Never say never. That’s an adage that’s been front and center as I’ve spoken to non-working women for the past decade. I’ve observed that even the most steadfast volunteers eventually find their way back to some kind of paid work. Add in all the volunteers who clearly state they someday do want to return to work, and there are a lot of women who need to document the business side of their charitable years.
Take Priscilla Thors of Wilton, CT—a woman I wrote about in my “Short-Cut to the Job Search Highway” blog post. Priscilla doesn’t just volunteer—she takes on major leadership roles. She has such a big presence around town—and she has done so much good work for so many–a local magazine just singled her out in a glossy spread.
But when I looked at Priscilla’s resume draft (since she’s looking to return to part-time work), all that great volunteer work was listed at the bottom (almost an afterthought) as “Activities”—not under the more substantive “Non-Profit Experience” header I usually recommend. There are varying opinions on the subject, but I also believe (as former recruiter) that your most recent experience—paid or unpaid—should be listed first.
More to the point, Priscilla did what 99% of women do: she listed the organization, the volunteer title and nothing more. Too often women think that only paid work “counts” on a resume, and that’s not true. If you describe volunteer work in business terms—using “size and scope” detail and metrics that prove your success—it’s clear that you’ve continued to develop your business skills in your time out of the workforce.
On Priscilla’s resume she notes several times when she chaired fundraisers. Any volunteer job that involves money needs quantitative detail—and a strong mention of sales and marketing skills. How much money was raised? Did you meet or exceed objectives? Did you manage the budget? Did you create new revenue sources? Did you decide how new funds would be allocated?
Another key role for Priscilla was “Community Outreach Chair” for a Parent Teacher Council. What does that mean exactly? Developing partnerships using relationship-building and sales skills? Creating joint programs for schools and community organizations using PR and curriculum development skills? And what happened? What’s the proof that the partnerships were successful?
A Board Member position for a private school led me to ask Priscilla for her specific role. Which board committees did she serve on? What major initiatives did she develop with the board? What major accomplishments was the board recognized for during her tenure?
When you answer these questions about volunteer work on your resume, you give potential employers bottom line business information. It’s a good idea to “Keep a Volunteer Journal” while your work is still fresh in your mind—noting all the skills you used, the results you achieved and the special recognition you received.
I know, some of you are saying you have no intention of returning to work in the next year or ten. Chances are though, out of desire or need, you’ll some day hang up your volunteer hat. Focusing now on the business skills you use every day just keeps all your options wide open. —KAS
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