A reader writes:
I'm eager to get your opinion on a suggestion a recruiter gave me recently. She had me list my marketing volunteer work as "marketing and PR consulting" on my resume to give me more recent work experience. (I was laid off just over a year ago.) I actually have helped a couple of local charities with their social media strategy, marketing, and PR quite a bit over the last year. I did update my resume as she requested, and I got the interview. I gave the interviewer more detail, including the name of the organizations and the fact that my work was unpaid. The interviewer seemed to like it, though in the end I did not get the position. I'm trying to decide if I should make the change permanent and add it to LinkedIn as well. It's tricky, because I don't want to be misleading, but I think this could give my efforts a boost at this point.
I think it's absolutely fine to do and not misleading.
Your accomplishments are your accomplishments. It's no one's business how much you got paid for them, even if that amount was zero. But perhaps it would help to think of yourself as "taking on pro-bono work" rather than "a volunteer."
It's true that with volunteer work, employers may wonder whether the organizations to which you were donating your time were holding the bar lower or holding you less accountable since your work was free. But that's pretty easy to address, by focusing on accomplishments in your resume, rather than just listing duties.
And I really like the idea of calling it "consulting," as you were consulting for them. Now, if you're doing a different type of volunteer work, such as stuffing envelopes, you really can't call that consulting. But in your case, the description fits.
Alison Green is the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results. She is chief of staff for the Marijuana Policy Project, a nonprofit lobbying organization, where she oversees day-to-day management of the staff as well as hiring, firing, and staff development. Her writings have been published in the Washington Post, the New York Times, Maxim, and dozens of other newspapers. She blogs at Ask a Manager.