45

Background:

I was fortunate enough to obtain an internship in software development when I was 16, and I've been working in a software development related role ever since (through summer jobs/internships as well as full-time salaried work). I am currently 22.

It is very common where I am from for young men and women at the age of 18 or higher to enter into voluntary religious service for 1.5-2 years. I chose to do so when I was 18, came home, and landed a nice job at a local software company which I left after a year and a half of employment.

When I returned home I didn't initially discuss my religious service in my resume. However, this lead to questions about the two year gap. I was able to participate in a little programming while involved in this, so I've taken to including it, and attempted to make it as relevant as possible:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints / Full Time Volunteer

January 2015 - January 2017,

  • Created script to translate Delorme Street Atlas+ files into KML for use in google maps
  • Volunteered weekly in community service such as soup kitchens and food pantries
  • Participated in daily and weekly planning sessions
  • Cold contacted, presented curriculum
  • Mentored junior colleagues

Question:

How I can I handle this professionally in my resume? Should I include it at all? If no, how can I best talk about the 2 year gap/avoid a binned resume?

TLDR; As it stands my resume consists of a few software development jobs, followed by a 2 year gap for religious service, and then another software related job. What is the most professional way to handle this in my resume?

  • 6
    Are you applying for jobs "where you are from" (i.e. where this is "very common") or are you applying for jobs in another country (or region of your own country)? – Anthony Grist Nov 6 '18 at 15:33
  • @AnthonyGrist both. – 0112 Nov 6 '18 at 16:46
  • 3
    @0112 I think it also might be helpful to point out that you were working 60+ work weeks, something a non-LDS person might not realize. A lot of people see think of mission trips as a vacation where you "find yourself", whereas an LDS mission is a very demanding job. – user88229 Nov 7 '18 at 15:02
82

That quoted part seems okay to put in a resume; you could perhaps leave out the LDS part and just mention "full time volunteer" if you're worried that religious service looks unprofessional on your resume, but I wouldn't worry about it; especially not if this is common in the area you live in.

I was able to participate in a little programming while involved in this, so I've taken to including it, and attempted to make it as relevant as possible

As a bit of an aside, I think that being a good employee in any position (including software development) is more than just about "technical skills". The so-called "soft skills" of being a pleasant person to work with, patience, ability to disagree constructively, being able to take responsibility, and so forth matter. A lot. Highlighting those kind of aspects in your two year service would be just as useful – if not more useful – than highlighting various technical things you've done in that time.

All other things being equal, I would personally sooner hire someone with some experience outside of software development – such as LDS missionary service – than someone who hasn't, even though I am an atheist who is not especially fond of organized religion (as an institution) in general.

Don't be afraid of it, and use it to your advantage.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Snow Nov 7 '18 at 7:06
  • 11
    I would remove the title completely and replace it with Local Church or Religious Organization or something like that. This will eliminate any prejudice from people seeing LDS and saying oh God not one of those! Similarly with cold-contacting, perhaps replacing it with Community Outreach or something that doesn't conjure up the image of a guy knocking on your door in the middle of dinner. – rath Nov 7 '18 at 14:23
  • 3
    If you are a full-time volunteer for two years, explaining that is important, so I agree with including it. I disagree with removing the name of the organization for which you volunteered. It looks incomplete otherwise, and perhaps like an attempt to cover a stretch of involuntary unemployment. Remember, the purpose of the resume is to get an interview. Account for the 2 years, with succinct information. – A K Nov 7 '18 at 14:49
  • Agree with the penultimate paragraph, and I'm an anti-organized-religion atheist too. – Martin Bonner Nov 7 '18 at 15:28
26

Definitely include it in your resume!

It's great, it shows you're not just motivated by money and have interests outside of work. Many people your age have big gaps for traveling etc. and most employers don't mind.

