching, and directing music for youth (ages 3 to 11 years old) in a weekly singing time. This includes teaching songs that will be performed at the annual presentation for the entire congregation.

Significant Contributions

  • Developed teaching materials such as flip charts, interactive games, artwork and more to create an engaging learning environment.
  • Encouraged children learning how to play piano and other instruments to provide accompaniment where appropriate, helping each grow in confidence.
  • Created a balance between the need to be reverent and learn while also having fun and getting wiggles out.
  • Prepared weekly lessons for two different age groups, adapting according to their needs and attention spans.

Secretary in Women's Organization

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Mar 2010 to September 2014

Helped organize the women in the congregation so the president could oversee and meet the needs of the individuals. Attended weekly meetings, prepared agendas, took minutes, and tracked follow-up items. Accessed leader tools and reports to provide regular reports as well as ad hoc inquiries. Trained secretaries in other units. Worked with other organizations to track annual budget and record expenses.

Significant Contributions

  • Provided regular reports and looked for ways to enlist members in the congregation to serve each other.
  • Twice a year, set up individual meetings to allow each women in the congregation an opportunity to meet one-on-one with a member of the presidency.
  • Created a monthly newsletter to help people stay informed. Distributed the newsletter electronically through email marketing and mailed paper copies to elderly with technology concerns.
  • Organized finances and developed a way to track expenses and stay within budget for our group. 

Again, I realize it can be challenging to think of your calling as a job and to list "significant contributions" without acknowledging divine intervention in the process. With each of my callings, I have spent more time on my knees than at the computer, so I get it.

But I still think the experience gained and the lessons learned while in the service of your God are part of your personal brand and can be utilitzed to support your family.

And if you don't need to list volunteer work to prove experience, then adding it to the "other" section at the end of your resume can still provide the additional benefits of showing you as a more well-rounded person who cares about giving back.

That's what I think, anyway.

Shelley

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Shelley Hunter

About the author

Founder of Gift Card Girlfriend, Shelley is a prolific content creator and personal branding expert. For the past 20 years, she's also been coaching people on how to up-level their careers, return to the workforce, and start side gigs of their own. Shelley is a work-at-home mom who left a traditional career as a programmer to be unapologetically home with her kids.

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