Are Volunteering Jobs & Internships Considered Professional Experience?

by C.J. Powers, MBA, MA Originally posted at The CJ Project

I get this question a lot when I do my professional development workshops…”Will employers consider any nonprofit work or volunteer-intern work as prior experience?” The answer is yes and no. The bottom line is you NEVER know what the employer, recruiter, or hiring manager is looking for deep down. All you can do is put your best foot forward and hope that your experience and skills measure up to what they are looking for. Not to mention that it’s good to come to them with something (even if it was unpaid voluntary experience that’s related) than nothing or unrelated experience. While giving back to the community is the main purpose, it also gives you a chance to test out career options and get other valuable resources for your professional future.

For example, if you are applying to be an accountant for a company and you did basic accountancy work for a nonprofit in your community around 16-20 hours a week, then that could be seen as valuable experience. It all depends on how you sell it in your resume and your interview. When you see the announcement for the job or ask someone, pull key words that they use to describe the work that would be done and add those words to your resume to describe your experience (if it’s similar to your job responsibilities or relevant). When employers see familiar key words like this in a resume, it stands out. They typically aren’t too worried about your status as a full-time paid employee doing the work or not.

The point is you have valuable experience that they need and want for a prospective candidate. Many times you want to have valuable experience and the paycheck that comes with it, but many people miss out on opportunities that will take them to the next level just the same.
I read an article entitled “The Value of Volunteering." The author mentions that in addition to exploring future career options, volunteering also introduces you to mentors (mentors write great letters of recommendation) and gives you valuable experience that looks great on college and scholarship applications. The resources derived from this kind of work are endless…not to mention it may be a great source of networking for other companies. Nonprofits typically have many employees and top management personnel from companies who volunteer for them as members of their board or donors. Those are great networking tools to have as a volunteer within an organization as well because boards are always so diverse and are comprised of people from many different industries.
“While you won’t earn a paycheck for volunteering, you will earn valuable experience, a sense of accomplishment, and the satisfaction that only comes from personally making the world a better place to live.” - Jessica Pupillo

Looking for local volunteer opportunities? Want YNPN of OKC to help you promote an opportunity with your nonprofit?