How to Show Skills Gained Outside of the Workplace on Your Resume

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By: Chrissy Scivicque

As a well-rounded professional, you likely have a great deal of talents and skills that were gained outside of the workplace.

For example, maybe you’ve gained leadership experience while volunteering for your local charitable organization. Or perhaps you have a hobby that helped you hone spectacular technical skills.

Whatever the circumstance, there’s no reason you can’t list those skills and accomplishments on your resume, provided you do it in a thoughtful manner. Here are some key points to consider.

  1. Make Sure It’s Relevant

The first thing you need to do is make sure the skills you’re highlighting are very relevant for the role you’re seeking. If you’re a competitive basket weaver, that’s great. But does it have anything to do with the job you want? If not, don’t waste the precious space.

On the other hand, if you’re a gold medal swimmer, you might be even more inclined to mention it. After all, you can spin that experience to show you’re disciplined and competitive, but even that might be a bit of a stretch. You, more than likely, have work experience that shows these character traits even more effectively.

If you’ve built a successful website as a hobby outside of the workplace, and taught yourself to do computer programming, that could be a different story. If your future job requires similar expertise, that would certainly help demonstrate your ability to learn and your technical skill.

In short, make sure you’re remaining hyper-focused. Don’t add something unrelated in as an “interesting side note.” Most resume reviewers find these things distracting and irrelevant.

Also read: 3 Things to Remove from Your Resume Right Now

  1. Create a Separate Area

Once you’re certain that the skills you want to cite are relevant for the role, create a separate area on your resume to house them. Choose a name that accurately describes the activities. For example, you may wish to call this section:

  • Outside Interests
  • Charitable Work
  • Other Relevant Experience

Whatever you name it, this area should maintain a format consistent with the other sections of your resume. 

Also read: The Science of Information Design & How to Apply it to Your Resume

  1. Use Caution Referencing Religious and Political Organizations

Finally, it’s worthwhile noting that skills gained while working in religious or political organizations may be important, but they may also cause an unscrupulous recruiter to make unfair judgments about you. Yes, it’s illegal to discriminate based on these things, but discrimination is also difficult to prove.

If you have volunteer experience with a certain political party or a potentially controversial association of some kind, carefully evaluate its purpose on your resume. If it is in direct conflict with the organization you’re applying to, use caution. Make sure the skills you are demonstrating outweigh the preconceived notions the group affiliation may inspire.

If needed, you may choose to cite the organization in a more general fashion. For example, you can simply say something like this:

“Served as regional coordinator for national political campaign in 2016; oversaw 15 volunteers and exceeded fundraising goals by 20%.”

This statement puts the focus on the accomplishments, rather than the organization itself.

Also read: Resume Tips for a Portfolio Career

Remember that, as an employee, you bring all of your skills to the table—whether you gained them from employment experience or elsewhere. For that reason, it may make sense to share non-work related activities. Just make sure it does, indeed, make good sense.