Career Tip, How to List Service Experiences on Your Resume

In addition to talking about your national or international service experience, the job search process forces you to write about it as well. How do you write about your experiences on your resume?

How to craft your resume may raise questions for you. Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, and other service programs are often considered a form of volunteering. You may wonder, will employers take a service term seriously as professional experience? Should you include the name of your service program in your title?

For the resume, it’s a good idea to include both your title or role within your host organization as well as the name of your service corps program. For example: “Instructor of College English – Peace Corps Volunteer,” or “Volunteer Coordinator – AmeriCorps Member.”

In the first bullet point, include a brief explanation of your program:

• Committed to 1700 hours of full-time service with a national corps of conservation volunteers who focused on resource conservation and education.

Likewise, in your cover letter or grad school essay, include a phrase or brief explanation of your service. For example: “During my time with City Year—a one-year, urban youth corps that serves children—I developed tutoring, event planning, and cross-cultural communication skills.”

Mentioning your affiliation with your service program, you will help the hiring team understand why your stint in your last “job” was relatively short, you’ll help them understand your program, and you may connect with them as an insider, if they are also a service corps alum.

Whether your hiring manager is familiar with national service or not, you can make the case for why it’s been invaluable to your professional development and issue-area education. It also shows your commitment to improving your community. People least connected to service may be the most impressed, because they can’t imagine anyone accepting such little pay, taking on such huge responsibility.

As always on your resume, focus only on the skills that the position description is asking for. Limit your bullet points to the skills and accomplishments that reflect what you’d need to do if you were hired. For much more about crafting the perfect resume and cover letter, check out Chapter 8 of the Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers.

This blog post has been adapted from a section of the forthcoming Service Corps Companion to the Idealist.org Guide to Nonprofit Careers, due out this coming spring from Idealist.org.

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