While most of us probably can’t quit our jobs to go travel the world, it’s easier than ever to take a bit of time off to do something meaningful.
Whether it’s a short sabbatical or a gap year between jobs, volunteering abroad during a career break is a great way to recharge, gain a new perspective and do something you can feel proud of.
Plus, with the right project, you’ll gain valuable skills and experience that will benefit you once you do return to work, so you don’t have to feel guilty about taking time off.
Here’s why you should consider volunteering abroad during your career break.
You have a lot to contribute
There’s a common misconception that volunteering abroad is just for high school and college students, but that’s really not the case. The truth is experienced professionals may actually be even better suited for international work than someone who’s just starting out.
Whether you’ve been in the workforce for three years or 20, you’ve likely gained a host of skills and professional experience on the job. Those skills are highly desirable to volunteer organizations and particularly helpful on certain projects. For example, if you're a trained doctor or nurse, you can volunteer in healthcare in Ghana and use your skills for good.
On top of that, older adults tend to be more mature, flexible and better able to deal with challenges without needing much hand-holding – which is great when you’re helping out a busy hospital or teaching in a large class.
Volunteering abroad is a great way to gain new skills
Ok, volunteering sounds awesome but won’t taking time off from work actually look bad to employers?
On the contrary, research shows that volunteering abroad can actually help your career. Candidates with volunteer experience are more competitive because they’ve developed leadership experience, are comfortable working in an international setting and have gained valuable transferable skills.
In fact, listing your volunteer work on your resume shows employers that you not only care about helping your community, but that you’re committed to advancing your skills. You never know. The time you spent volunteering in turtle conservation in Costa Rica or your work as a volunteer in community education in Thailand may just be the thing that gives you a leg up on another candidate.
Volunteering abroad is also a good strategy if you’re looking to make a career change or gain a new perspective. Let’s say you work in finance but have always dreamed of working with kids. Why not teach English in Thailand or volunteer in an orphanage in Ghana to start? It’s a great way to see what your new job could be like and possibly get a foot in the door.
While it may not be traditional work experience, adding your volunteer work to your resume will show potential employers that you have some familiarity with the industry and job function.
It could make you a better employee
You don’t necessarily have to leave your job to do travel and do something meaningful. More and more companies are actively encouraging their employees to do volunteer work, with some even offering flexible paid time off policies so workers can give back.
This not only helps meet their corporate social responsibility goals, but also boosts engagement and gives employees a chance to acquire new skills and gain a new perspective.
But even if your company doesn’t offer something like this, you may still be able to negotiate a shorter break while still keeping your position. You probably can’t convince your boss to let you take 6 months off to live on the beach in Cancun, but you may be able to make a case for volunteering by illustrating how your time off will help you be better at your job when you return.
So are you ready?
A lot of people dream about taking a break from work to travel or explore something they’re passionate about, but unfortunately, not many actually take the time to do it. Volunteering abroad on a clearly defined project makes it easier to achieve your dream.
To find out more about volunteering abroad during a career break, download our free program brochure.