Are you a bright-eyed wanderluster ready to explore the world? Or are you more business-minded, ready to buckle-down and begin your career? Maybe you’re a mixture of both? No matter which category you claim, these personality types can find harmony in a rewarding, resume-building business volunteer project abroad. Business volunteering is a great way to gain real-world experience, see a new place, and help out an organization with your business skills while you are at it!
Why Volunteer in Business Abroad
There is a lot to see and do in this big, beautiful world, but sometimes those drab cubicle walls can seem a bit like a trap. It is easy to feel like a break from the traditional 9-to-5 will lead to a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out!) on valuable time in your career. However, there are many meaningful travel opportunities that will not leave a gaping hole in your resume! For students and recent graduates, a professional volunteer placement is the perfect liaison between the “real world” and seeing the world.
When it comes to business volunteering abroad, you can choose from many different areas of business. Especially if you are still trying to find your niche (aren’t we all?!), business volunteering can be a great way to get a “trial run” in different roles without long term commitment. Business volunteers can gain valuable international work experience that will jazz up their resume, and inspire new ways of thinking and problem solving.
Speaking of your career, volunteer experience is already a highly coveted section on resumes (employers eat it up!), because it shows that you are an altruistic person with initiative. With a business-related volunteering - ding, ding, ding! - that is the sound of a winning combination on your resume.
Business today is all about globalization and intercultural communication. By volunteering in business abroad, you’ll be proving to employers that you have both the business skills and cultural awareness to be successful in today’s workplace. Not to mention, business volunteering will also help you build an international network that could help you land your future dream job.
There is no shortage of volunteer organizations around the world, which can make it challenging to narrow down your choices and choose the best place and placement for you. Consider these questions when trying to decide the best way for you to volunteer abroad in business: is there a certain cause that you are passionate about? Is there an area of the world that is high on your travel bucket list? Is networking with international business gurus a top priority? If you still aren’t sure, here are a couple of the top countries to become a business volunteer abroad to get you started, too!
South Africa. As a business volunteer in South Africa, the work you do will directly impact the community that you are serving. Many business volunteer programs in South Africa involve helping South Africans with everything from business development to conservation activities. Business volunteers in South Africa will work closely with locals, helping to develop their small businesses, teaching entrepreneurship and best business practices, so they will be able to support themselves long-term. The modern day “teach a man to fish” is “teach a man business skills!”. Cape Town is home to many business volunteer placements like this, and is also a great setting for your next adventure abroad. Cape Town offers all the benefits of a developed city, along with natural landscape and beaches surrounding it. After a hard-day’s work you can hike up to Table Mountain (don’t worry, there is a cable car too!) for a beautiful view overlooking Camps Bay.
England. Not only is London known for being a hub for international business, but it is also home to many NGOs. This mixture will give business volunteers exposure to the more traditional corporate business networks, while volunteering with great organizations hoping to make a difference in the world. If you are interested in nonprofit management, England is a great place to truly learn the ins and outs of an international organization. England’s proximity to many other European countries allows for easy and accessible European travel options during your free time (Eurotrip, anyone?).
China. If learning from a culture that is a vital part of global business interests you, then business volunteering in China should definitely be on your list of top destinations. The immersive experience you’ll get as a business volunteer in China will give you the valuable opportunity (for you and your resume!) to boost your cultural awareness and improve communication skills. Many organizations in China will place you in community development, sharing your business skills and coaching locals. Business volunteers in China can usually choose to live either in a rural area or an urban metropolis, like Beijing. Experiences as a business volunteer in China will lead to many marketable bullet points on your resume, along with the chance to explore Asia, and maybe even see a panda or two.
Business Volunteer Programs
The best part about business volunteering abroad is that there is a little something for everyone. There are a range of business volunteer opportunities that allow you to choose from strictly business to more cause-centric placements. As you are choosing the best business volunteer program for you, you’ll want to consider your personal priorities and goals for the experience.
The most popular way to volunteer abroad in business is for charity or nonprofit organizations in microfinance or business development. Each business volunteer program provides a unique business experience that encourages you to improve everything from interpersonal communication skills to project management.
The length of business volunteering abroad is completely flexible, depending on the amount of time you want to spend abroad. Placements can be anywhere from one to two weeks to one to two years. Any length of time volunteering abroad will be a valuable experience, but to truly immerse yourself in the host culture, it is recommended that you participate in a program that is two to four weeks or longer.
Requirements vary between programs, but generally there is a minimum age requirement of 18 years old. Most business volunteer programs provide training, and therefore, do not require previous experience; however, some will ask that you are either currently pursuing or have already graduated with a business-related degree.
Benefits & Challenges
Resume Booster & Beyond. One of the most tangible things you can gain from professional volunteer work abroad are the extra bullet points on your resume. These hard skills will be complemented by experience with cultural communication, teamwork, and problem solving. The knowledge you gain while volunteering in business in an international setting will be extremely marketable for jobs in any field. Business volunteering also opens you up to a network of people that can help you with future opportunities.
Soul Searching. Business volunteering abroad goes far beyond professional development. It will teach you more about yourself and your personal interests, and it is a great way to explore what you are passionate about and find a niche that is important to you. Becoming a business volunteer will also give you some pretty nice pictures to hang on that cubicle wall someday!
The Hard Part. There are some challenges that come with business volunteer work abroad (like, how to pick a country when you can go almost anywhere?!). Seriously though, business volunteering abroad will take a lot of energy and dedication. You may not have a lot of experience in the particular business field you choose, so there may be a lot of formal and informal training along the way. All of the hard work will be worth it as you reflect on an amazing cultural experience and the impact you had on the local community.
Contrary to popular belief, you can have it all. Getting out and seeing the world does not mean you have to completely abandon your career. When you volunteer abroad in business, you have the chance to explore, learn, and gain marketable skills all at the same time.