The 4 Kinds of Experience You Need on Your Resume

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Job postings by social-impact employers often come with a big list of must-have skills. After all, these employers are looking for people who can solve some pretty tough challenges.

But other than soft skills, what kind of experience and technical expertise will get you noticed by social-impact employers?

Relevant project experience

This is probably one of the top criteria on a hiring manager’s checklist.

How can you show this experience?

Have you worked on a related project as part of your college coursework or as a leader of a student organization? In other professional roles? In an internship? Through volunteer work?

If you answered no to all of the above, what can you do to obtain this experience?

If you are a student, you may be able to design your own internship at an organization of interest to gain experience on relevant projects. Some colleges have internship funding that you can apply for and pitch an internship idea to your dream organization.

Even if your college does not have internship funding, you may still be able to pitch an internship idea to staff working on projects in your interest area. If you don’t ask, your chances are zero. And if you do ask, your chances can only go up from there.

You may also be able to volunteer at an organization working on project areas of interest. Idealist.org is a great place to look for volunteer opportunities.

Relevant technical skills

Many jobs require specific technical skills. Look at multiple job postings that interest you and see if certain technical, analytical, language, or computer skills are needed.

How can you show this experience?

Do you have a relevant degree or certification? Can you list specific technical coursework and computer software skills that are relevant to the job? Do you speak more than one language?

If you answered no to all of the above, what can you do to obtain this experience?

If needed, pursue relevant certificate programs or consider graduate programs in nonprofit management. Take online computer software courses or check for courses with local colleges, libraries, or community education departments. Conduct informational interviews to get the best advice on where to obtain these technical skills and make sure to ask which ones are required, and which should fall further down your list of priorities.

Creative problem solving

The best staff are problem-solvers. They have the ability to think creatively and solve problems in innovative ways. Obstacles do not stop them and they get work done.

How can you show this experience?

Have you taken the initiative to make a process more efficient? Ever save an organization time or money? Solve a problem that seems unsolvable? Reach a consensus on a challenging issue that looked like it would end in a stalemate?

If you answered no to all of the above, what can you do to obtain this experience?

Find successful frameworks for creative problem solving. Practice by doing. Seek out small-scale challenges to take on. Use a creative problem solving framework to solve these challenges. Interview people that you view as creative problem solvers and ask them what approach they take.

Management skills

Management skills can encompass a lot of different skill areas: ability to develop a vision for an organization or program, people management, project and budget management, time management, and fundraising skills. And don’t underestimate soft skills. You may not need all of these in your professional tool belt but if you aspire to a manager or director role, they all play a part.

How can you show this experience?

Have you ever developed a project and managed it from beginning to end? Did you manage a budget or raise funds? Have you juggled multiple projects? Ever adapt to a major change in plans?

If you answered no to all of the above, what can you do to obtain this experience?

Volunteer to manage or lead a project and you will gain many of these skills. Consider taking online courses in project management, people management, etc. If needed, explore relevant certificate program or consider graduate programs in nonprofit management.

You can be confident that hiring managers at many social-impact organizations will be scanning your resume for these four critical experiences and skills. Use the “How Can You Show This Experience” sections to help you design resume bullet content to show these skills.

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Are there other key experiences or skills that social impact employers value? Do you work for a social-impact employer?

We would love to hear how you use any of these four experiences and skills in your work. Or let us know your ideas for how to obtain them. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Lisa is a certified career coach and President of Green Career Advisor, helping individuals find their career niche and secure their dream jobs in the environmental and social-impact sectors. Prior to her current role, Lisa led the environmental career services at the University of Michigan for 10 years and spent 12 years working for the National Wildlife Federation.
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