Got a question about volunteering internationally?

Volunteers for VSO participate during a Global Citizenship/Action Day in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Photo by: Piers Brown / CC BY

Volunteering with a humanitarian or development organization is a great way to gain experience when you don’t have any. But it’s not a silver bullet. Time volunteering will not equal time as an official employee in a recruiter’s mind.

High-level officials who were shaped by their volunteer experience include Peace Corps alum and current Director Aaron S. Williams and Brian Rockliffe, director of the VSO Federation.

Last week, Shannon Maynard, director of Bankers without Borders, wrote in Career Matters about 7 ways volunteering can advance your development career.

My tips on volunteering for international development and humanitarian causes? Be willing to do any kind of work and be humble. Be wary of programs where you have to pay to volunteer. If you can’t find international volunteering experience, try domestic first. Travel abroad and try to network on the ground to land an assignment. Be sure to build as many connections as you can so you have a network to leverage on your way out. And above all, stay connected with your mission to strengthen international cooperation and eliminate poverty.

That said, whether you are entry-, mid- or even higher-level: Chances are you have a lot of questions about what exactly volunteering is like. How expensive is it really? Could I choose the country I’d be visiting as a volunteer or the sector? How often does volunteering lead to further field assignments or a full-time position? How will this job affect my family?

Devex is offering you the chance to get answers to those questions. On Wednesday, Feb. 22, we will be hosting a free 1-hour webinar for Devex members on how volunteering abroad can kickstart your development career. Devex membership is free, of course, and signing up is quick and easy — just enter your email here and create a free professional profile if you haven’t already.

And even if you won’t be able to join: Send us your question by leaving a comment below or by emailing, and we’ll ask our featured guest speakers from VSO, the leading independent organization sending volunteers abroad to fight poverty: Jacky King, head of learning and development, Laura Garcia-Puig, volunteer support team manager, and Jackie Bee, head of marketing and engagement.

We’ll make a webinar recording and podcast available to Devex members on our website days after the event.

Read last week’s Career Matters.

About the author

  • Kate Warren

    Kate Warren is Executive Vice President and resident talent and careers guru at Devex. With 15 years of global development recruitment experience advising international NGOs, consulting firms, and donor agencies, she has a finger on the pulse of hiring trends across the industry and insider knowledge on what it takes to break in.