I did some volunteering work for two weeks last summer at my son’s school. Should I add this to my CV?

I’m often asked about what sort of extra-curricular activities, hobbies and interests should be added to a CV. So, when Sally asked me this week about adding volunteering experience to her CV, I felt we should explore this topic a little more.

I’m a huge believer that if you have something different, valuable, or interesting to add to your CV, then you should absolutely do it. Especially when it comes to including information that could be super useful to the job you’re applying for.

But that’s the point, isn’t it?

How do you decide if something is different, valuable or interesting?

Transferable skills and fascinating facts

One of the questions I always ask my executive CV writing clients is: “what do you do outside of work? What’s your life like when you’re not in the office?”

And, it’s fair to say, I’ve had some fascinating answers to this question. Most people will tell me something that they think isn’t relevant but actually turns out to be the most incredible thing — brilliant transferable skills or fascinating insights into their personality.

Recently, I was working with a client who told me that despite his antics as an adrenaline junkie for more than 20 years, he likens himself to Bruce Willis’ character in Unbreakable. He’s never actually broken a bone in his life. Wow. Not only did that fascinate me, I thought it was a brilliant ice-breaker! I wasn’t working on this client’s CV, but I did prepare his LinkedIn profile. And yes, it made the cut.

I’ve had other clients tell me that they go to the gym a lot or they enjoy socialising with their friends.

Does this make the cut? Not so much.

What about ‘reading’ as a hobby on a CV? 

Well, that depends. Do you read a lot of sparkly vampire romance novels? I’d probably keep that to yourself.

That being said, I’ve used this on a client CV quite recently. No, not vampire novels. Reading.

This particular client told me he liked to call himself a ‘professional’ reader. He isn’t, of course. He’s an IT Analyst. When questioned further, I found out that he literally consumes books. Inhales them, even. He reads everything he can get his hands on related to economics and politics. There isn’t anything this guy doesn’t know about the history of politics in Britain. In fact, he’s become so known for it in his social circle that he was asked to give professional commentary on a very popular book review blog. He’s never read a fiction book in his life. So yes, this made the cut.

What about being a school governor or a member of the PTA?

Absolutely! Guess what. Right there you’re showing off your ability to discuss and set strategy. You’ve demonstrated your community spirit and great networking ability. Brilliant transferable skills, no matter where you are in your career.

So let’s get back to the original question: Should Sally add her two weeks of volunteering experience to her CV.

Here’s what you need to know about Sally. She’s the HR director of a fairly major retailer in the UK. She’s about to be made redundant after 15 years of service and she wants a career change.

Sally is a strategist, an inspirational people-person and the Queen of employee engagement. In her next role, she wants to work for an organization that means something to her, has a brilliant culture, and gives back to their community.

I advised Sally to add that volunteering experience with pride and back it up with evidence of her contribution. What did her act of kindness mean for her son’s school? What could they do that perhaps they couldn’t have done before Sally’s input?

Turns out, Sally set up, launched and recruited volunteers for a reading club that ran for two weeks during the summer holidays. Fifteen kids aged 4-8 learned to read in the summer of 2018 because of Sally and her small army of volunteers.

Did it make the cut? You bet it did!

Got a career question? DM me or email libby@blumoonconsulting.com

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