Q. I look at my resume and it has volunteer this and volunteer that. It doesn’t look like I have held a real job for years. How do I fix that? Or am I destined to just be a long-term volunteer?

A. You have raised a hot-button issue with me. Don’t state that you’re a volunteer. Just list and describe the positions you’ve held. So if you were chair of fund-raising, why not include that title? If you served on the compensation committee of a nonprofit, why wouldn’t you state that? Think about it. A job candidate who is head of finance for a biotech company doesn’t specify on his or her resume that the position is paid. They list the role, the employer, the dates of employment, and information about the position and responsibilities.


You are not destined to become “just a long-term volunteer” unless you choose that as your path.

You hit another hot topic with me. You, and only you, are the chief executive of your career. Do not rely on your spouse, career coach, placement agency, family member, or even your employer. You should actively choose what you want to do within realistic limitations. Don’t expect someone else to find you a job.

Your search and your career rest squarely on your shoulders. Your realistic limitations may be skill-based (no experience in accounting), geography-based (only South Shore) or pay-based (must make $50,000).

When job seekers tell me that their next job will come through a friend, spouse, parent, search firm,or other source, I get nervous. It is the job seeker’s role to pursue every path and every job lead.

Think about my suggested approach. Often volunteer positions are just as relevant as paid roles. If asked, you should always be candid and disclose whether the role was paid or volunteer. Volunteer, however, does not mean less valuable.


Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton.