Career Advice: 4 Skills You Can Develop By Volunteering Abroad

Posted by Up with People on September 20,2017

Volunteering AbroadHere’s a little secret about volunteering abroad: nearly everybody thinks it’s impressive. Friends, family and strangers are all amazed when they hear those magic words. It’s almost like “volunteering abroad” is some kind of secret code that says you’re a good person, but it’s actually true. It really does take a special person to spend the time and energy to travel abroad and help people, so you deserve their respect!

And guess what? Many employers react the same way, so volunteering abroad looks great on your resume or CV. Sure, a resume is just a first impression, but it will help a hiring manager to see you’re smart, mature, and giving (and whatever else they picture when they see your past experience volunteering abroad). So congratulations, you’re already scoring points for your future job searches by simply doing something you’re excited to do anyway!

Making a Difference for Yourself and Others

Volunteering abroad will fill up your resume with all kinds of real world career skills that just develop organically while you’re working within a volunteer group and meeting all different types of people. And you get to have fun and make a difference in people’s lives while doing it.

Want some actual examples? Here are four of the career skills our Up with People cast members say they develop while touring the world to volunteer.

Independence

It takes a lot of self-confidence just to go overseas for an extended period of time, leaving your friends and family behind. Throw in the natural maturity, adaptability, and compassion you’ll develop while working with people from different countries and cultures, and you will come home a changed person.

Up with People alum Margaret Holtz says her family noticed it immediately.  “When I got back from traveling with Up with People, my dad said ‘You’ve changed. I can see growth, confidence, and maturity that was not there before.’ I went back to college with a new found motivation and passion,” she says. “I graduated with honors and received better grades than I ever had.”

Communication and Interpersonal Skills

Today’s 21st century jobs are all about communication. Whether that’s face-to-face or device-to-device, you need to be able to connect with people quickly, understand their needs, and gain their trust. That’s the kind of stuff that’s hard to learn in a classroom and easy to develop while volunteering outside of your home country.

Think about it, you’ll meet and interact with individuals very different from yourself — in your volunteer group and in the communities you’re helping. Learning to communicate with people regardless of background, language, or cultural differences is an ability that will translate very well to any professional path you decide to take.

Cultural Awareness

What are employers looking for in our global economy? Cultural awareness is near the top of the list. Being able to understand and work with people from various countries and cultures is crucial, and what better way to develop those skills than volunteering abroad?  

Immersing yourself in a new culture will make you more knowledgeable about social issues around the world and help you develop global awareness.

“I wanted to see how other people and other cultures lived,” says Up with People alumnus Nancy White Bagwell. “I accomplished my goal of traveling, performing on stage, helping build bridges of understanding, learning first-hand how children were raised and families related to each other in other cultures, AND landed my first job all in the course of that year.”

Leadership

Volunteering abroad helps you develop and put into practice leadership skills in a way you would'nt have the opportunity to do within a traditional classroom. It takes real world experiences to cultivate those skills, like working with a team of volunteers at a local school or senior center, or maybe even leading a team of volunteers. Throw in some language challenges, and you’ll learn some leadership skills that will serve you well in the workplace.

If you decide to volunteer abroad with Up with People, you’ll also get a chance to meet with political, corporate and social leaders while out on tour. The UWP global program offers truly unique access to opportunities that develop and refine leadership skills that will benefit you on any career path.

Learn More About Traveling with Up with People  →

Topics: Volunteering Abroad

Up with People is a global education organization which aims to bring the world together through service and music. The unique combination of international travel, service learning, leadership development and performing arts offers young adults an unparalleled study abroad experience and a pathway to make a difference in the world, one community at a time. Click here to learn more about the internationally acclaimed program, Up with People.