Should Your Academic Volunteer Experience Be Included in Your Resume?


You’ve heard about the importance of volunteering as a way to be a well-rounded human being and give back to your community. It’s not an exaggerated suggestion. There are countless studies that link the benefits of volunteerism and increased psychological health. In addition to being good for your mental happiness, volunteering is also impressive to potential employers.

But when your next career is in the academic realm, is your volunteer experience really worth the space it takes up on your resume? The answer depends on multiple factors, such as if you’re making a career change into the academic realm, or if you already have a solid scholarly reputation. Read on to find out whether you should take your volunteer experience into your next job interview.

What is Considered Relevant Volunteer Work for an Academic Career

Volunteering helps you and the community in which you’re providing your time and skills. Most people who volunteer do so because they are motivated by the idea of offering something of value to others for no particular gain to themselves. However, there are many professional advantages to this activity. When it comes to a field as competitive as academics, your volunteer hours and background could help you stand out above your competitors.

Service and leadership are coveted skills in every industry. For the higher education realm, these show up in experiences such as teaching assistants, graduate teaching, and union stewardships. Your extracurricular activities as a graduate student are likely full of service and leadership activities. Adding them to your resume, however, should be done strategically. You don’t want to fill your resume with experience that doesn’t pertain to the academic career. 

These experiences in leadership and service are excellent ways to pad a resume for an inexperienced student or career transition for someone heading into the academic realm for the first time. Without actual positions to refer back to and include the experience picked up during that job, prospective employees have to show their capabilities through something tangible. Volunteer experience serves as the channel for this to happen. 

When and How to List Your Volunteer Work on Your Resume

If you fall into the category of a job searcher entering the academic realm for the first time, your experiences and roles volunteering in organizations or causes are the next best thing. The key is to display your leadership and services skills in a creative way to ensure they fit seamlessly on your resume and match the job description of the job you’re applying for.

One way to do this is to add a Leadership and Services section. Under this area, include each volunteer role in which you served, then follow it up with the skills you picked up while doing that job. Technical skills clearly slide into this section, too, so feel free to show off your abilities to create PowerPoints, Excel spreadsheets, and other tech-smart demonstrations.

However, if your scholarly career is already full of enough impressive experience to fill two pages of a resume, adding volunteer work is almost overkill. You can discuss your volunteer activities during the interview if the topic comes up organically, but it’s not necessary to include them on the document you’re providing to potential employers.

Academic jobs dating back 10-15 years can go on your resume. Anything past that shouldn’t be included, either. Employers want to know what you’re capable of currently, what your main professional achievements have been recently, and how experienced you are in the newest trends. The fact that you enjoy volunteering is a bonus, but not as integral as the academic work you’ve done lately. 

Share Your Volunteer Efforts on Your Impactio Profile

One place where you can show off your volunteer efforts is on your Impactio profile. You’re proud of the leadership and service role you provided to your community or the world at large, and it’s normal to want to share the experience with others.

Impactio is a community where scholars like you network together and discuss their accomplishments and ideas. What you do as a volunteer could be important to someone on the other side of the globe. Connecting with them on Impactio may change the future of your career, and it all happened because you chose to volunteer and do a good deed.


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