This is a guest post by Andrew Tipp
In this challenging era of vast youth unemployment across Europe, it may well be that you are looking for creative ways to boost your level of experience while, simultaneously, biding time as the tawdry economic situation goes some way to righting itself. When it does, you can get yourself that job you are looking for.
Until then, you need to look at other ways to boost your CV, your profile and your skill-set.
You may be a recent or an imminent graduate; you may be a recent school-leaver or an imminent school leaver. You may even be someone just looking for new and exciting experiences. Maybe a way to challenge yourself; maybe a way to discover something about yourself that you didn’t know before.
If this is the case, you have probably given some serious consideration to taking some time to volunteer abroad.
Getting clued up
It is not difficult to find information telling you how your efforts will benefit the particular project, community, organisation, family or individual involved. Of course, this is the main objective above all others.
However, what is also crucial, and what is less written about, is how volunteering abroad can bring tremendous benefits to the volunteer involved.
You will often hear how rewarding the whole shebang can be, the sense of accomplishment you will feel from giving something back, and this is still absolutely true. But it is worth delving a little deeper and thinking through how volunteering abroad can really provide a massive springboard to your own future development.
Skills to pay the bills
Firstly, people always talk about ‘transferable skills’ when it comes to careers and jobs. But how does volunteering help you build these ‘transferable skills?’
Well, obviously it depends on the unique conditions of the particular volunteering project in question, but the elements that employers will look for and which come up in job description after job description are things like; organisational abilities, communication skills, negotiation, problem solving, project ownership and management.
Volunteering projects, whether they be on sustainable farming, wildlife conservation, education or arts-based workshops, will all involve those transferable skills. After completing a voluntary project, you’ll be perfectly justified in including these skills on your CV and, moreover, be able to demonstrate them with specific examples at interview or application stage.
The softer side
The second bag of tricks you will be able to add to includes your so-called ‘softer’ skill-set. This relates more to your personal qualities, your character and attitude. We’re talking here about things like self-confidence, reliability, flexibility, teamwork, your ability to empathise and how you deal with adversity. Once again, it’s almost certain any voluntary project is going to involve using these softer skills.
Taking on a voluntary project abroad is likely to let you learn more about yourself. It’s common to discover aspects about your own personality which you weren’t previously conscious of. You may also discover hidden interests or passions which really get you going but which you simply didn’t have an opportunity to appreciate previously.
Volunteering is almost guaranteed to take you out of your comfort zone. This is absolutely a good thing in terms of your personal development. Finding yourself adapting to different social customs and trying out new experiences can be extremely exhilarating.
Finally there’s the social element. Putting yourself in situations with others which require coordination, interdependence and real teamwork, can forge life-long bonds. You will find you have things in common with people from backgrounds you never dreamed of meeting. Making friends from all over the world has its practical uses of course, but it will also immeasurably enrich your world view.
Volunteering abroad, when looked at this way, can be better seen as a genuine cultural exchange, instead of a simple one way transaction.
Perhaps you should give it a try.