Volunteer experience can help you get a job

In some non-profits (and other companies), unless you have worked there as a volunteer or intern, you aren’t likely to get a full-time, paid position. Even if the organization doesn’t have an official hire from within policy, volunteering might entice the hiring manager to give your resume a second look.

In the February, 2012 issue of Real Simple magazine (page 100), Laura Vanderkam wrote an article, “How volunteering helps you land a job,” which reiterates how important volunteering can be on your resume if used appropriately. Unfortunately, the article isn’t available online.

Vanderkam suggests listing specific skill-building volunteer activities on your resume. Look objectively at what you did. Did you organize a fundraiser? Recruit volunteers? Train them in assisting you with the event? Organize, recruit and train are all keywords that hiring managers like to see on a resume. Be sure to include as much detail as you can such as what the event raised, hoe many volunteers, time, etc. It cannot be said enough having skills and using them are two different things. Hiring managers want to know you can the use skills you highlight and transfer them into a new position.

Don’t discuss your volunteer work in an interview, unless the interviewer bring it up. “The employers who find the service to be relevant will ask you about it,” Vanderkam states in the article. “But some won’t feel that way about any unpaid work. In such cases, it’s best to stay quiet.”

Vanderkam also cautions against listing volunteer activities for polarizing organizations. Yes, you might have organizational, recruiting and event planning experience from staging a protest at a local business, but you might not want to cite that if you are applying to a Chamber of Commerce.

Additionally, Vanderkam suggests not listing activities that relate to being a parent, such as the PTA. “Researchers have found that women who cite volunteering related to motherhood on a resume are less likely to be called back for an interviews than those who list a neighborhood group.”

Have you listed volunteer activities on your resume?

What NOT to say to a new graduate

Real Simple’s May Issue had an article, 5 Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Recent College Graduate. While I completely agree with all of the suggestions, the one that stands out the most (and I’ve heard the most) is the success story.

The article lists it as number five, “My fill-in-the-blank relative just got out of college, and she’s doing great!”

There are several things wrong with the statement. First, it takes the conversation away from the graduate. It was the only comment that didn’t include the word you. Second, you might think sharing this piece of information will give the person hope, but in fact it comes across as bragging. It says, “obviously my fill-in-the-blank is better than you.” Third, it implies the graduate you are talking to is doing something wrong, or at least not right.

College graduation can be terrifying. For most high school students, you graduate knowing you and most of your friends are off to another few years of school, not the big scary world. There’s no more safety nets after college graduation (or in some cases graduate school graduation).

The graduate Real Simple quotes in the article, 23-year-old Rachel Walls, couldn’t have said it better, “We would much rather believe that everyone feels as nervous and lost as we do. Tell us about your neighbor’s son who is balancing four part time jobs –none of which have anything to do with his degree –and assure us that he’s doing just fine.”

If you find yourself without a neighbor’s son to reference, try to remember how you felt at college graduation. Don’t be afraid to tell the graduate you went back to waiting tables or worked at a store in the mall. I did. And I know I’m not alone.