Being a volunteer says so much. Just ponder on the word for a moment or two… and it will bring to mind a whole stream of connotations. It suggests that a person is a “good sport”, generous with their time, a hard worker and altruistic. All that, and more, before we even know the details.
Living and working away from home transforms a person. It implies a certain resilience and independence. A person will undergo challenging conditions which they’ll need to resolve, overcome and adapt to. From an employer’s point of view being mature, resourceful and versatile are valuable assets in any workplace.
Reflect on your time away and think of specific instances when you needed to demonstrate these qualities in case you are asked about how you managed to overcome difficulties. If possible, request a reference from your hosts confirming your participation and achievements… and of course emphasising just how invaluable you were!
Use your experiences when travelling and volunteering to increase your appeal
If you spend some time in an environment very different from your home, you not only become more culturally aware and open-minded, but also gain useful insights into the society and way of life that you left behind. It’s almost comparable to doing a crash course in philosophy, begging the question “What is normality?” amongst many many others.
A person who has not only travelled, but lived alongside locals has the advantage of bringing these fresh perspectives and ideas back home with them.
Volunteering is an excellent way to boost your chances, whether it’s for a highly sought-after job or place on a competitive course. A person may have great qualifications, but is often unable to demonstrate their conviction for a certain occupation due to lack of experience. You could select a placement which gives you a more in-depth, hands on knowledge of your ideal career, it could be anything ranging from engineering to social work, for example.
Imagine applying for a position and being able to back it up with relevant concrete examples from your travels abroad. This will enrich your CV and give it far more weight and credibility. Keep a record of what you learn as this will be invaluable for your CV and future interviews.
Those who choose to spend their time on charitable or community projects are communicating a sense of integrity, selflessness and commitment to a worthwhile cause. Try to expand on what motivated you to collaborate, how you managed to help and what the response was. If you worked as part of a team or relating with people, include that in your CV too. Let’s face it who wouldn’t want to have such a “good-natured team player” to keep you company at work?
Make your CV be noticed
Remember that employers or their admin staff often have to sift through piles of CVs. It can be a monotonous task especially when there is very little to differentiate one candidate and another. Make your CV stand out with one or two quirky or original entries. Perhaps you spent a month helping to create a monkey refuge in Costa Rica, volunteered at a homeless shelter in Jamaica or constructing cabins with local materials in the Peruvian Amazon… well it certainly has a wow factor… and piques someone’s curiosity to meet you!
That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day… having the edge over the next person, showing that you’re pro-active and don’t mess around.
Volunteering is the magic word which will say all that for you- try it and see!