You sit down to craft your resume, write that first draft—and it still feels empty. When you’ve had only one job or just a handful of college internships, how are you supposed to show off your personality and set yourself apart?
Here’s a hint: Start by looking beyond the positions you’ve held and the degrees you’ve earned. Truth is, there’s more to life than work and school, and if you have a lot going on outside of the office, that can be your ticket to a resume that’s compelling, well-rounded, and interesting, too.
Take a look at these four things you might not realize you can include on your resume.
Examples: Junior League, helping out at your church, or giving time to a local non-profit you’re passionate about
What it Shows: Leadership, project management
Volunteer work, particularly if it’s long-term or if it gives you the chance to lead a project from beginning to end, can be a great substitute for full-time work in the “Experience” section of your resume. Some organizations give titles or recognition to regular volunteers, so find out if there are any formal credentials that you can use (if not, just use “Volunteer”). Just like you would for a paid job, list bullets that show your major accomplishments and what you learned during your involvement.
In addition, if you’ve learned to use specific technology or acquired hard skills that would boost your application—like using accounting software during your time as the committee treasurer or managing multiple vendors for the event you planned for your church—stick them under “Skills.”
Professionally Relevant Hobbies
Examples: Writing, photography, or computer programming
What it Shows: Your accomplishments, creativity, and portfolio—plus the initiative you’ve taken in creating them
Golf or bowling might not show a future employer what you’ve got, but other hobbies just might. If you’re looking for a position doing graphic design, photography is a great skill to have. Or if you’re looking for a finance job, managing your own stock portfolio is definitely a relevant item to include under “Skills.”
Or, if the activity adds to your knowledge or talents in a more abstract way, list it under the “Interests” section of your resume. While starring in a play doesn’t translate directly from unpaid to paid work, it does show confidence, creativity, and lack of stage fright—all important skills if you’re applying for positions like marketing, sales, corporate training, or teaching.
Examples: Study abroad, side jobs (even if they’re manual labor!), running a blog
What it Shows: Initiative, good use of your time off (especially if you have a gap in employment), plus any language skills or technical skills you acquired in the process
If you’ve been unemployed at any point, your activities outside the office may act as a great substitute for professional experience. Some non-paid outlets are directly applicable to the job you want—like pro-bono lawyer work, working with patients in a free clinic, or building a following for your blog. But meaningful non-professional experiences can be broader than that, too.
That summer abroad in Mexico? It might provide language skills you can use in a new position—so stick it under “Skills.” Your years of tutoring high school students? That undertaking can showcase the soft-touch people skills you need for sales or corporate training—stick it under “Experience.”
Examples: A non-profit cause, athletic activities, open-source projects
What it Shows: Culture fit, personality
Most companies aren’t looking for another person to punch the clock—they want an employee that fits in well with the organizational culture, as well as the fresh perspective provided by a well-rounded person. And those hobbies, sports, and activities you’ve been spending time on during your off hours is a great way to show dedication, passion, and how well you’ll fit in—especially at smaller companies or ones with a strong culture.
So do a little stalking on its values and people—does it support a non-profit you’ve volunteered with, have a weekly running club, or get excited about open-source projects? It’s an obvious connection for organizations with a specific product or mission, like Runner’s World, Susan G. Komen, or a startup tech firm, but you can learn a lot about the organizational culture from the website, employee profiles, and general press coverage.
Don’t go crazy (and do be honest)—just include a few activities that relate directly to the organization and show that you’ll be a good fit.
Your “off hours” don’t mean that you’re wasting time. Your non-“work” activities and experiences can contribute nearly as much to your skill set as your paid jobs—so when crafting your resume, give yourself credit where it’s due. By highlighting your unique perspective and well-rounded background, you’ll paint the best possible picture of your talents and abilities.