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Tips for applying for a volunteer position overseas

You’ve been considering volunteering for a while and have finally found your dream role overseas – wahey! Before you launch into your application, it’s important to understand what is being asked of you and how to best sell yourself on your CV. We’ve seen A LOT of applications in VSO over the years, some better than others, and so we decided to share our knowledge and insider tips with you.

Consider your commitments

It’s important to think about your responsibilities in Ireland before beginning your application. Do you have a mortgage that needs to be paid off or an upcoming holiday you really don’t want to miss? Volunteering overseas is a big commitment and you will likely have to make some personal sacrifices if you are successful. Reading volunteer blogs and stories can help you determine whether you are well suited and ready to apply.

Understand the position

Taking time to understand how your experience and skills relate to the volunteerrole you are applying for is key. 

Job titles and descriptions for all VSO volunteering roles are determined in country, meaning they may be quite different from what you’re used to seeing on Irish job boards. It’s not uncommon for applicants to be a little confused about what a position entails. For example, a primary school teacher may not know that they are eligible to apply for an “Early Years Pre-Service Methodology Advisor” or “Unlocking Talent Education Advisor” role. Take time to read through the job description carefully and contact the VSO office if you have any questions about the position.

Tailor your CV

We often find that people who have been in the same profession for a long time forget to tailor their CV when making an application. It’s not enough to just list your previous roles – you must really sell yourself and show what skills you have that are relevant to the advertised position. Use bullet points to underline your key achievements, not just duties, and use affirmative, action words like ‘Managed’, ‘Implemented’ and ‘Led’.

Clarity is key

When you apply for a VSO position, your CV is first read by a recruitment manager and then a specialist in your field. This means that the terminology you use must cater to both. You should avoid using acronyms that people in other countries will not understand. A recruitment manager in Uganda, for instance, will likely have no idea what UCC, KPMG or RCSI is. It’s best to spell each word out and, if necessary, include a short description of what the institute or organisation does. This also applies to qualifications, particularly in the medical profession – you should explain what it is if it’s not an internationally recognised accolade.

Don’t neglect your supporting statement

As with a position in Ireland, your supporting statement is a very important part of your application. This offers you more room to highlight your skills and suitability for the role, which is trickier within the shorter, more constraining framework of your CV. Expand on any overseas experience you have but make sure you focus on the role itself. Recruitment managers are not interested in your desire to travel around East Africa or live in South East Asia. Your supporting statement should be all about your experience and how you can bring impact to the programme.

Be patient

Applying for an overseas role with VSO is not the same as applying for one based in Ireland. Your application takes longer to process as it has to go through several people, both here and in country. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t hear from us straight away. You will find out the result of your application once all the relevant bodies have seen it.

Volunteering overseas is a really exciting prospect, one that brings about many professional and personal benefits. If you have any queries at all about the application process, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Ready to apply now?

Browse through our recent vacancies and get started on the application process. 

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