In this Career Insights blog, YAIA’s Careers Director Lauren Twine explores the value of volunteering for your professional and personal development and shares a list of organisations where you can find opportunities to volunteer in the field of international affairs.
Whether you’re a university student looking to boost your employability, or a young professional looking to specialise in or pivot into international affairs, taking on a volunteer role in the sector may be the answer for you!
Volunteering has transformed in the last few years, especially as international youth-run organisations have gone from strength to strength. As such, there are so many opportunities to get involved, and more importantly, to do so in a meaningful and fulfilling way. These opportunities can be just as valuable as internships.
Further, volunteering with these organisations can often be done remotely from wherever you are in the world, and some require as little as a couple of hours a week, making volunteer work more accessible than ever. You can generally fit volunteer work around your paid employment, university studies, and other commitments you have.
Volunteering, in its many forms, brings many tangible benefits, both professionally and personally. Firstly, it is a great way to build up your portfolio of experience and demonstrate clear evidence of your skill set (e.g. written communication skills and teamwork) when you begin your job search. Beyond the skills that you hone in a volunteer role, you will also be able to convey your particular passion (e.g. the Australia-Indonesia relationship), area of knowledge expertise (e.g. international development) and values (e.g. fostering a peaceful world). You can then articulate these skills and values in your resume and cover letter when applying for a job.
As a volunteer, you join a like-minded community and will be able to expand your professional network with fellow volunteers and the organisation’s external partners. This provides you with peers in your industry, as well as mentors from whom you can learn and seek advice.
YAIA, through our twice yearly Fellowship Program and regular volunteer role vacancies, is just one organisation through which you can begin volunteer work. There are many other organisations that you may like to volunteer with, some of them region-, country-, or cause-specific. Many of them are run by youth, for youth.
Check out the list below, including links to the organisations, for some inspiration on what you can get involved in:
General foreign policy, international relations and diplomacy focus
Bilateral or regional focus
Social and environmental causes
If you are interested to get involved in any of these organisations, there are many steps you can take now to get started:
Think about what you might be able to offer the organisation you’re interested in, and why the organisation’s cause takes your interest;
Follow the organisations of interest on social media or sign up to their mailing/vacancy list to receive updates on vacancies;
Where possible, get in touch with the relevant contact listed on the organisation’s website to learn more (there may be unadvertised opportunities available); and
When you see a vacancy you’re interested in, apply! Remember that even for a volunteer role, you generally still need to submit a cover letter and CV. Check the requirements for the role you're applying for.
Want to learn more about volunteering and how you can leverage it to kickstart your career in international affairs? As always, you are welcome to contact the YAIA Careers team for further information and assistance.