Should You List a Mission on Your Resume?
Whether you stayed out in the mission field for two full years or for a few months, you most likely learned valuable skills that have a place on your resume. In fact, if you served recently, I think missionary service should be listed prominently on your resume for two primary reasons.
- Marketable Skills. From the sheer discipline and obedience required of missionaries to the more mainstream skills of leadership, scheduling, presenting, and communicating, the experience gained through service is similar to an internship, only more comprehensive and life-changing. It doesn't matter if you got paid to do the work or not, you lived it, learned it, and are better for the time spent. All of your future employers will benefit from the skills gained through your mission service.
- Remarkable and Out of the Ordinary. Though within church culture, serving a mission may be viewed as expected and ordinary for young men and young women, I assure you that giving prime years of your life to volunteer work is quite exceptional. So don't bury the experience on your resume as a one-liner at the bottom. List it, explain it, and recognize that in serving a mission you have done so much more than the world expects of people your age.
Listing a mission on your resume is especially important if you don't have previous work experience or meaningful pre-mission jobs. But even if you served 20 years ago, I still think the work is worth mentioning. Not only does significant volunteer work show the strength of your character, but it can also be a nice talking point in an interview.
How to Put a Recent Mission on Your Resume.
The degree to which you elaborate on your missionary experience depends on how recently you served. If this is the first job post-mission, then list it in your "experience" section and expound on your time in the field with a detailed "job description" and "key contributions." If you served many years ago, then list it as volunteer work towards the end of the resume.
Here is an example job description for a recently-served full-time mission:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
June 2018 to April 2020
Spent 22 months on a dedicated service mission in Mexico, Villahermosa where I shared positive messages, immersed myself in the hispanic culture, and became fluent in Spanish. Responsible for daily planning and goal setting, staying motivated through difficult circumstances, relating to people from different cultures and economic conditions and finding ways to work as a team with peers and leaders. As a district and zone leader, also responsibl/freee for helping other members of the district meet their goals while also monitoring their well-being. Had to solve problems, report progress and issues, and adhere to strict missionary guidelines and standards.
- Quickly learned the Spanish language.
- Excelled at getting along with people, especially my companions.
- Served in a leadership role on several occasions and in the mission office.
- Noted for being able to adjust our teaching to the person and the situation.
- Learned how to give constructive feedback to help others improve.
- Quickly able to establish rapport with the people of the community.
If you need a resume template, look for the one I use with all of my coaching clients on the Free Career Resources page. You'll have to sign up for my free newsletter to get it, but I promise not to be a frequent sender.
Tailor this Example to Your Experience
Obviously the "job description" and "significant contributions" listed above should be adapted to your experience and should showcase the skills you learned from and brought to the mission.
If you're not sure what those are, think about what people complimented you on. Did they note your enthusiasm, obedience, perseverance? Did the mission president tell you that you are a natural leader or a patient companion? Did your peers compliment you for being adaptable or funny? Did the people you served mention anything they liked about you?
Translate those compliments into words that people outside of The Church would understand. I bet you will find that the words used to describe you in the mission are pretty much the same ones people used to describe you before you served your mission as well--just the circumstances are different. Pay attention to patterns that repeat themselves like that because these are big clues to discovering or creating your personal brand statement.
How to List an Old Mission on Your Resume?
If you served a mission several years ago, you can move your missionary work to the bottom of your resume and put it in a "Volunteer Work" section. Here is an example of what that might look like:
- Completed volunteer service mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Mexico Guadalajara mission (1990-1992) where I immersed myself in the culture, learned to speak Spanish, and served the people of the community.
Read this blog post to learn how (and when) to list other church callings on your resume.
Although thousands of people serve missions every year, your experience is still unique and your skills are worth mentioning. So ponder and pray about what to write and say about your mission--just as you had to seek inspiration while serving in the field. Then put it on your resume and trust that the right things will get noticed.
That's what I think, anyway.