FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – Gaps in employment are common for military spouses who change duty stations frequently and can be frustrating to explain to potential employers.
Volunteering is an important addition to a resume, especially during periods of unemployment, said Kristen Geist-Hodgkins, Army Volunteer Corps coordinator.
“Including your volunteer experiences on your resume demonstrates to a potential employer you are proactive, passionate and have a growth mindset,” Geist-Hodgkins said. “Depending on what those volunteer experiences are, an employer can tell if you are creative, hardworking, ambitious, etc. It reveals so much to hiring managers.”
Spouses also can counteract the effect of employment gaps on resumes by volunteering while they look for jobs, said Abrell Jones, employment readiness adviser at the Spouse Employment Center.
“For federal resumes, it says that volunteer experience counts as job experience,” Jones said.
Volunteer time can close the gap of unemployment and demonstrates to employers that an individual used his or her time between jobs to develop new skills while maintaining existing ones.
Volunteering stands out on a resume, said Patrice Hamilton, employment services counselor.
“When you volunteer, you show a potential employer that you’re willing to take initiative,” Hamilton said. “You are showing that you have those soft skills of being a team player and can contribute to collaborative effort.”
Holly Nusom, employment services counselor, said sometimes after moving spouses aren’t looking for a new job but rather a career change. Volunteering, she said, is a good way to find out if a new field is the right fit before investing time and money in learning the skills necessary to make the change.
“It gives you a hands-on opportunity to test something out before you commit to school or training and the time that it takes to learn that skill,” Nusom said. “And you may learn that you love it, or you may learn that it’s really not for you or it’s not your thing, and then you can volunteer somewhere else.”
Volunteering through a particular agency is a great way to get acquainted with an organization, Jones said.
“If you’re looking to go into a certain field, sometimes volunteering gets your foot in the door, and helps you to become more familiar with the surroundings and learn about the job,” she said. “You might not have the experience when you start, but you can get the experience by volunteering at that agency or where you want to work.”
Volunteering before committing to a different career field is a wise approach because it is a safe way to learn about the work without making a permanent commitment, Hamilton said.
“If this is about career trajectory for someone, it might allow you an opportunity to pivot and see what it’s like to work in another career field without being committed, and that’s good for you and the employer,” she said.
There are several organizations on Fort Campbell that offer volunteer opportunities.
Cassandra Wyatt, regional program manager of the American Red Cross, said volunteering is a great way to make up for experience during unemployment.
“It’s a great way to build your resume, 960 hours is equivalent to six months of paid experience,” Wyatt said.
Currently, volunteer positions are open in professional, medical and administrative areas including youth chairman, medical volunteers, administrative assistants, emergency message caseworker, and Wyatt said disaster volunteers are needed in Clarksville.
Volunteer opportunities on the installation can be found at www.vmis.armyfamilywebportal.com, or for questions concerning volunteer openings please call 270-956-2934 or email Kristen Geist-Hodgkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.