Adding your Unpaid Experience to your Resume


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One of the most common concerns of military spouses regarding employment is gaps in their
employment history on a resume. It is identified on surveys over and over by military spouses.
The best way to overcome this concern is to fill those gaps with viable experience, whether paid
or unpaid. So how do we translate our unpaid experience into something of value to a
prospective employer?

This series of articles is titled ?Strategic Volunteering?. This term refers to unpaid roles that
mirror the employment process. They have defined duties and expectations, they have an
application, screening, and interview process, they have orientation training, and they have
defined goals and outcomes. Seeking out these types of unpaid roles will give you the
Knowledge, Skills, and Achievements (KSAs) that many employers look for on a resume.
In addition to seeking out and serving in these types of unpaid roles, you can also do the
following to increase the value of your unpaid experience:

? Be committed and consistent in your unpaid roles. Just like you would with paid
employment, be on time, honor your commitment to a project or effort, and be
consistent with the organization.

? Educate yourself about the project or organization you are working with. Understand
their mission and the tools and resources they use to meet their mission. Look beyond
your role and understand how you may be part of a bigger picture. If outcomes are
expected of the unpaid employees, research how those outcomes contribute to the
mission and goals of the organization. Having a strategic understanding helps you
communicate your contribution in tangible terms on your resume to a future employer.

? Build relationships with both unpaid and paid staff in the organization. Whether you
work directly or indirectly with people, creating and maintaining these relationships
expands your network. If there is a possibility of future employment, these
relationships and the face-to-face interaction may be a positive step towards
employment when hiring managers are considering qualified candidates.

? Stay connected with the connections you have made. Personal circumstances may
cause you to decide to draw away from an organization or a project. If you do have to
take a hiatus or stop active volunteering, you can still maintain your relationship with
the organization, even from a distance. These connections may serve as references in
future employment efforts as well as personal friendships.

When considering what unpaid experience to include on a resume, consider listing experiences
that have tangible outcomes, such as fundraising efforts or recruiting efforts. List those
outcomes like you would achievements from employment. If you had a consistent schedule
that you maintained as an unpaid staff member, this will also demonstrate to a future employer
that you were actively seeking to increase your skills, even if unable to secure paid

employment. When looking at the big picture and trying to capture the experience gained
through unpaid employment, focus on the well-defined unpaid roles you have served in and
codify those on your resume. Don?t assume that all unpaid experience will contribute to

Because of the nature of our all-volunteer force that serves in uniform, many of the family
members also naturally gravitate towards community service and unpaid employment. This is
why so many of our infrastructure services and resources are so heavily dependent on
volunteers. Know the value you bring and research the opportunities available at your location,
both inside and outside the gate. These opportunities can open doors to meet your own
personal and professional goals.

?Volunteer! Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.? Arthur Ashe


Written By: Milinda Rau

                 Outreach Specialist, Military Spouse Jobs