Writer Morgan Quinn looks at volunteer vacations for U.S. News & World Report and considers the career and résumé they may hold.
6 Vacations That Will Boost Your Résumé
These trips will give your earning potential a lift.
By Morgan Quinn
April 30, 2015
No matter how many corners you cut and airfare deals you score, taking a vacation is expensive. What's more, many Americans avoid taking time off altogether because they're worried how it will affect their careers. A 2014 Glassdoor survey found that U.S. employees only use only half of their eligible paid vacation and paid time off. A U.S. Travel Association study last year also found that nearly half of employees continue to check their work email when they do go on vacation.
What if you could take a vacation that would help your career – not hurt it? What if your time off added valuable skills to your résumé and even put you in line for a promotion when you returned?
A growing trend among American workers and recent college graduates is the volunteer vacation, where travelers work their way through various cities around the world, adding skills, learning new languages and boosting their earning potential. If you want to take some time off to travel this summer – while still working on your career – try one of these vacation ideas.
1. Learn a language. Taking language classes in another country gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in local culture and hone your linguistic skills, both inside and outside the classroom. Classes and prices vary, but there are numerous programs that help foreigners study languages around the world, including French in Quebec City, Spanish in South America or Japanese in Tokyo. Whether you are learning a language from scratch or just brushing up on your skills, you’ll return home with a new section to add to your résumé and some real-world experience.
2. Volunteer on an organic farm. Do you want to get your hands dirty this summer? The World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms organization links volunteers with organic farms for a unique work experience. In return for volunteering, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles and farming. WWOOF farms exist across the globe, from Argentina to Thailand.
The length of stay is negotiated between the host and volunteer, with visits as short as several days to as long as half a year. This is a truly one-of-a-kind experience for people looking to add organic farming and sustainable agriculture experience to their résumé.
3. Practice a trade. If you’re handy with a hammer or looking to get construction and contracting experience, there are a variety of opportunities to lend a hand to an organization in need of volunteers. For instance, Habitat for Humanity offers an international program that organizes volunteers to build well-constructed, affordable shelters for people living in poverty. Another organization, HistoriCorps, works with volunteers to restore historic sites on public lands throughout the United States.
4. Teach overseas. No matter what industry you work in, teaching is an impressive addition to your résumé. Plus, the huge availability of teaching positions across the globe means you can find a tenure that works for you. You can also choose whether you'd prefer to work with children, teenagers or adults.
There are overseas teaching programs like The English Camp Company, which organizes summer camps in Taiwan, Italy and Austria for kids ages 6 to 14. Volunteers have the opportunity to tutor campers in English, live with families and experience authentic local culture firsthand.
5. Conduct scientific field research. If you’re a science enthusiast or interested in exploring ways to make our planet more sustainable, this type of vacation is for you.
Earthwatch Institute expeditions send volunteers to do field work side-by-side with leading scientists. Volunteers work directly under the supervision of experts and get the opportunity to collect data and work as a full-fledged expedition member. Not only will you add an impressive and memorable experience to your résumé, you’ll help the world’s top scientists conduct research that makes our planet a better place to live.
6. Work with animals. If you already have experience working with animals or are simply an animal lover, consider taking a vacation to volunteer at a facility that helps injured or abandoned animals. You can spend a few days or a few weeks giving hands-on care to furry friends who need your help.
For example, the Earthwatch Institute offers a weeklong trip where volunteers monitor threats to ocelots in Trinidad. The Pacific Whale Foundation sponsors a free program, Volunteering on Vacation, for Maui visitors who want to help protect the island’s rare and endangered species.
Just a word of caution: All these vacations may be in historic, beautiful or exotic locations, but they are definitely not a day at the beach – so be prepared to get down and dirty.