Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Am I an Intern or Volunteer?

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Intern or Volunteer

Organizations use dozens of handles, like: intern, volunteer, summer student, co-op, or unpaid placement.

So you’ve decided to work for no money; good for you. While it doesn’t add to your bank account, it’s a great way to fill your resume.

But you may be unclear on what exactly your job title is, and what it means. Organizations have dozens of handles they use, like: intern, volunteer, summer student, co-op, or unpaid placement. So you may be wondering if “interning” is better than “volunteering,” or “co-oping.”

The International Volunteer Directory defines the difference between an internship and volunteering as:

“An internship is something that you choose to do in order to develop your skills in a profession. Volunteering can also serve this purpose, but the driving force is your desire to help out. So for example, a teaching program can be viewed as an internship by those who wish to develop their teaching skills.”

This is a good place to start. The term, volunteer is generally used more in the not-for-profit sector, and the term internship is more common in the corporate world. But neither is mutually exclusive. The truth is there is no steadfast definition that’s used and recognized throughout the sectors.

So what should you put on your resume? Simply ask your supervisor or boss what their preferred term is, and use it. You may be concerned that “volunteer” doesn’t sound professional enough when applying for corporate jobs, or that “intern” may look too cold for not-for-profit jobs. But don’t worry about it. Prospective employers are interested in the job duties and skills listed under the job title, not the actual job title.

Ryan Leclaire
Author: Ryan Leclaire
Ryan has been writing for 7 years and has been featured in Chatelaine, Canadian Living and Cottage life.
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