Guest post by Kirsty, aka The Nerdy Nomad. Kirsty, volunteering in Sumatra.
If taking a new job each week to find your perfect career seems like a bit extreme, but heading out to job fairs and going the traditional post-university route seems too timid, then I have an option that falls in the middle: volunteering.
Giving your time away for free might not seem like an ideal choice for a recent grad with loans to pay off and a job to find. You will find, however, that there is much to gain from volunteering, and that thinking only about the money is short-sighted.
Volunteering gives you an opportunity to follow in Sean's shoes and work in all sorts of areas - from conservation to working with children to teaching to construction and so on – without making a full commitment. You will rarely be asked for previous experience, and you could find yourself doing some pretty interesting things.
For many volunteering placements, the only requirement is that you come willing to work hard, learn, and have a positive attitude.
If you haven't made the leap into university yet, volunteering allows you to test the water before jumping into a course you don't have any interest in. For example: construction might not be what you want to do but working in this capacity in an impoverished country might lead you to a career in international development. Likewise, working in orphanages might not be something you want to do as a job, but it could set you down a path towards a career in social work.
During my own time as a volunteer I have been able to build houses, do masonry work, be a photographer, design websites, teach English, tend to gardens, plant trees, sort out logistics, do site assessments, and I even managed to pick up bits of the local languages.
I have learned lots of new skills, met many amazing people from all over the world, pushed myself physically and mentally and accomplished things I didn't think were possible, all while helping out and becoming part of a community on a much more intimate level than I could have as a traveler.
Even if you don't find your perfect career, living in a new culture could cause a surprise shift in your priorities. A stint helping out those less fortunate than yourself might kick your life in a whole new, unexpected direction.
Volunteering will open your mind to new things and force you to question whether the future you had in mind is really what you want. At the very least, volunteering will allow to you stall for awhile while you figure out your ideal path.
About the Author
Kirsty left Canada in 2001 and has been traveling, working, and volunteering abroad ever since. Her latest and greatest passion is volunteering and she has spent 11 months out of the past two years as a volunteer doing disaster relief work.
She has written an ebook called The Underground Guide to International Volunteering that she hopes will inspire other travelers to give their time as they travel the world.