Tip 1: Think about it like any other job
The mindset that most people get tripped up on while thinking about their volunteer experience is “Well, I didn’t get paid for it so it doesn’t matter”. Because of this they end up not talking about the enriching experiences they had while volunteering, which is a really big misconception! To get out of this mindset we recommend thinking and talking about your volunteer experience as any job. For example, if you were talking about a part-time retail job you once worked at you may mention in an interview “My experience in retail allowed me to gain organization and collaboration skills”.You could say almost the exact same things for volunteer experience as well! Let’s say you are a volunteer at Riverview Gardens here in Appleton. You work with others to winterize gardens and take inventory of plants. If you wanted to talk about your volunteer experience while at Riverview Gardens you could say, “My experience at Riverview Gardens allowed me to gain organization and collaboration skills.” Thinking about your volunteer experience like your job experience makes it easier to translate during an interview.
Tip 2: Relate your volunteer and service experience to your career field
If you happened to volunteer in the particular career field you would like to end up in, you’re in luck! You can use this experience as a core interview response for, most likely, quite a few questions. If you are planning on pursuing a career in theatre arts, it might be helpful to mention your volunteer experience at a non-profit theatre, traveling theatre, etc. For example, employers may ask you the question “What drew you to apply for this position?” In terms of the theatre arts example, you can answer “I always knew I wanted to pursue a career in theatre, however, my experience volunteering at Skylight Music Theatre in Milwaukee really solidified my motives…” Using your passion as a segway into talking about an experience is very moving for the employer and shows how dedicated you would be to the position that you are applying to.
Tip 3: Describe the success you had
Even though sometimes we are plagued with dreaded questions like “Tell me about a time you failed” in an interview, employers really do like to hear about your successes as well. If during your volunteer or service experience you had a leadership position, headed a project, or even just got positive reinforcement from colleagues, feel free to mention this during your interview. An example of this is when an employer asks you a question about your collaboration skills, such as “Tell me about a time you worked as a group, how did it turn out?” A possible start to your answer could be, “During my time with Habitat for Humanity I was a group leader for the volunteers…” This answer would show how your volunteer experience put you in a leadership position and how you handled that position.