Using Volunteer Work to Fill Resume Gaps & Re-enter the Workforce

Volunteer experience can be invaluable for your resume especially if you are re-entering the workforce or changing careers. In this post, we’ll explain the benefit of volunteer experience for re-entry resume writing strategy, share 22 strong transferable skills keywords that will make your resume really stand out from the crowd, and show you how to add these into your resume. 

Why Volunteer Experience Can Be a Game Changer on Your Re-entry Resume

When it comes to personal and professional fulfillment, volunteering offers a ton of benefits from endless networking opportunities to confidence boosting. In addition to these great benefits volunteering is super valuable for demonstrating your real-world experience when it comes to resume writing. The first reason volunteering is important, is that it can help to fill in the unemployment resume gaps causing employers to wonder what you’re up to in your spare time. This is a great strategy if you have taken more than a year off to care for family or raise your kids. When a recruiter or hiring manager is scanning your resume she will want to know that your skills haven’t become rusty during your time off. Adding gap-filling volunteer experience to your resume will be a game changer because it will visually and experientially fill the gap when being reviewed by hiring managers and recruiters.

What Transferable Skills Are & Why They Strengthen Re-entry Resume Keyword Strategy

Another major benefit of volunteering for re-entry professionals is the ability to build up your transferable skills keywords on your resume. Transferable skills are skills you possess based on past experience, that you can carry over or “transfer” into your future experience. Since your future employers will want to understand your capabilities for your next role, transferable skills will play an important role in helping them see this.

Where to Use Transferable Skills On Your Re-entry Resume

While having a robust resume keyword strategy is critical for every professional these days, transferable skills keywords are particularly valuable for those making a career change or re-entering the workforce. You’ll have to attract hiring manager interest in the initial resume scan by listing the strongest industry / role / level keywords in the resume keywords section. You’ll also need relevant keywords throughout your resume in order to get past Applicant Tracking Systems or ATS. Therefore, having the visual keyword resume section, populated with keywords relevant to the job posting, is a huge opportunity. If you fail to list transferable skills that are necessary for the job, the hiring manager and ATS will not be able to see you as a potential fit, and therefore eliminate you from the pool of qualified candidates.

Transferable Skills Can Help You Get Past Applicant Tracking Systems

Applicant Tracking Systems or ATS are the initial checkpoint for online job applications. No longer is a human doing the first resume read-through. Therefore it’s important that we dive deeper into ATS keyword strategy. Having the right resume keywords and keyword phrases are especially important today due to the heavy use of Applicant Tracking Systems or ATS’s. If you have omitted important transferable skills keywords from your resume, it is very likely your resume will end up in the resume black hole after passing through the ATS scan.

Here are the Transferable Skills That Employers Love

One of the main challenges faced by volunteers, is identifying the transferable skills that are most valued by employers. If this is a challenge you share, look no further. I’ve come up with 22 skills your next employer is likely looking for. These are skills you have probably acquired if you’ve been spending part of your employment gap volunteering. Even if you have not been a formal volunteer, but have been working as a stay-at-home mom or caretaker for your elderly parent, you are likely using skills from this list.

  1. Teamwork/Ability to Collaborate

  2. Strong Work Ethic

  3. Dedication

  4. Persistence

  5. Compassion

  6. Commitment

  7. Perseverance

  8. Sense of Mission / Mission-Oriented

  9. Relationship Building

  10. Project Management

  11. Optimizing Limited Resources & Tight Budgets

  12. Communication

  13. Decision Making

  14. Problem Solving

  15. Planning

  16. Organizing

  17. Prioritizing

  18. Information Processing / Data

  19. Analytics / Analytical

  20. Influence Others / Influencer

  21. People Management

  22. Leadership

After You Select Your Skills and Keywords, You Must Do This

Once you’ve identified a skill relevant to  your volunteer work, all you have to do is come up with a stellar example or story of how you demonstrated this skill “on the job” as a volunteer. You will also need to be able to communicate your volunteer achievements in the form of a results-oriented story both on and off your resume. So take a quick moment to jog your brain and jot down your best result. You’ll want to have one result-oriented story per transferable skill. Use these skills stories to craft high-impact bullets for your resume Experience section and LinkedIn profile. And don’t be afraid to use these stories in the interview process as well!


If you’re hoping to improve your re-entry resume strategy, check out our ageism-busting resume services. Our master resume writers will provide you with a custom resume strategy phone consultation, ATS and keyword optimized resume, and tailored resume that speaks to your strongest career accomplishments and value – everything you need to feel confident, navigate the job search successfully, and put your best foot forward as a 50-plus applicant.

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