To fill the gap in your resume list your freelance work as an ongoing position that spread over this time. That way your future employers can see that you were still coding while you did voluntary service.

i.e.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints / Full Time Volunteer January 2015 - January 2017

  • Volunteered weekly in community service such as soup kitchens and food pantries

Freelance Software Developer January 2015 - Present

  • Created script to translate Delorme Street Atlas+ files into KML for use in google maps
  • I wouldn't put the LDS part, being Mormon can definitely close doors for you if you disclose it in the US. I think they could finagle it to make it look like it was a "run of the mill" protestant denomination volunteer group, which is way harder to discriminate against. – opa Nov 7 '18 at 15:32
  • @opa - "being Mormon" can close doors or open them depending on where in the country you are. Having grown up in Idaho, I know that being Mormon will open many more doors in ID & UT than it would close. (Not a Mormon.) – FreeMan Nov 7 '18 at 16:18
  • 2
    @FreeMan Being classified as a Mormon will only open doors for you in Mormon/Mormon dominated institutions, otherwise, especially at modern young tech companies, you may find yourself not getting past the initial resume submitting stage. This is even more true in California where the past revocation of gay marriage is tightly affiliated with Mormon votes, so there's an often personal aspect to the fact that your Mormon and trying to apply to a progressive tech company from silicon valley. – opa Nov 7 '18 at 16:24
  • If the technical task was part of the volunteer experience, I see no reason to split them and imply it was not related. – GalacticCowboy Nov 7 '18 at 16:31
  • 1
    It's generally illegal to discriminate against someone because they are or aren't Mormon. In practice, it will be almost impossible to present evidence that you were discriminated against because of a religion mentioned on your resume, unless there's a consistent pattern with lots of repetitions. – David Thornley Nov 7 '18 at 17:56
7

Especially since you did computer-related work as a volunteer, making it more technically relevant – but, even if you hadn't – you definitely should include that entry, proudly.

Whether you "felt called" to do it, or felt that it was expected of you and/or that it is a social norm where you live, "this is what I did, and did it faithfully and well, during this period of my life." (And if you still do it, mention that also.)

I sometimes volunteer at soup kitchens – slugging 40-pound containers of hot food to the front line and washing a helluva (heaven-va?) lot of dishes – but this, too, "is part of my life and of my life's service to others," and I mention it in a section on resumes. (In this case, I do it simply because I want to – hard work has never felt more fulfilling.) It is beneficial to let an employer know "what else you are, besides work."

3

Seeing as you did some programming in the middle of this service, I think it's still reasonable to put it in your resume. However, you might want to trim the entries under that to include the programming bit and then just summarize what you do there. You can then simply elaborate further should they ask about it during an interview.

So it would just probably appear like this:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints / Full Time Volunteer
January 2015 - January 2017,

  • Created script to translate Delorme Street Atlas+ files into KML for use in google maps
  • Volunteered weekly in community service such as soup kitchens and food pantries
  • 4
    Depending on the position, experience with mentoring others could be worth leaving in (even expanding a little beyond what OP's written). – Geoffrey Brent Nov 6 '18 at 10:42
2

There is no special way to discuss this, any relevant experience should be listed. You should be prepared to discuss it as you would any other relevant work experience, I would suggest you focus on what you did and how it is relevant to the job you are applying for.

If you simply need to account for the gap in what may be a sparse resume, and do not feel there is enough relevant experience, you may simply include it to account for time without going into details.


Over time as you have more work experience, this CV line will likely be relegated to employers who would put weight in the volunteering or religious aspect (perhaps other religious institutions looking for your skills). Typically folsk with plenty of work experience would put this in the Personal Activities/Achievements/Community Service section if they choose to have one.

It sounds like your resume is still new and you would like to hold on to the most amount of content possible, this is understandable.

  1. If the experience is relevant to your job position, focus the resume entry on those, volunteering in a soup kitchen, mentoring, etc. is not necessarily relevant and should be minimized to one bullet or mentioned in another section on personal activities or community service.

  2. If the experience is not directly relevant to your job position, mention it but provide minimal detail (what you have may be enough)

  3. If it causes more grief than help remove it all together

  4. As you have more work experience this line will naturally seem unnecessary as you would have much more experience to cite, and maybe would remain a mention in your personal activities section.

1

It depends. Is your goal to account for the gap, or to show continuous technical experience? How you answer that depends on how much work you did that is related to the jobs you're applying for now. If it was 90% irrelevant and 10% relevant, that's going to be very different from if it's 50-50 or better.

The purposes of a resume include:

  • Demonstrate qualifications and, ideally, growth over time, without padding or exaggerating.

  • Account for all the time.

