I am regularly asked this question after presentations about portfolio careers. Remember portfolio workers probably have the most experience of looking for work and projects so find themselves regularly having to sell themselves. I usually quote the fact that recently LinkedIn made it possible for their 150 million users to add their “Volunteer Experience & Causes” to their LinkedIn profile. After this more than 40% of the professionals that LinkedIn surveyed stated that when they are evaluating candidates, they consider volunteer work equally as valuable as paid work experience. One-fifth of hiring managers surveyed agree they have made a hiring decision based on a candidate’s volunteer work experience.
So I was especially intrigued to come across some research reported in last September’s International Journal of Selection and Assessment by Christa Wilkin and Catherine Connelly in which they investigated this issue with a group of professional recruiters. The carefully controlled study made it clear that recruiters were looking for relevant experience whether from paid or unpaid work. CV’s with a mix of voluntary and paid experience were rated more favourably than either pure voluntary or pure paid work. So talking about your voluntary work can complement paid experience to enhance your prospects. You appear more ‘well rounded’ and appeared to influence the recruiters decisions even when they said that voluntary work was no more important than paid work.
And the answer to the above question? Undoubtedly yes!