Job Search: Why You Should Include Volunteer Work on Your Resume

Bucking conventional career wisdom, LinkedIn says volunteer work is an important -- yet often overlooked -- component of resumes. To help members showcase their volunteer work, the professional networking site has announced a new profile section where users can list the causes that are important to them.

According to new research from LinkedIn, volunteering is just as beneficial to your career as it is to those you help. That's why it has rolled out a new profile section, "Volunteer Experience and Causes," to help you highlight how you've contributed to your community.

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LinkedIn surveyed 2,000 professionals in the U.S. and found that 89 percent have volunteer experience, but only 45 percent include their volunteer work on their resume.

"Professionals often have the misconception that volunteer work doesnt qualify as real work experience," says Nicole Williams, connection director at LinkedIn and an author. "You may be a sales person by trade, but if you organized your nonprofit's fundraising event, you can add skills like event planning or event marketing to your profile. Having those additional skills can potentially make you a more attractive employee and business partner."

Indeed, hiring managers agree that volunteer work can be counted as relevant professional experience. Forty-one percent of those surveyed stated that when they evaluate candidates, they consider volunteer work equally as valuable as paid work experience. One out of 5 hiring managers surveyed say they have made a hiring decision based on a candidate's volunteer work experience.

Williams says that whether you're employed or unemployed, including volunteer work on your LinkedIn profile is essential in the current economic climate.

"When hiring managers or business partners are comparing two people side by side, volunteer experience makes you a more multifaceted professional and can set you apart from the competition," she says.

[Want more LinkedIn tips, tricks and analysis? Check out CIO.com's LinkedIn Bible.]

Other job-related benefits of volunteer work include, according to Williams:

-Test new talents. Not only can you try new things in a low-risk forum, you can also showcase your talents before a new set of peers who could have the connections you need to get hired.

-Extend your network. Williams says that the majority of career-enhancing opportunities comes through relationships, and volunteering exposes you to people you otherwise might not meet. Plus, people you meet while volunteering are usually driven, conscientious professionals who can be references for you, she says.

Get noticed. Differentiating yourself can be challenging when a pool of applicants is large, but highlighting your volunteer work will underscore your commitment and compassion, as well as your ability to hone new skills.

To add the new "Volunteer Experience and Causes" section to your LinkedIn profile, click the "Profile" link at the top of the page, then select "Add Sections." If you do not have this option yet, select "Edit Profile," then scroll down to "Add Sections," which will be highlighted with a "New!" tag.

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From there, select "Volunteer Experience and Causes," then "Add to Profile." Here, you can select causes you care about, which range from animal welfare and education to human rights and social services. You can also list the organizations you've volunteered at—for example, Habitat for Humanity, American Red Cross and Teach for America—the role you played, how long you volunteered there and a description of the work you did.

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Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and Web 2.0 for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at kburnham@cio.com

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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