You may remember filling out logs of volunteer experience when you applied for undergraduate schools. Whether you spent your time aiding the local soup kitchen or participating in a charity walk, those extracurricular acts of service to others were a way to set yourself apart from competitors.
In the professional world, job applicants may feel a bit more sheepish about volunteering. After all, recruiters and entrepreneurs are most interested in how productive you can be in a new role, and what you've done professionally, than whether you spend your free time helping those less fortunate. However, it might be time to look less cynically at volunteerism. In crowded fields with many qualified candidates, giving interviewers and HR representatives a window to your values could place you ahead of the pack.
"Volunteer work, whether in addition to a current job or an activity in between jobs, shows an employer that you are willing to try new experiences, be involved in your community and generally demonstrates a willingness to take initiative and make things happen," Kara Montermoso, content manager at Idealist.org, told Monster.com. Her site helps connect professionals with career opportunities at nonprofits.
The job application process presents many opportunities to discuss volunteer efforts. Even if you aren't able to fit a "volunteer experience" section on your one-page resume, it's possible to impress interviewers by connecting your vision for the position to the experiences you've cultivated through volunteering. Lending your time to worthy organizations demonstrates a willingness to make personal sacrifices and to view things in perspective.
When you walk through an office door to showcase your professional achievements, remember that your conscience can also make you more attractive to employers.