A reader writes:
I am currently doing freelance consulting to make a little extra money (and I mean little) and keep my resume active while I am job hunting. I also do extensive volunteering, but some of that volunteering has turned into more substantive program development and outreach that I am proud of, and I am even referred to as a consultant by some of the organizations (although, alas, unpaid at this point).
My question is: Is it appropriate to list this unpaid consulting experience on my resume together with my paid gigs as a freelancer without mentioning the monetary distinction, or does protocol demand that I keep the two separate or identify it specifically as "volunteer," even though they are both equal in terms of utilizing my skills and resources to help make good things happen for people? For some reason, I get the queasy feeling that some prospective employers will think I am resume-padding if I also highlight my unpaid freelance achievements along with my paid ones, although I would be more than willing to disclose this in the interview process. This is particularly true for the dreaded online application forms that ask for beginning and ending salary.
And maybe it is my own insecurity talking here, but do you think that prospective employers might devalue my unpaid work (no matter how substantive) when considering me as a candidate? I don't want to be disingenuous on my resume about paid vs. unpaid work, yet I don't know if I have to make such sharp distinctions, either, if I don't have to. I just feel that, even in the non-profit world that is supposed to be more progressive, people sometimes still judge you on how much you make, or don't. How to handle this?
I think it's fine to lump the the volunteer work in with the paid work. As an employer, the only concern I'd have here is whether the organizations you were donating your time to were holding the bar lower/holding you less accountable since your work was free. But that's pretty easy to address, by focusing on accomplishments in your resume, rather than just listing duties.
Your accomplishments are your accomplishments. It's no one's business how much you got paid for them, even if that amount is zero. But perhaps it would help to think of yourself as "taking on pro bono work" rather than "a volunteer."
And by the way, I'm glad you're listing this stuff. Sometimes in the course of an interview, it comes out that someone has highly relevant experience that they left off their resume because it was volunteer and so they thought it "didn't count." It counts.