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Volunteer work looks good on resumes

February 18, 2015

With the competitiveness of the job market becoming ever-increasing, students may wonder how they can set themselves apart from other applicants in the job hiring process.

One simple and rewarding way students can do this is by participating in volunteer work, which in turn, can be added to resumes.

Because college can feel like a balancing act between work and school, some students may struggle with finding time to volunteer. Director of Career Services Melissa Wilson admits that finding the time to volunteer can be challenging, but finding the right volunteer work to participate in is key.

“It needs to be a mix of something that you are passionate about and enjoy, and applies to your major,” Wilson said. “I call this double dipping. You are getting two benefits out of this experience.”

Volunteer work can add immense value to a resume and 2008 UW-River Falls alumna and Human Resources officer at First National Bank of River Falls Kaydi Peterson sees this first hand.

“As a community bank, this factor is important in our hiring process because community involvement and service is of value here and part of our legacy at First National Bank of River Falls,” Peterson said. “Volunteer work in general shows dedication and connection to the community and, perhaps, valuable leadership experience.”

Although in most professions there is not a specific amount of time that applicants should spend volunteering, Wilson believes that students in some majors should display a greater presence of volunteer work on their resumes.

“If you’re in a helping profession such as social work, your free time should show that you want to help people,” Wilson said.

UWRF social work major Lauren Grammond understands that being in a helping major means spending more time performing activities such as volunteering, but also agrees that no matter what major a student has, there are benefits.

“It shows that you’re willing to do things that you won’t necessarily get recognition for,” Grammond said. “If you’re a commuter student, like me, it’s also a great way to meet people.”

One question students may ask themselves is: do employers even look for volunteer work on a resume?

“Experience outside of an employment setting builds a more well-rounded resume and shows the candidate values connection to the community, service to others, and opportunity,” Peterson said.

Volunteer work on a resume can even influence someone’s decision in the hiring process.

“More times than not, when two candidates are very close in qualifications, this factor will be used to make the hiring decision,” Peterson said.

When deciding to list volunteer work on a resume, Wilson says it depends on the student and how it relates to the field.

“For a student who is going into criminology, for example, one of the first headings on their resume should be criminal justice experience, and if they have volunteered in that field, put it in that area on their resume as a volunteer,” Wilson said.

Volunteer work can weigh differently for employers and job seekers, so Peterson encourages students to keep this in mind when thinking about where they would like to work.

“If volunteer work is of value to you, but not to the employer you’re applying with, ask yourself if this is truly the employer for you,” Peterson said. “Opportunity to serve the community has a strong impact on employee satisfaction.”

The River Falls area offers a multitude of different volunteer opportunities. Even joining a club on campus that performs volunteer work can be a good first step in determining what volunteer work is of interest to someone.