How to Use Your Transferable Skills to Make a Difference to the Lives of Others
Despite the best efforts of our careers advisers, many of us reach a point in our lives when we wonder if we’re capable of doing something a bit more heroic.
But then you think “What skills do I possess that can really make a difference?”
In reality, making a genuine difference is simply about each of us affecting a small group of people in a positive way.
You also might be surprised to discover that you already have the skills you need to do it and when you realise that there are sustainable and carefully designed volunteer programmes already up and running.
You’ll soon see that you can get straight to helping in the most effective way possible, without wasting anyone’s time and resources.
Never Assume You Have Nothing to Offer
An old employer of mine kept the motto “Never Assume” pinned above the office doors. Several years later, it still pops into my head every few days.
It’s a great thing to remember, not just when you’re communicating, but also when you’re thinking about what is and isn’t possible.
We often pick up far more experience than we realise, given the organic nature of “taking things on board”.
For example, I didn’t realise how much I’d absorbed naturally about using computers and the internet, until I sat my mum down in front of a laptop to teach her to look for knitting patterns online. Her astonishment at what I can do with a computer (which is pretty minimal compared to coders and web creatives) put into perspective how much I’d picked up compared to someone who doesn’t spend much time with computers.
Providing you apply to a volunteer programme that is well-designed and adapts roles to suit volunteers, rather than a “take it or leave it” identical role for everyone, there will be something you can do to help.
Many and varied skills are needed, from carpentry to childcare to civil engineering, and from business mentoring to tutoring in specialist subjects.
But with so many options, the first thing you need to do is to work out what you have to offer.
Identify Your Transferable Skills
If you’re still doubting yourself, have a look through this list of transferable skills and write down all the skills that your current life roles and hobbies have given you.
Maybe you’re stuck in a boring desk-job but you’re really good at woodwork, DIY, or gardening – all useful when helping to refurbish schools and build water tanks, and other community infrastructure.
Even in your professional life you might be unaware of just how much you’ve learnt.
It’s important to identify all your skills – not just the ones that are in your job description, as you never know what might be useful to others.
For example, one of our programmes in Tanzania, a country where women still have lower social status than men, teaches resource management and entrepreneurial skills to women who’ve been widowed and left to manage the family finances.
You might see your business knowledge and budgeting strategies as average amongst your colleagues or peer group, but don’t assume that they’re familiar to a Tanzanian woman whose husband always earned the family crust.
What Skills Are Needed in Volunteer Programmes?
Frameworks that take everyone into consideration, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are what each and every volunteer programme should be based on.
These goals aim to bring about “clean water for all”, zero poverty and hunger, and a good education for everyone, to mention just a few.
They rely on a variety of skills from the volunteers involved, both general and specific. So let’s take a look at the many ways you could lend skills you already have to those in need.
Teaching and Childcare
If you’ve been looking after your own children for a few years, you might feel disconnected from the world of CVs and skill sets, but you’ve probably acquired pages of transferable skills from parenting.
A core element of many volunteer programmes involves childcare, guiding preschoolers, and running extra-curricular activities.
In some countries, like Tanzania and http://inspirevolunteer.co.uk/countries/india/”>India, English is the de facto language of higher education.
Fluency in English gives talented students the chance to choose from colleges and universities around the world, and it enables better self-representation and negotiation in legal, financial and humanitarian matters.
In countries where education is severely underfunded, many teachers, whilst capable, are underpaid and often untrained in the best classroom practises, which can lead to low morale.
Volunteers with teaching skills and qualifications can assist by passing on what they know about:
- Fostering critical thinking
- Classroom management
- Resource management
- Teaching with scarce resources
You can benefit students by teaching extra classes to prepare for exams. Where budgets are tight, government curriculums tend to sacrifice other subjects before maths and literacy.
You can help here by teaching activities that aren’t government requirements, eg music, sports, arts, and crafts.
The Inspire programme in Peru includes mentoring at college level, where teachers and tutors can help students gain personal skills in emotional intelligence and positivity.
Business and Management
In emerging economies like Tanzania, Cambodia and Peru, and especially where tourism is starting to alter poor communities, you’ll find students eager to absorb your entrepreneurial skills and advice on job seeking and writing CVs.
Your talent for resource management can help transform all manner of community structures, from households to schools to clinics to businesses,
If you’ve experience with information-gathering and data analysis, you’ll be helpful at the initial stage of volunteer programme development.
A responsible programme will undertake a thorough community survey to identify problems and suitable actions to address them.
Health Professionals (Nursing and Medical)
According to the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, 9% of the global human population still have to drink unsanitary water from rivers and lakes, and many more cannot trust their improved water supplies to be clean.
Most of these people live in the world’s poorest communities, where sanitation is limited, healthcare underfunded, and waterborne diseases contributing to a cycle of poverty.
