Volunteering can be a great way to give back to the community and a great way to build your skills. In some cases, employers will expect to see your volunteer experience on your resume and on your LinkedIn profile. Here is what you need to know to include volunteering on your LinkedIn profile and a step-by-step guide to adding it to your profile the right way.
Why LinkedIn Matters
LinkedIn is more important to a job search than most people realize. Employers report that candidates that come through LinkedIn are 40% less likely to leave in the first 6 months of the new job. And, over 75% of employers report that they use LinkedIn in the hiring process including finding and evaluating candidates. So, you can expect that people and talent acquisition systems will be reviewing your LinkedIn profile during your job search.
To make the most of LinkedIn in your job search, you will need a complete profile that properly uses all of the functionality of the system. For the most part, this means building a LinkedIn that is an expanded version of your resume - including your volunteering. Here is what you need to know about including that volunteer experience on your LinkedIn profile.
When Not to Include it on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a professional social network website. Generally, your LinkedIn profile should match your resume. But, the LinkedIn profile is public and everyone can see it. So, you cannot always include all of the same details on your resume that is intended to be sent to specific audiences. The decision about whether to include volunteer experience on your LinkedIn profile is an important one. Here is when you should not include volunteering on your LinkedIn profile:
When Not to Include Volunteer Experience on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a professional social network website. Generally, your LinkedIn profile should match your resume. But, the LinkedIn profile is public and everyone can see it. So, you cannot always include all of the same details on your resume that are intended to be sent to specific audiences.
The decision about whether to include volunteer experience on your LinkedIn profile is an important one. Here is when you should not include volunteering on your LinkedIn profile:
- It is old. Volunteering isn't professional experience. So, it is ok to leave off volunteer experience after a certain period of time has passed. Many people have slowed down in volunteering with COVID, so you aren't alone. Take off that volunteer experience if it is older than 5 years - particularly if you haven't done anything since.
- It is political or faith-based. Including faith-based or political volunteering on your LinkedIn profile is tricky. Doing so can create more problems than it may be worth in your job search or professionally. If that political tie or religious affiliation isn't relevant to your career goals, then it is probably smartest to leave it off of your LinkedIn profile.
- Raises red flags or creates bias. Some non-profits or volunteer initiatives can carry an unexpected political connotation or open the doors to bias. Keep doing the volunteering if the issues and causes are important to you, but consider leaving off that experience from your LinkedIn profile.
- Not relevant. Some volunteer experience is important to the cause you serve, but it won't always be professionally relevant. In this case, leave this experience off of your LinkedIn profile to avoid adding keywords or details that will make you show up for the wrong recruiter searches or to otherwise look unqualified for a job.
- One-time only. Join a group of friends to help with a one-time event? That's great, but not something to include on your LinkedIn profile. These one-off volunteer outings are important but they don't add to your overall message or experience in the big picture.
- Doesn't add to your message. You volunteer because you care about the cause or the service that is being done. This may not always add to your overall professional message or it could create confusion of what that professional message is. If that is the case, then leave the volunteer experience off of your LinkedIn profile.
When Volunteering is Important to Include on LinkedIn
The decision about whether to include volunteer experience on your LinkedIn profile is an important one. For some people, potential employers will expect to see that volunteer experience on your LinkedIn profiles. Here is when to include volunteering on your LinkedIn profile:
- It adds to your message. Volunteer experience on a board or a committee can show leadership experience or show your commitment to service. This is particularly important if you are looking for a non-profit or government job. Make sure to add any volunteering to your LinkedIn that advances your professional message and your career objectives.
- Conveys additional skills. Volunteering can also be a way to gain or use your skills outside of your professional experience. You can gain this experience and give back to the community or cause that you care about. Make sure to include that volunteer experience and the details about it on your LinkedIn profile in that case.
- Adds important keywords to your profile. The description part of the volunteer experience can be an important way to add keyword phrases to your LinkedIn profile that may not appear elsewhere (i.e. board governance, leading people, etc.). In that case, make sure that you fully and completely describe what you do and any results for the non-profit in the description of your volunteer experience entry on your LinkedIn profile.
- The volunteering is current. Include the volunteer experience on your LinkedIn profile if it has occurred within the past 5 years. This ongoing work that is recent (especially if you weren't working during that time) is important to convey a complete picture of your experience and interests as a professional.
- Relevant. Some volunteering experience is particularly relevant to your career or professional message. This could be leadership of an internal committee at your current organization or participation with an employee affinity group. Whatever it may be, make sure to include the details in the volunteer experience section on your LinkedIn profile.
- Broadens your LinkedIn network. Properly adding the volunteer experience will include adding the organization that you volunteer with. This will open the door to finding the second and third-degree connections that also volunteer with the organization. People with shared volunteer interests can also be great networking connections in your efforts to land that next job.
- Creates a talking point. Coach your kid's hockey team? Or, do something really interesting as a volunteer? Doing something interesting or that is part of a community can help you to stand out. Add this to your LinkedIn profile and you will be surprised just how many people ask you about that information in an interview or networking meeting.
How to Add Volunteer Experience to Your LinkedIn Profile
Make sure that you add each volunteer experience to your LinkedIn profile separately. And, fill out each of the fields completely to make the most of the addition to your profile. This is important to maximize the visibility of the entry on LinkedIn and to provide relevant context to the person who may not be familiar with your work or the organization.
Here is how to add a volunteer experience entry to your LinkedIn profile:
- Go to your profile.
- Click on "Add Profile Section"
- Select "Background" from the drop-down.
- Click on "Volunteer experience"
- Fill out each of the fields in the pop-up. Make sure to use the drop-downs in that window to select the right titles and organization. This will maximize your visibility on LinkedIn.
- Include a description of what you do in a way that is relevant to your current professional message and that provides relevant context to an outsider about what the organization does.
- Click "Save"
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