Which Looks Better On Your CV – Volunteering or Paid Work?

With the job market as uncertain as it is and millions of people looking for work, it is becoming more and more vital that you can stand out from the crowd. Qualifications and grades are a good way of doing this. But the problem is – in most places education is compulsory so, many other people are going to have the same qualifications and grades as you, which doesn’t help you stand out at all.

What it usually comes down to is the extracurricular things that you have on your CV. Meaning what other things have you done other than going to School, College or university etc etc. One of the main things that employees tend to look at in the extracurricular field is what work experience you have. As harsh as it is to say, having little work experience is a huge hindrance to any job application.

Yet work experience can either come from doing volunteer work or from doing paid work. The question that everybody wants answering is – which is better to have on your C.V paid work or volunteer work?

Employers looking at CVs are trying to suss out what sort of a person you are.

So volunteering is a really great way of displaying that you get involved with the community and enjoy giving something back by helping others out. This can be really appealing to employers as in a work environment they need to know if you can work as part of a team and help other members of staff out when it is needed. It also sends the message to employers that you are a kind hearted person as you don’t mind giving up a little bit of your time in order to help others. This is a really good thing as employers will want to hire people who they know are going to put the extra effort into their business or company.

However paid work is also good to have as it indicates that you have had previous experience of doing some ‘real work’. They know that you can hold down a job and that you are familiar with a working environment. There is a big difference between volunteer work and paid work as paid work often comes with a lot more pressure and is often much more demanding.


Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/78428166@N00/6986353623/

The main argument comes down to whether volunteering or doing paid work gives you the best set of skills. People look badly on volunteering as they think that it gives them the wrong skill set. However all the skills you learn whilst volunteering are transferable skills, which is what all employers are looking for nowadays, and they can be applied to any working environment.

The answer may seem simple. Surely paid work gives you the correct skills for other paid work. But it all comes down to what the paid work was. If you’re applying to be an investment banker and you have experience as a waiter, the skills learned from working for the finance section of a non-profit would be much better suited. What it comes down to is your role and the skills that come with it.

So what’s the final answer? Which is better for your CV volunteering or paid work? Well it all depends on what specific employers are looking for. They may be looking for paid experience or they may be looking for people with a specific type of personality to join their team. Your best bet is to have a mixture of both. Volunteering doesn’t have to take up lots of time and can easily be done alongside paid work.

By author Endre Rex-Kiss, writing on behalf of Pro Bono. Pro Bono is the biggest not for profit organization in Australia. Follow Endre’s occasional rants on twitter!

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