The importance of incorporating volunteer experience into your résumé

Including volunteer experience on a résumé can help youth showcase their skills.

When teenagers are putting together their first résumé, it can be frustrating if they have not had a lot of work experience. How do you prove you are capable of doing a job without having had a job before? Michigan State Univesrity Extension says that  one way to deal with this age-old challenge is to incorporate volunteer experience and community service efforts into your resume.

There are several different kinds of résumés. Michigan 4-H has examples of each one on the careers section of their website. A chronological résumé is the most common, as it is the most preferred format for employers. It works well for someone who has a substantial work history. A functional résumé focuses instead on skills; this often works well for people with limited experience, but it is not as preferred with employers. A combination résumé allows the job-seeker to highlight both skills and their work history. Electronic résumés are becoming more accepted and requested, as well.

Looking at these types of résumés, one can see that either a functional or combination format will work best for youth with little to no experience. In either of these formats, youth can include the skills they utilize in 4-H projects and experiences. Any time a youth organizes a program, sets goals and develops an action plan, coordinates a group to work on a project together, keeps accurate records of a fundraising event, teaches a skill to someone else or takes on a leadership position, they are demonstrating skills that are sought after by employers. It does not matter if this work was in a paid position or not. The important thing to remember is to have concrete examples of how the skills were used.

Adults who work with youth on these projects, whether as volunteer advisors or as partners in community service projects, can later attest to their skills as references. A sample reference list is also available on the 4-H website.

As youth make choices about how to spend their out-of-school time, it is often helpful to think about the life skills they will be learning through various activities or experiences. 4-H can give youth opportunities not only to learn, but also to gain confidence and competence in skills that will help them later on in the job market.

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