Whether you’re helping out at a local animal shelter, serving a meal to the underprivileged or sending Christmas cards to hospitalized solders, the holiday season provides a multitude of opportunities to volunteer. And while community service undeniably benefits others, enriches our lives, and helps to make the world a better place, it can also help you in your next job search.
Charitable work can help expand skill sets, provide valuable experience, and reveal hidden passions and talents. Volunteer work can make you more qualified for a job, and it can help fill out sparse CVs. And even if your volunteer work isn’t directly related to the kind of job you’re looking for, it can still set you apart from the crowd and potentially make you more attractive to future employers.

Below, we’ve put together a list of tips for including volunteer and community service experience on your CV for maximum impact.

1. Create a dedicated section for volunteer experience

If you’ve held any volunteer positions, create a separate section on your CV and group them all together. List them under a heading called “Volunteer Experience” and include each volunteer experience as if it were a real job. Include the name of the organization, the job description and duration, and any important skills learned or projects worked on.

2. Use volunteer work to bulk up a CV

Are you in the midst of a job hunt, or presently unemployed? Participating in regular community service can help make you look productive even between jobs, and fill in that blank spot on your CV. A 2011 LinkedIn survey found that one in five employers make hiring decisions based on volunteer experience. Candidates with volunteer experience were more likely to be hired than those without it.

3. Emphasize volunteer work that highlights job-related skills

Do you want a job in public relations? If, as a volunteer, you planned, publicized and hosted a fundraising gala that raised a lot of money for your charity, it would show potential employers that you have talent and expertise in public relations – even if you have no officially employment experience in the PR field. If you have volunteer experience in your chosen field, it can go a long way toward convincing potential employers you’ll make a great employee – even if you’re not as officially qualified as other candidates.

4. Omit volunteer work that goes against a company’s values

What if you are passionate about whole, raw organic foods, and you’ve worked as a volunteer to raise awareness about the dangers of processed food? You might want to omit that information if you’re interviewing at a large food corporation that markets and sells the foods you’ve worked actively to protest. It’s also best to omit any volunteer positions related to extreme politics and religion – there’s no way of knowing a potential employer’s views on these issues, so it’s best to stay away from them altogether.

5. Don’t include volunteer work related to your children

Biased as it might seem, some recruiters and hiring managers don’t see child-related volunteer experience as relevant to employment. If you’ve volunteered on the PTA at your child’s school, at your child’s daycare, or as a rec soccer coach, leave that out – unless your experience was directly applicable to the job you are applying for.

When you combine volunteer experience with paid work experience, you might find that you have more to offer an employer than you originally thought. And even if your community service experience is unrelated to the job you want, potential employers will still see your service as positive involvement. That initiative just may be enough to help distinguish you from other applicants.