If you had been out for two years for military service, to care for an ill relative, or to travel the world, you would be focusing on the second point, accounting for the time. I would normally expect missionary work to fall into the same category, but I've no experience with it directly (and also none with LDS) so maybe I'm wrong about that. Unless you're applying for jobs within the LDS community, your resume screeners won't know much about the "baseline" of missionary work either.

If you are prepared to talk about substantial, work-related impact of your volunteer time, then go ahead and include that experience with the work-related duties you listed, treating it like any other past employment. Filter out duties that don't apply to the jobs you're seeking, or consolidate them into a single bullet point at the end along the lines of "other duties related to the organization's mission".

I've seen resumes that have entries like "travel, date to date" or "medical leave, date to date" that have no further information. That's enough to account for the time without bringing in irrelevant details. That's your baseline; add to it the items that will help you get the job you're seeking now, and leave out the ones that don't.

1

Nobody cares what you did during any volunteer service unless it is relevant to the job. What people care about is a gap in your resume because they want to understand if you went on a trip around the world or were in prison.

So list your volunteer service including the time period and where, in the same way you would list a job. Leave out any details about what you did. Don't overthink it, people simply want to understand what you did and to ensure you weren't in trouble or some other stuff that they ought to know about.

-1

Being a Mormon is who you are, and you should be proud of that, and definitely include it on your resume! It shows:

1) You believe in things/causes. Believing in something, and spending your time towards your belief, is a valuable asset to a team. It shows you can be passionate about something, and most employers look for that.

2) You have been actively working the whole time and didn't just take a 2-year break. Many people do take long breaks from employment (there's nothing wrong with that), but the question is going to come up and you are going to have to answer it, so may as well frontload the issue rather than dealing with it on the fly (or worse, having your application declined due to "red flags" which aren't really there).

Also, there's nothing wrong with providing service to any charitable organization, religious or not, and you shouldn't be embarrassed to be a Mormon; any company who is going to hold it against you that you're a Mormon is probably a company that you're going to have other problems working for anyway. They're not rejecting you, you're rejecting them.

EDIT: Upon rereading the OP, one thing I might leave out is "presented curriculum". Most people who receive calls from religious evangelists treat "presented curriculum" as "had an annoying fanatic push their ideology on me" (not to say that's what you did, but that's how some prospective employers might read it). Saying that you engaged in cold-calling is fine, that's part of the job and it's something you did. I would leave out the "presented curriculum" part though.

  • "there's nothing wrong with providing service to any organization, religious or not"... umm... what if you were providing network support for ISIS? – Kilisi Nov 7 '18 at 9:37
  • 1
    @Kilisi Contrary to the statements of former president Barack Obama, I wouldn't consider ISIS an "organization". But just for you I added the word "charitable"; I don't think you could argue that ISIS is that. – Ertai87 Nov 7 '18 at 15:20
  • I was just having you on, you have an interesting and in some ways admirable viewpoint – Kilisi Nov 7 '18 at 15:23
  • 1
    @Kilisi Actually when I wrote that post I thought "what if someone asks about ISIS?" but then I was like "nah there's no way anyone is going to do that", and lo and behold... – Ertai87 Nov 7 '18 at 15:53
-4

If you want to turn this into an asset rather than a potential issue, then target your religious network and group for opportunities, in which case this experience is both valuable and totally valid.

Lots of LDS I know have done this. It's one of the biggest secular benefits of having a religious support group. You have done your bit as a missionary and should have made some pretty connected contacts while doing so. In fact it would immediately start you of on a good social footing if you landed such a position.

I'm not LDS, nor would I hire someone who must mention they are an ex-missionary. I avoid anyone who thinks it appropriate to make a point of being religious in an application regardless of the religion including my own.

  • 4
    "nor would I hire an ex-missionary" I hope you mean "not based on the missionary experience, anyway" and not "I wouldn't hire someone who conducted religious missionary activities in their past no matter what relevant experience and merits they possess today". That would probably be illegal discrimination in a lot of places. – Beanluc Nov 6 '18 at 23:04
  • 2
    @Beanluc All the comments got deleted, but Kilisi basically said that it's okay to discriminate as long as you hide enough to not get caught. I think he also justified it by saying that other people do it too – Clay07g Nov 6 '18 at 23:19
  • 5
    No, I didn't say that – Kilisi Nov 6 '18 at 23:25

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