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Wanted by Employers: Seasoned Volunteers

On Monday, Americans honored the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., many by participating in the MLK Day of Service, part of the United We Serve initiative. Groups, individuals, and families came together to clean up their communities, help the underprivileged, and assemble care packages for deployed service members in a celebration of the civil rights activist’s legacy of service.

For military families, pitching in to help isn’t a once-a-year event: Military families are committed to service. But even those who are among the extraordinarily high number of military family members who volunteer might not realize their efforts can bolster their careers, too, by filling in employment gaps on resumes.

According to the Blue Star Families’ 2013 Military Family Lifestyle Survey, 66 percent of respondents volunteered in the past year—more than twice the national average. Nearly 25 percent spent six to 10 hours volunteering each month.

Match that fact to this: A history of volunteerism is considered an asset to most employers. Yet for countless military spouses and dependents, building a resume can seem impossible. Given the pressure of dealing with deployed family members and frequent moves, even maintaining a single job for more than two years can be a challenge. However, as lots of military families have found, there is always an opportunity to serve the community and gain valuable job skills, whether through a spouse organization, religious group, or a service-oriented club or organization.

Job applicants should include all volunteer experiences on their resumes, just as they list jobs and internships. When you write about your volunteer experiences in resumes and cover letters, it is important to highlight instances where you took a leadership role, helping to organize all or part of a volunteer project. Also, provide numbers when possible (e.g., “packed ­­___ care packages” or “led ___ volunteers”), as it helps employers better understand the breadth of your responsibilities.

Military families regularly find ways to help their communities. Make sure that, as you find joy in helping others, you also help yourself by letting would-be employers know that through volunteering you’re gaining experience they are looking for.