Time spent while volunteering for a humanitarian cause can be more than a break from your career — it can be a break for your career.
With job opportunities scarce, and fulfilling job opportunities even rarer, “voluntourism” gurus recommend that a dash of wanderlust and a willingness to serve can spark a positive career change for both the unemployed and unhappily employed.
“You get to see the water you’ve been swimming in,” offers sabbatical coach Clive Prout. “You find out what you really want to do, rather than what our culture tells you is success.”
Plus, an English-teaching tour of a Lusophone township, or a horticultural project in the drought-stricken Sahel can be a boost not just to your psyche but your resume, too.
“Most resumes are pretty impersonal things,” Prout says. “If you’ve gone and served in a monastery in Tibet, or climbed a mountain in South America, that’s going to make you stand out.”
Hopefully, it won’t make you stick out. The panelists who sift through resumes are generally known for sliding oddball resumes to the “ex-nay” pile — which is why “Ecotourists Save the World” author Pamela Brodowsky recommends presenting a career intermission as a reflection of your personal strengths.
“These projects do provide you with leadership skills,” she notes. “Show them what you gained from your volunteer position, whether it’s sharpening your problem-solving skills or managing teams.”
“Frame it in a way that speaks to the qualities your employer is looking for,” concurs Prout.