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Resumes: Does Unpaid Work Count?

July 30, 2012

In my work with resume clients, I encourage them to look back on past work accomplishments for which they received kudos. While they’re taking notes on this “homework assignment”, I then add

“This can include volunteer work, or things you’ve done for friends and family, for which the only pay you received was ‘thank you’….as long as it is relevant to your career search.”

This often brings a startled look from clients, who perhaps have never considered unpaid work as part of their resumes. But why shouldn’t it be? In my experience, we often put as much, if not more, effort, energy, time, passion and skill into work we’re doing for our parents, kids, friends, church, or charitable organization as we do at our paid jobs. And often this work has incredible results:

  • a church remains open due to the skills of a member who is a CPA and helps church administrators develop and balance a budget;
  • a museum gets a new wing because a dedicated and talented group of volunteers raise the funds;
  • a state-of-the-art hospital emerges from the work of a tireless, skilled group of community professionals who believe in their mission; and
  • children in need receive clothing, schooling and care because people know it’s the right thing to do and they use their know-how, connections and skills to do it.

But for some reason, we have tended to discount this work because we weren’t paid for it. But I find nothing different in work conducted without pay from work that comes with a paycheck. And often, the work of a volunteer comes from the heart, from a true passion for the goal. In my estimation, this work should assume its rightful place on the resume.

If your volunteer unpaid work is truly relevant to the positions that you’re seeking, include it­ noting that it is unpaid work. And the fact that you’ve volunteered your time, energy and talents to a worthy cause doesn’t hurt your image in the eyes of that prospective employer!

(originally published  on the online newsletter of Dick Wray Associates – now Wray Executive Search) 

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