Writing about Work Abroad Experience on a CV

Imagine you’ve just returned from a life-changing summer volunteering on environmental projects the USA or teaching English to disadvantaged children in Cambodia or Peru? YOU know how much you have learnt from the experience; how you have grown in confidence and independence and feel more prepared for what life will bring, but how can you put that experience into words that you can put on your CV use to impress future employer?

In reality, the skills you learn on your BUNAC experience can be invaluable in the work place and make your job or university application really stand out from the crowd. Employers are increasingly looking for candidates who can go that extra mile and volunteering in a challenging environment proves that you can do just that.

So, when putting together your CV or preparing for your next interview, try to think about the ‘buzzwords’ that employers love to hear: Here are our Top 5 skills you will have developed during your programme that will be music to employers’ ears!

1.’Working independently’, ‘using your own initiative’ or ‘supervising’
Employers like to see that you’re confident in working independently, as it shows you’re capable of taking responsibility. If you’ve worked or volunteered abroad, you may have been responsible for a group of children or ensuring a service or construction project ran smoothly, which required you to be a leader and use your own ideas and imagination. Put it on your CV!

2. ‘Working as part of a team’
As much as employers like to see you can work independently, it’s also important to show that you’re able to work in a team. You may well have had to have worked closely with colleagues in your placement abroad, which shows that you’re personable, conscientious and a real ‘team player’!

3. ‘Communication skills’
This is something you can elaborate on when discussing your team-working skills. If you worked in a non-English speaking country, you could emphasise how you managed to overcome the language barriers to work successfully – but if not, you can still draw attention to how important it was to be able to communicate clearly and concisely with children or fellow volunteers (and remember, this could have been by phone, email or letter as well as face-to-face!)

4. ‘Organising’, ‘managing’ or ‘co-ordinating’
Perhaps you were working on a conservation project or community development placement where you had to work to a deadline or constantly creating lesson plans for the children on your teaching project. This shows that you are efficient and have good time-management skills, which employers love!

5. 'Working in a ‘challenging’ environment'
While the challenges you faced (and there probably will have been many!) will be specific to your project, some apply to all volunteer placements such as living in an unfamiliar culture, overcoming language barriers, or working on a project with limited resources. In interviews, employers love to ask something along the lines of, ‘can you tell us about a time that you faced a challenging situation?’ Well, having worked or volunteered abroad, the list of challenges you faced was probably endless - BRILLIANT! But remember to also explain how you overcame the challenge, and to emphasise the sense of achievement afterwards.

If you’re still unsure about how to discuss your work or volunteer programme on your CV, put yourself in the shoes of someone working in an HR department. While ploughing through hundreds of similar CVs – some office experience here, a degree there – they come across one from someone who’s worked on an exciting but challenging project several thousand miles from home, in a completely different culture - talk about having the X-Factor! I know who I’d rather invite to interview.

Want to find out more about boosting your CV by working or volunteering abroad with BUNAC? Give us a call on 033 3999 7516 .

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