From coordinating volunteers at an education nonprofit in Guatemala, to managing operations for an organization that supports farmers in Kenya, many nonprofits around the world are looking for talented, passionate people to join their teams. Whether you are actively job hunting or simply curious to know what’s out there, this is your short guide to finding a nonprofit opportunity abroad.
Step 1: Figure out why you want to go and if you’re ready for change
Before you start applying, do your homework to make sure your job abroad will be unforgettable for all the right reasons.
- What do you want to gain from the experience? While you might be driven by a desire to do good, finding a great opportunity will also require you to think about what you hope to learn. Is your motivation to learn a language, travel, experience a different culture, or develop professional expertise? Being clear about your top priorities will focus your search and help you find a role that will enable you reach your personal and professional goals.
- Consider your lifestyle, what you want to let go, and what you want to retain in your host country. Being open to new experiences is vital, but if you have non-negotiables (like food, for example) make sure you seek jobs and organizations which can accommodate your strongest preferences.
- Consider the practicalities of relocation. Will you pay tax in only one country or at home and abroad? How easy is it to get a visa? Will you need vaccinations or medical tests? None of the logistics are glamorous but if you don’t pay enough attention to these items in the planning stages, your dream could turn into a nightmare.
Step 2: Do research on potential organizations and opportunities
Once you are ready to launch your job hunt, explore the following options:
- Let your network know you’re looking. If you have a hankering to relocate to Patagonia or to see community healthcare in action, talk about it. You never know who might have a useful connection. Networking is valuable internationally as well as domestically. (Here’s how to send an “I’m looking for a new job” email.)
- Sign up on job boards. In addition to searching for opportunities on Idealist.org, try devex.com and unjobs.org where many large NGOs share vacancies. Here is a list of websites to explore for jobs abroad. Additionally, follow company profiles on LinkedIn for updates on employment opportunities.
- Leverage social media. Many smaller NGOs use social media to share blog posts, photos, fundraising appeals, and vacancies. Start by following GreatNonprofits and CharityNavigator. Read their updates to identify smaller NGOs in your field who you want to follow up on. Working for a smaller organization often has perks including the opportunity to develop new skills and be involved in a range of projects.
- Apply for a paid overseas fellowship. Atlas Corps and Global Health Corpsoperate fellowship programs with a stipend for young professionals. This is a great way to get to know your host country quickly and thoroughly, all while developing your professional network. Check out more fellowship opportunities here.
- Consider high-impact volunteering. If you’ve never worked abroad before, volunteering could be the way to go. UN Volunteers and Peace Corpsplace skilled volunteers in areas of need and the experience will be filled with exactly the kind of interaction and challenge that employers love. And don’t forget the alumni network when you get home!
- Thinking of weeks rather than years? African Impact is a great place to find short working holidays. If you have slightly longer, GlobalGivingrecruits Field Interns to travel for 6 weeks, delivering training to partner NGOs. Participating in a program like this is a great way to make personal connections with non-profits as well as allowing you to travel and see the country.
Step 3: Give yourself an edge
Although working abroad can be an exciting experience, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Think ahead. Competition can be fierce so once you have identified a goal, don’t procrastinate. Want to work in Latin America? Learn Spanish now. Interested in youth work? Volunteer with teens every week. Use the time before you apply to show commitment to developing the knowledge and skills you will need in future.
- Pay attention to details and fit. Although you might be eager to learn and give back in a different country, you have to ensure that you bring relevant skills and experience. Make sure your resume and cover letter are high quality and tailored to the organization’s needs. Play up relevant experience and fix any resume problems. Emphasize characteristics essential to working in nonprofits abroad including resilience and ability to produce results using limited resources. If your interview takes place remotely, read up on Skype interview etiquette.
- Play detective. Research your potential employer looking for evidence of community support on websites and social media. Use your network to get a personal impression of the organization, and an unbiased opinion on whether your proposed salary will cover your expenses. Read their last Annual Report to learn about organizational culture, programs, direction, and budget. If you are happy, sign on the dotted line, if you are uneasy, go back to the drawing board.
Whichever avenue you decide to pursue, remember that your experience working abroad should be enriching personally and professionally. Approach your international job hunt and relocation with the same level of thought and energy that you would for a domestic opportunity.
About The Author
Originally from the UK, Wenna Price works in education, studies international development, and for fun she experiments with rooftop gardening. Her prized possession is her tea pot and her guilty pleasure is a cup of Yorkshire tea. She lives in D.C. with a German and a cat.