Effective volunteer programmes in these regions hinge on developing and introducing healthcare plans that encourage sanitation, hygiene, and more efficient use of whatever resources are available.
Healthcare professionals can help by educating communities and local practitioners about various skills from diet to child-rearing. A large proportion of volunteer programmes in this sector may also be lent to administering healthcare and training local practitioners in best practices and resource management.
Care Work or Social Work Professionals
In the 1980s, the world was shocked by revelations of awful conditions in the state “orphanages” (many of the children were abandoned, not orphaned) of Romania.
The country’s birthrate had doubled in two decades following a decree by dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who believed that population growth would cause economic growth.
As a result, hundreds of thousands of children ended up in state care, where they were abused and neglected. You can read the full story here – it’s not an easy read.
These days, although changes have been made, Romania is still one of the poorest countries in Europe, and many children are still abandoned there due to poverty.
In 2014, at least 60,000 children were being cared for by the state or foster parents, per UNICEF.
Its orphanages and care homes are underfunded, and often depend on donations, even for children’s clothing. Carers, who work 12-hour shifts and must focus on practical duties like cooking, do not have time to give kids the emotional support and attention they require.
If you have a background in professional social work or child welfare, you skills will be invaluable to volunteer programmes like Inspire’s projects in Romania.
You can also help develop women’s empowerment in countries where women have lower status than men, such as Peru, where volunteers on this programme can help in many ways to fulfil the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal for gender equality.
Perhaps you’re excellent at solving practical problems and working with your hands, in which case you can volunteer on many projects across the world.
We have volunteers who have helped by helping to refurbish, build or decorate schools. We have also been part of helping towards clean water goals by building water tanks and other clean water infrastructure.
Or perhaps you are qualified in an area you never thought could help a poverty-stricken country?
Media, acting and drama expertise can be useful when teaching confidence, interview skills, and media literacy.
In Thailand, for example, you can volunteer to help students with media literacy and self-expression. You could also take part in showing aspiring businesspeople how to utilise best practice in their media and marketing.
Examples of the disciplines covered are diverse, and include workshops focussed on:
- Civil engineering
- Computer science
- Social science
- Fine arts
So once you’ve identified your skills, why not contact us and we can help to find the perfect programme for you.
What’s in It for the Communities?
On first glance you might worry about interfering in local affairs, but unfortunately things can go awfully wrong for people and the places they live in.
Once poverty takes hold of a community – bringing with it disease, lack of education, underfunded healthcare, early pregnancy and unchecked childbirth – it can be hard to break free without outside help.
Some regions have perpetuated oppression, particularly of women and certain ethnicities, for centuries without challenging their assumptions.
Change is unlikely unless new viewpoints, beliefs and paradigms are suggested.
Whole communities can become disenfranchised because of ethnicity, or rural remoteness, and are seen as low priority by governments.
Interventions that support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and which are designed to empower communities rather than make them dependent on aid, become necessary to steer communities in a healthier direction.
Reducing Illness, Personal Loss and Hardship
9% of the world’s population – more than 660 million people – drink water that has been harvested from “unimproved” sources, per statistics by the World Health Organisation.
Put simply, this means it has probably been used as a toilet by humans or other creatures, and likely to contain waterborne disease such as dysentery or cholera.
Even diarrhoea can be fatal to people who are suffering from dehydration and a lack of proper medical care.
Sick children miss out on vital education, which reduces their earning potential as adults, and sick parents are unable to work.
Both scenarios contribute to ongoing poverty – utilities remain unsanitary and underfunded as a result, and the cycle continues.
Intervention helps to break the cycle and move poverty-stricken communities into a better self-sustaining position.
The socio-economic position of women in many countries is still far from ideal.
Where women are treated as second-class citizens and not permitted access to education and opportunities to earn a living, they have to rely on their relationships with men.
When a woman in Tanzania is widowed, she’s likely to become impoverished (along with her children), and women in Peru’s Sacred Valley suffer an alarming rate of domestic abuse because they are unable to leave unsuitable relationships.
Self-confidence is low, and depression and anxiety are high.
Volunteer programmes that are designed to empower women can make a huge difference to individual lives and the wider community.
Enable one woman to support herself and her family, and she inspires other women in her community to do the same thing.
Empower a whole community of women and teach them how to continue empowering others, and they can inspire neighbouring communities and really alter the status quo.
Ready to Put Those Skills to Good Use?
Programmes like Inspire’s recognise you and your skill set as individual; we tailor your role and the programme according to what you can bring.
We make sure that the effort, energy and funds you invest in your own volunteering experience are used optimally, and go directly to where it really is most needed.
You’ll also be helping to further one or more aims in the UN’s globally co-ordinated Sustainable Development Goals, whilst embarking on a personally and professionally rewarding experience.
Got questions? Get in touch with us any time by calling us at +44 1635 285666, go to our enquiries page, or leave a comment below.