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Resume Tenses for Volunteer Work

Resume Tenses for Volunteer Work

When it comes to writing your resume, getting the grammar correct is of utmost importance.  Grammar is one of the best life skills and can be a reflection of your knowledge and your professionalism.  When writing your resume, understanding which verb tense to use can be a difficult question.  For volunteer work, if it occurred in the past, you should use the past tense verb.  If the volunteer work is present and ongoing, you should use a present tense verb.

We’ve previously discussed and provided a definitive guide to understanding tenses on your resume.  To keep it extremely simple, when writing your resume, most of the accomplishments and achievements will be written in the past tense.  That is because the bulk of your resume will be previous or completed accomplishments.  The past tense should be used for any experience that is no longer present or ongoing.

You should only use the present tense when you are writing or discussing a topic or accomplishment which is ongoing or current.  When it comes to volunteer experience, if you are currently volunteering with an organization, then you can use the present tense.  However, if you previously volunteered with an organization, and have since moved on, then you would use the past tense.

Can I Mix Past and Present Tenses for Volunteer Work?

Ideally, you will want to stick to one tense throughout a specific section.  So, for any current work or volunteer experiences, you will go with the present tense verbs.  These are verbs which indicate a current or ongoing action.  An example is, “I manage a team of volunteers every Wednesday in assembling food packages for the less fortunate.”

With this example, you are indicating that it is a current task or action that you take.  As it is a current level of experience or volunteer work, you would not want to use the past tense.  The past tense for volunteer work should only be used for work that you have completed and accomplished.

If you are discussing a previous organization where you volunteered, you can say, “assisted organizational leadership in providing fundraising resources to local chapters.”  This sentence clearly shows that this experience was previously done and is no longer current.

You should avoid using both past and present tenses within the same section on a resume.  This will lead to confusion and a misunderstanding of when the experience occurred and if the experience is ongoing.  There should be clear demarcations which indicate when the experience happened and if it is still happening.

What is the Difference Between Past and Present Tenses?

The difference between the past and present tenses is pretty clear-cut.  When it comes to present tenses, they are anything and any item that are currently occurring, ongoing, or happening.  So, if you are currently responsible for an action or item, then you would want to use the present tense.  The present tense is most widely used on work experience at a company where you are currently employed.

The past tense is used for anything which is no longer ongoing, happening, or current.  If you previously accomplished, achieved, or managed an item or issue, then you would want to use the past tense.  The past tense is most widely used on previous work experiences, education, volunteer experience, and internships.  For anything that happened in the past and is no longer current, you should use the past tense.

If you are unsure of which tense to use, you may opt to simply use the past tense throughout the entire resume.  Although not the best situation, it is better than confusing between the two and using incorrect grammar.  The past tense can be used across the board for both previous and current work, academic, or volunteer work.

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