Paul Allen, author of The Ethical Careers Guide, gives his five top tips on how to find a career that has a positive impact on the world, as well as allowing you to travel
Charity workers cleaning up park (Dreamstime)
Given that many of the world’s problems affect its poorest countries, it’s no surprise that there are lots of opportunities here to find work that’s meaningful and rewarding.
Perhaps the most direct way to get you out there is through an organisation that is intrinsically about making this sort of positive change: a charity, an NGO or a social enterprise.
Plenty of these organisations all over the world need people on the ground so, if you’re qualified, you could walk right in. Popular global charity employers include Oxfam, Save the Children, CARE International, Islamic Relief, Christian Aid, Action Aid and Action Against Hunger. Some professions even have their own global programmes, like Vétérinaires Sans Frontières or, for dentists, Smiles without Borders.
Wind farm in remote location (Andrea Boldizsar)
You don’t have bottle-feed baby orangutans in Borneo to do good, and the corporate world offers an incredible range of ethical career opportunities. Whether actively investing profits in altruistic causes, or incorporating ethical initiatives into their business models, big business can be a force for good.
So, your first step is to find an employer with opportunities for international travel and it goes without saying that multinationals are more likely than SMEs to have offices abroad.
Step two is then to find a career that does good within this global corporation. There are plenty of options here, from specifically ‘green’ roles, like working in sustainability, to being an ‘Intrapreneur’ and making a business more socially and environmentally responsible from within. If you’re interested in the latter route, the organisations 80,000 hours and The League of Intrapreneurs are good places to start.
Globe on a table beside a nurse (Dreamstime)
Not to put too fine a point on it but if you’ve trained to be a teacher for the money alone, you’re probably not destined to be the next Warren Buffett. So the chances are you’re in it at least in part for the absolutely amazing impact you can have on others.
From nursing and medicine to teaching and social work, many ‘public’ careers are very transferrable, and could be your passport to a happy and rewarding career that doesn’t chain you to one town, city, or country.
Bike parked outside building (Creative commons)
For even more autonomy, you could embrace a more nomadic way of life – and with certain careers, the internet enables you to take your office anywhere.
From writing to film-making, web design to programming, there’s no reason why you can’t focus your work energies on projects that have a positive impact on the planet – while spending your time wherever you please.
Not everyone’s a fan of the ‘digital nomad’, but if more of your time is focused on helping others or protecting the planet than tweeting selfies, you’re certainly having some kind of positive impact.
Volunteer worker feeding orangutan (Dreamstime)
Finally, if you don’t have the skills or experience to walk into a role, or you’d prefer less of a commitment, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer.
Check out World Service Enquiry, which provides information and career advice to people who want to volunteer or work in international development.
One of the best is Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO): the world's leading independent international development organisation that offers volunteers the chance to work abroad to fight poverty in developing world countries. And there are lots of smaller, specialist agencies that can help you find interesting and rewarding opportunities around the globe. For example: People and Places or 2WayDevelopment.
But do your research. Some organisations’ programmes – however well intentioned – may have no impact (or even a negative one). And the phenomenon of ‘voluntourism’ has garnered a lot of bad press in recent years.
Main image: Volunteer worker in grounds of Kinkaku-ji temple, Kyoto (Dreamstime)