What Do You Put for Reason for Leaving if Last Job Was Volunteer Work?

by Anne Hirsh; Updated September 26, 2017
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When filling out job resumes and applications, be as honest as possible while remaining positive. Unless the position requires it, professional resume writer Tony Oliva recommends that you avoid placing your reasons for leaving on your resume entirely. (See Ref. 3) However, sometimes you must give this information, so find a way to put a positive spin on paper, then be prepared to back it up during the interview process.

Personal Reasons

Analyze your real reasons for leaving the volunteer work, not the reasons you want to tell your employer. Whether you left to spend more time with your family, to seek paid work or for any other reason, be honest with yourself about why you chose to stop volunteering. List the top three reasons you left, just for yourself.

Positive Spin

Eliminate any reasons from your list that were due to personality conflicts or other negative scenarios such as boredom with the work, then try to rephrase each of your remaining reasons as a positive opportunity. For example, if you left due to an increase in other paid work, consider using "Accepted paid work opportunity elsewhere." This only works if you are honest about the job being a volunteer position. If you are trying to portray it as paid work, rethink this approach, as the volunteer nature may come out in pre-employment interviews and background checks, which will make you look dishonest. If you left due to lack of time, look at where else you spent your time. "Returned to school," or "Took leave to care for elderly family member" are understandable, positive reasons for leaving, as is "Increased work responsibilities" at your paid job.

Employer's Perspective

Always check your answers from an employer's perspective. If you simply write that you left "For better-paying work," an employer might feel you are disloyal to companies and can be easily lured away by money. Instead, try wording that makes the move understandable without calling your dedication into question. The Idaho Department of Labor recommends using the word "resigned" rather than "Quit" because it implies that you followed the proper procedure or protocols and left responsibly. (See Ref. 2) If the reason for leaving is purely monetary, "Resigned to seek full-time employment in the field" is a positive, appropriately worded reason if your new application is in the same field as your volunteer work. If not, eliminate the "in the field" portion of the answer.

Personal Conflicts

If your sole reason for leaving was a conflict with the volunteer organization or some other negative experience, it may be hard to create a positive spin while remaining honest. In this case, focus on what you want from the new job rather than why you left the volunteer organization. For example, resigning to seek opportunities more in your field of expertise, closer to home (if the job you are applying for is also closer to home) or work that offers a better work/life balance are acceptable, but be prepared to go into further detail at the employer's request, without responding with a negative attitude toward the organization. You might also write that you left due to "Changes in organization structure," and be prepared to explain what you mean, but be wary of this one, as some employers may find it too vague to be trustworthy.

About the Author

Anne Hirsh has been writing and editing for over 10 years. She has hands-on experience in cooking, visual arts and theater as well as writing experience covering wellness and animal-related topics. She also has extensive research experience in marketing, small business, Web development and SEO. Hirsh has a bachelor's degree in technical theater and English and post-baccalaureate training in writing and computer software.

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