7 skills to list on your resume and how you can demonstrate them through your Volunteer Work

Hello! Welcome to our Project Stella Blog!

There is a common problem that I am asked by high school students and college students to help with.

They feel stuck and at a disadvantage when it comes to applying for jobs – either while they are in school or after graduation. 

Employers want to hire people with experience. In order to get experience, you need the job that won’t hire you without it. It is a messy cycle.

BUT there is a solution and I have spent years working with students to help them with it. Volunteering.  By learning to organize service projects for your campus and your community, the students I work with develop valuable job skills that employers want.

In this post, I list the top 7 skills employers are looking for and how you can demonstrate them through your volunteer work. Even more important, I provide you with tips on what to mention on your resume, in your cover letter, and during your interview.

New here? I have these blog posts to help you help youth Radiate Outrageous Compassion & Kindness.

5 Reasons you need to start a Kindness Club at your school or in your community today

25 items to have in your home or classroom to inspire kids to be kinder

3 Classroom Management tips that encourage students to be kind

Job Skill #1 – Positive Attitude

Most employers want someone that has a positive attitude. You may not know everything about the job but if you come in each day ready to make the best of any challenge, employers want you around. A positive attitude lifts a team up and encourages everyone to perform their best.

You can demonstrate a positive attitude by discussing the volunteer work you have completed. Mention, specifically, how you overcame any challenges.  Talk about the group dynamics and if you were able to encourage or motivate the other volunteers you served with. It is okay to mention if there were struggles while doing the project, but you want to emphasize how it helped you learn or develop new skills.

Job Skill #2 – Communication

When you talk about your communication skills make sure you acknowledge that communication is knowing how to listen as well as knowing how to share a message.  Your message can be shared verbally and through written means. Your internal audience is the team you serve with while your external audience is everyone that you publicize your program to –  for fundraising, recruitment, or to develop partnerships.

Being a volunteer leader helps you develop awesome communication skills. You have to know how to get people interested in what you are doing so they join your project or support it through donations and in-kind sponsorships.  You also communicate with clients (the people you serve) and with partners (the community agency). If you send emails, write a newsletter, start a letter campaign, or blog about your experience you are demonstrating communication skills.

Job Skill #3 – Teamwork

Teamwork is about having a group of people working together towards the same goal. You discover each person’s strengths and learn how to give and take so that everyone has a part to play.

Successful volunteer projects require teamwork.  You can demonstrate that you understand this by mentioning how you contributed to the service project and what you struggled with.  How did you overcome any challenges by relying on someone else? Did you have to delegate any tasks to anyone on your team? Not all teams work together smoothly all the time so if you had any conflicts or struggles, talk about what you did, as a team, to work through them.

Job Skill #4  – Self-Management

Self-management is all about taking initiative, working on projects without direct supervision, and being reliable.  Employers feel this is extremely important. They want to know you will be where you say you are and that they can give you something to do and know it will be completed when it is needed.

Every person that does volunteer work can demonstrate this self-management skill. By listing a project that you organized or work with a team to organize, you show that you can set a goal and take the necessary steps to reach it.  I haven’t talked much about references and who to list when applying for a job, but you want someone who can talk about how you take initiative and get things done.

 Job Skill #5 – Thinking Skills

Thinking skills can be demonstrated in several different ways. It can be working through a problem or doing some creative brainstorming.  Skills might be shown through taking a big idea and breaking it down into small, manageable pieces. Employers value this skill because they want to know you have the ability to take ownership of tasks and not have to be watched over for each small project.

Whenever you had to solve a problem or work through the logistics of a project, you are using thinking skills.  Discuss how you lead or were involved in brainstorming sessions or how you had to work through an issue that appeared at the last moment.  You don’t need to exaggerate anything when you talk about thinking skills but make sure they know that there was a situation that could have been worse if not for you being able to problem-solve through it or make a decision quickly.

Job Skill #6 – Willingness to Learn

Learning is not just for the classroom. Your willingness to learn is such a valuable quality because your employer wants to know that you are teachable. Most of your first year on the job is going to be learning.  Either through reading manuals, going through training, or taking responsibility for your own professional development, you are going to be gaining lots of new knowledge.

You probably didn’t start your service project or program knowing every single thing about it.  You had to be willing to learn and be interested in your work to continue to do so. If you attended meetings, went to conferences, researched an article, or asked about best practices, you demonstrated your commitment to learning what you needed to in order to be successful.

Job Skill #7 –  Resilience

Resilience is all about bouncing back from tough situations and continuing on with a project or a goal without giving up.  It is pulling together all the skills mentioned above to be used on a final exam. Because, even with be as prepared as you can possibly be, things go wrong.  Resiliency is all about what you do when that happens.

Did you have a horrible first event? Did you plan a service project and no one showed up or there was miscommunication so you didn’t have food or supplies?  These are very common situations that project leaders have faced. You are not alone. But on your resume or cover letter you want to talk about what you did take care of the situation. What did you learn from the experience and how did you make changes for the next time so you were successful.

So…how do you develop these skills to list on your resume?

You want to make sure that you have experiences to talk about specific things you have done to demonstrate them.

The best way to get these skills is to organize your own service project or volunteer program.  I can help you do that through the workbook: The Complete Guide for Student Leaders to plan Meaningful Service Projects.  In just a couple of hours, you will know all the basics – from creating a vision to developing community partners and recruiting volunteers. I walk you through how to Create a Buzz, plan a budget, and walk through all the logistics.  As someone who has spent year planning projects – from small groups to large community events – I am breaking down each step into a manageable process. AND, I then give you the ability to use your experience to really shine on your applications for colleges, scholarships, and jobs.

Develop your Leadership Skills

– Create a vision

– Develop Community Partnerships

– Build a team

– Create a Buzz: Publicize & Fundraise

– Plan Logistics

– Track your numbers

– Celebrate!

Want to inspire your kids or your students? Check out our new book –  52 Kids who R.O.C.K. Every Day: Inspiring stories of young people who Radiate Outrageous Compassion & KindnessOrder today on Amazon!


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