SECTION C: Volunteering and Transferable Skills

There are very effective ways to make unpaid skills work in your favor.  In today’s world we are caregivers to elderly parents, small children, or our teenagers who need parental involvement. We may be military spouses, or a have any number of other circumstances that have created gaps in our work history. Or we may be gainfully employed and in addition contribute to our community simultaneously with voluntary labor. You should not deprive yourself of listing a skill set merely because you were not paid for it.

Demonstrate on paper all of your capabilities. Remember, the résumé submitted for each job will require revamping depending on the emphasis, so do not overlook a great potential for fresh material.


There is an FCPL librarian, who has been here in Frederick for 10 years, working at the C. Burr Artz Central Library.

In addition, she had 12 years of experience as a university lecturer in England and Germany, and 3 years of experience as a professional editor in New York.

When she applied in 1989 to the county government in Frederick, Maryland, she was coming off an immediate voluntary three-year hiatus. From 1995 to 1998, she voluntarily stopped working to be available to her teenage children, so there was now a gap to be accounted for – too recent to be avoided. There is a common belief in forgiveness toward parents of preschool age children, but after that things can be dicey.

 As we will address in Section D, all city, county, state and federal jobs must now be entered electronically, which means chronological format. This requires the last 10 years of one’s life accounted for from the present day backward.

Many people are in similar situations. There are legitimate reasons for “skips” in employment.  Our example had a good reason for the gap -- she wanted to be available for her children. There is no disgrace attached to that decision.  So, what would you advise her about describing herself “professionally” based on her volunteer experience during those three years?

How does a situation like this get “translated”?  Let’s look at everything she did in her volunteer position and brainstorm possible professional skills and buzzwords she could draw from this

1995 – 1998

Elected President of the Kaiserslautern Kingfish Swim Team (Volunteer Position)
Responsible for: 

  1.  Running an international swim team with 70+ swimmers ranging from 6 to 18 years of age. League teams were from Germany (5) /Holland (1) /Belgium (1) / Italy (3)
  2.  Hired coaches
  3.  Assembled team of other volunteer parents to run In-Service trainings for
    • Meet Judge
    • Stroke and Turn Judges
    • Statisticians
    • League Record Keepers
    • Food Supply Tables
    • Passport Monitors
    • Host Families
    • Fundraising
    • International Travel
  4.  K-Town Kingfish raised over $30,000 annually to pay for all expenses with strictly minimal dues from swimmers’ families and huge team fundraising events involving the kids themselves (bake sales, commissary bag days, food sales when K-Town hosted meets)
  5.  Created a busing feature not in place when she took over.  The practice pool was 1 hour away from the military base and practice was 4 days a week, with a full 8 hour home meet each weekend or a hosted meet in Italy, Holland, Belgium or other regions of Germany on alternate weekends.  The schlepping of many families every day, even with carpooling was hard on everyone.  Kids were going to practice right from school and getting home at 8 pm. 
  6. Hired a German bus service to pick swimmers up from school and transport them to the pool and back.  This allowed the swimmers to eat a light, healthy snack immediately and to bond.  Eased parents’ burden. Had extra food available for the ride home.
  7. Incorporated a Minnow/Buddy system where the older swimmers would help the younger swimmers with homework on the bus. 
  8. Put together a rotation of volunteer parent tutors on the bus for older swimmers’ homework help
  9. Liaised with the Armed Forces Network for two full-coverage television stories about the team.  Made arrangements for each family that wanted one to acquire a video of the shows.
  10. Wrote 6 published articles about team successes for local military papers. 
  11. Arranged site-sightseeing trips for swimmers during away meets: Venice, Munich, etc.
  12. The K-Town Kingfish took the European Swim title all 3 years.
  13. Coordinated 4- year swimming scholarships with 2 senior high school swimmers with U.S. universities.

Skills: Hiring / Budgeting / International Travel / Training / Fundraising / Public Relations / Marketing / Statistics and Record-Keeping / Recruitment / University Placement and Scholarships for Seniors

See? Now YOU list the skills you’ve gained through additional projects -- soccer practice = time management; getting your mom to the doctor = transporting; coordination of team projects (classroom parent for your child)…there are myriad possibilities.  You need to define what your transferrable skills* are because you are going to use them as a selling point.

*Transferrable skills: When searching through job advertisements, though the job title listed may not match a job title you ever carried, when you read what is required for the position it may dawn on you that you know how to do that work.  This is a transferrable skill – one that crosses job titles, department names and sometimes even industries. 


Transferable Skills Worksheet (Word Document version) (PDF version)