Peace Corps volunteers spend almost two years overseas making a real difference in the life of real people at locations around the globe. Closer to home, participants in AmeriCorps help tackle community programs from disaster relief to tutoring. Recent college graduates, of all majors, join Teach for America and commit two years to teach in under resourced urban and rural public schools throughout the United States.
Financial compensation is not as lucrative as it would be in some other career fields, but, the benefits are immeasurable. For example, in addition to the international experience they have gained during their time abroad, returning Peace Corps volunteers receive job search support and preference in federal hiring. AmeriCorps volunteers may be eligible for education awards and end-of-service stipends.
Volunteering doesn't have to be a full-time job. In fact, most people who volunteer do it in their spare time. That's not to say that a volunteer position can't become a full-time job. A local animal shelter recently hired an exceptional volunteer away from her day job with an insurance company as their Volunteer Coordinator. So, keep in mind that those skills you acquire as a volunteer can benefit you in many more ways than one.
VolunteerMatch is an excellent resource to help find a volunteer opportunity that matches your interests in a location convenient for you. There are a wide variety of volunteer organizations, including local national, and international volunteer groups that need volunteers on an ongoing basis.
Even though you can be considered a volunteer, your position is still considered work and you may receive a paycheck, even though it might not be a big one. It depends on the position and the organization. At the least, you will have provided an immeasurable amount of support to those in need and will have gained a wealth of experience that will benefit your career. Consider the career paths of some notable former Peace Corps volunteers:
- Christopher Dodd, U.S. Senator, Connecticut (Dominican Republic 1966-68)
- Phillip Margolin, author of Gone, But Not Forgotten and The Burning Man (Liberia 1962-64)
- Robert Haas, chairman of Board for Levi Strauss (Ivory Coast 1964-66)
- Priscilla Wrubel, founder of The Nature Company (Liberia 1961-63) Priscilla Wrubel founded the Nature Company.
- Chris Matthews, host of NBC's Hardball (Swaziland 1968-70)
There are some organizations that charge to provide you with a volunteer experience. Cross-Cultural Solutions, for example, charges a tax-deductible fee to provide you with an international volunteer experience ranging from one to twelve weeks. Before you pay to volunteer, thoroughly research the organization to make sure that they are legitimate and that they provide detailed information, like Cross-Cultural Solutions does, on why there is a charge and what is included in the price.
Benefits of Volunteering
Volunteering can be the job of a lifetime or it can be part of your every day life. It provides the opportunity to explore career fields that you might never have thought of and provides an opportunity to give something to those in need, as well.