Does volunteering abroad look good on a resumé?

Vancouver, BC | Posted: May 1st, 2019

Volunteering and doing good looks good on a resume

Volunteering abroad is the act of traveling with a benevolent purpose. Historians cite that volunteering abroad, in the most modern sense of the term, actually began in the military. As war-torn countries needed rebuilding after violent and destructive chapters, volunteering took on on the role of community re-building. The word volunteer is a derivative of the French world ‘voluntair’ translated to – ‘one who offers himself for military service’.

In recent years, time-pressed travelers have found ways to augment their holidays and address social and environmental issues within their destination of choice. Some choose to assist microfinance programs others join the legion of wildlife volunteer programs, such as helping save sea turtle eggs in Costa Rica, or a women’s empowerment program in Peru. Some apply their skills, education, and expertise directly to need. Others forego active volunteer and purchase eco-tours that source their itineraries ethically, creating impact through the supply chain.

While volunteering overseas has seen a sharp increase in demand from families and retirees, it caters resoundingly to young adults and college level students. What this early-stage segment of society has in common, is a desire to create a purpose with a direct impact on one’s future. Part of the most common desired impact is to enhance one’s resumé, and gain the skills and experiences that separate one as an applicant with either a University and/or with career prospects. But does it really help applicants stand out from the crowd?

To help us validate this ‘separation’ from other applicants we asked 5 industry leaders for their respective opinions. These are their answers:

Jaylene Crick, Director of Recruitment at Smart, Savvy & Associates states “When people demonstrate a broader commitment to giving back, especially in other countries, it gives a positive impression of an individual who is likely open-minded, self-aware, and adaptable – these are traits that signal a #standapart candidate.”

Eric Pateman, President, and Founder of Edible Canada says “As someone who hires dozens of employees annually and receives hundreds of resumes, I am always looking for that one thing that sets someone apart.  If someone applied for a job and had experience volunteering abroad, I would instantly move that resume to the top of the pile for consideration as it exhibits both compassion and charity interests, but it also demonstrates a love of travel and a knowledge base that can only be gained by experiencing other cultures.  For me, these are valuable traits.

Tuan Pham, Program Manager CSR of Booking.com B.V. adds “When looking at a CV, I always take note of an applicant’s interests, hobbies as well as extracurricular activities.  Taking part in volunteering or working across different industries is a good reflection of experience in understanding different perspectives and showing a willingness to put in extra effort to achieve positive results.

Joel Solomon, Founding Partner, Renewal Funds, Author of Clean Money Revolution states “Global travel, with purpose, is a major signal on a bio or resume because finding folks with broadened perspectives and some degree of large issue perspective, is a signal of caring, capability, and compassion. Those are golden qualities in any team member.”

Karthik Krishnan, Global CEO, Brittanica Group, (Encyclopedia) Brittanica, Merriam Webster adds, “Volunteering looks good, period; whether abroad or local is less relevant. It shows that a person has empathy (EQ), has matured beyond thinking about themselves, and moved higher up on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This maturity is key to leadership (where you think about others) and long-term societal well-being. Volunteering abroad takes things even a step further because it showcases one’s ability to take on change (which is a key 21st-century skill), do well in new environments, and have a broader perspective of the world.

On the heels of the Earth To-Do list Britannica launched to raise awareness on the 4 environmental challenges that pose the biggest threat to our planet/home, if a CV included volunteering in a Wildlife Rescue Centre in Borneo it shows the person is well ahead on the “Awareness –> Action –> Impact” spectrum on stemming biodiversity loss. With that achievement, a job applicant will stand out and hit a strong chord with Team Britannica.”

To best summarize what these leaders have extolled is to understand that they each value something greater than ‘self’, and that they see a sharp benefit in the awareness that comes from shared empathy. ‘Greater than self’ also happens to be the cornerstone of every successful team. At times it may seem self-centered, however, it could be said that if there was ever a justification for being selfish, it is to be selfless while doing it.

What we can all take away from this, is that volunteering abroad doesn’t just look good on a resumé, it gets you moved to a different pile.