How to List Skills Gained Outside of Work on Your Resume

Past work experience is, of course, the most important part of your resume. It’s meant to show a prospective employer that you have all the skills required to do the job for which you are applying, and that you’ve used those skills before in a professional capacity.

But what if you’re applying for a position that requires skills you didn’t gain through your past professional experience, but rather, skills you gained outside of work? Can you include those skills on a resume, and if so, how?   

The first thing to consider is this: Are the skills truly relevant to the job you’re seeking? You may be a fantastic pottery maker, but if that’s not a skill needed for this job, you probably shouldn’t waste space on your resume with that information. 

As a professional resume writer, I’ve occasionally worked with people who had very impressive accomplishments outside of work (athletic champions, award-winning artists, etc.). In some cases, I’ve chosen to include these items in the resume, even though the skills themselves were not relevant to the candidate’s desired role. The accomplishments, however, were exceptional and helped to describe the person’s character (driven, hardworking, and so on). So, while I say that in most cases, if it’s not relevant, you shouldn’t include it…you also want to use your best judgement.

Once you’ve determined what outside-of-work activities you’d like to include (and the skills you are intending they demonstrate), you now need to add them to the resume.

This can be done in a variety of different ways. For example:  

  • Volunteer work can be listed in a “Community Involvement” section  
  • If you held a leadership position in a professional association, note that under an “Affiliations” section  
  • If you have hobbies to include, list them under “Personal Interests” …but be careful with this one…really evaluate what skills are demonstrated and make sure it’s relevant or exceptional  
  • If you’ve held positions in political or religious organizations, it’s perfectly acceptable to list them, but DO NOT include the specific political party, candidate, religion or spiritual group. Instead, be vague and say something like, “Successfully raised over $20,000 for National Political Candidate,” or similar. You don’t want to provide any information that might create a conflict for the reader whether they align with your belief system or not.

Resume writing is both an art and a science. There are some hard-and-fast rules that everyone should follow no matter what. However, when deciding how to list skills gained outside of work on your resume, it requires a little personal discretion. Approach it thoughtfully and make sure you are demonstrating the very best you have to offer as a candidate.

Need more help writing your resume? The Resume & Cover Letter Toolkit offers step-by-step guidance, easy-to-use templates, and sample documents to get you inspired. Improve your resume and jump start your job search today!

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