Why volunteer? We’ve all heard the phrase “if money grew on trees,” and it seems that jobs and steady employment are the things we wish for the most. Gotta live up that American Dream, right? When times are tough and money is tight, it may seem like the options are limited for new and soon-to-be grads, which can heighten anxiety for their uncertain futures.
However, this isn’t a horror story. Rather, new and aspiring grads should look in another direction, towards opportunities they may have previously overlooked. One such direction encompasses becoming an international volunteer. Before you start thinking that participating in a volunteer program is a form escaping the “real world,” consider this: demonstrating your work ethic and combating that dreaded-unemployed-patch on your resume in a creative way will set you apart from the crowd for future employers.
How will volunteering abroad help you? (Yes, it’s okay to volunteer for your own benefit too). It creates opportunity for structured learning, helps develop more clarity for your career path, gives you the chance to help vulnerable populations that are less fortunate or voiced than you, and the skills gained from volunteering will be invaluable in your future career path. It’s sure to make your job interview stories more memorable, and can even serve as a backdrop to cultivating some seriously competitive professional skills. Read on to learn more about the career benefits of volunteering abroad.
5 benefits of volunteerism abroad that will pay off in your future career:
1. Save Money While Traveling Abroad Meaningfully
Traveling abroad can make it difficult sometimes to find affordable options. When you’re on your own, the cost of things like accommodation in hostels or hotels add up quickly. Many volunteer programs abroad cover the cost of meals, accommodation, transportation in the country, activities, and equipment. Not only will you be saving money for your piggy bank, but you’ll be part of an international experience that translates to job skills. Talk about being fiscally savvy!
2. Brush Up on New Language Skills
Language skill acquisition (and ample opportunity to practice!) is one of the top benefits of volunteerism. Like most forms of educational travel, volunteering abroad gives you the chance to work on a new language as you become accustomed to the culture and country. The total immersion aspect of volunteering will give you a boost towards grasping the native language, including enhancing your own grammar and vocabulary usage. Once you start filling out job applications and writing cover letters, you’ll be thankful (and so will employers) for your attention to detail and the language skills gained from volunteering.
3. You can Volunteer BEFORE Graduating
Having these achievements and skills gained from volunteering on your resume before you graduate, job hunt, and start a new career will make you even more of a hot commodity. Employers typically value a breadth of experience in their new hires, and attractive skills such as adaptability and flexibility cannot be overstated. Volunteer abroad as a college student to get a headstart!
There is much to learn in the way of volunteer abroad career advice; with thoughtful reflection, you should be able to articulate the value of your international experiences, identify the skills gained from volunteering, and ace any job interview.
(Psst! Here’s how to put your volunteer abroad experience on a resume.)
4. Offset Your Loan Payments
It’s been mentioned once, but it bears repeating. After all, it doesn’t make any sense to be struggling to pay your student loans when you’re unemployed. Private loans are typically harder to defer, but if you’re paying back federal loans, these can be deferred because of unemployment. Settling for a menial job won’t make it any easier, as you’ll have to start paying them back. When you’re already strapped for cash and trying to make payments, this can create a constant headache of worry. On the the bright side, participating in something like a health and wellness program in India will allow you to defer the payments AND gain valuable job skills, which will help lead to a career where you can make loan payments with peace of mind.
5. Complement Your Desired Career
You aren’t the only recent grad or soon-to-be grad struggling with the ever-changing job market — employers will tire of hearing that story. Instead, why not leverage volunteering to get a job?
Use volunteerism as a way to interact with your desired field in new ways and to better understand a different facet of what a career in that general trajectory could look like. Not only will you get valuable experience, but the skills gained from volunteering can help act as a stepping stone to start your new career by networking with other professionals and eventually landing your dream job.
Programs to consider if you hope volunteering will lead to a job/career
From volunteering with children to animals to mother nature, you can start your adventure to complement your desired career with any one of these volunteer programs:
Perhaps you’re interested in social work, teaching, pediatric care, counseling, or any other field that involves helping children. Why not volunteer to teach English in a school in Peru with A Broader View Volunteers Corp? You could also be a role model to children at daycares, where you’ll read to children, supervise them, help with daily activities in South Africa with Pod Volunteer, or assist with health education and empower orphans in the Philippines with Kaya Responsible Travel.
Maybe your crystal ball holds veterinary science or ranch work in your future. Volunteer with Projects Abroad in Kenya, where you can restore habitats, track animals, mend fences, and more to help preserve animal species. Take a chance and rescue stray dogs and cats in Nepal with ELI, where you’ll prepare meals, feed animals, clean cages, and save the day for these furballs. Take your love for horses all the way to Zimbabwe and volunteer in stables with African Impact.
From environmental science to marine studies, you’ll find volunteer programs that will pump up your ecological skills. Venture to the rainforest in Peru with International Volunteers HQ to assist with environmental conservation efforts. Promote and protect the wildlife, flora and fauna, coastlines, by volunteering abroad in Australia with Oyster Worldwide. Get free accommodation and food in exchange for farm work in England with World Choice Education.
It's time to see the career benefits of volunteerism abroad for yourself!
Unfortunately, money doesn’t magically grow from trees. Neither do jobs, but the benefits of volunteerism are endless, and the skills gained from volunteering numerous. It’s up to you to make your future bloom, and it starts by thinking outside the box. There are so many volunteer program options out there, from a couple of weeks to several months, and volunteering will give you an opportunity to improve your marketability, make productive use of your free time, and become a more active global citizen. Give yourself an edge in the job market by volunteering abroad!