Have you always dreamed of a career in the non-profit sector? Or maybe you've gotten some experience but are looking for a change of scenery? The American Red Cross Overseas could be the job for you. This job is proof that hard work and dedication pays off in big ways.
Know the requirements to get hired:
- Bachelor’s degree
- 3 years relevant experience
- U.S. citizenship and ability to obtain secret security clearance
- Medical and physical requirements including immunizations
- Experience with American Red Cross desired
- Experience with military culture, regulations, and protocol strongly desired
*Side note: While this specific job is only available to US citizens, I will highlight many other volunteer or non-profit jobs open to a wide range of nationalities.*
If you have a passion for the nonprofit field, you’re willing to work hard and put in the time, and you care about contributing volunteer hours to your community, the American Red Cross is a great option for you.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it though- it took me years and many rejections to get this position but now I live and work in Vilseck, Germany and my housing is free! Cha-ching!
How I set myself up for success with the Red Cross
For me, this job was a dream come true!
I started volunteering at the American Red Cross chapter in San Diego, California in 2011 in the logistics department at the front desk. I had just finished college and I was working two grueling jobs in the service industry but had always longed for a career dedicated to helping people.
Every time I went in for my volunteer position, I asked the Volunteer Manager for extra projects and I believe this was the ultimate key to eventually getting hired in a paid position.
The American Red Cross has chapters across the US but also across the world. Check here for international volunteer options with the Red Cross. There are a wide range of sectors and qualifications for each opportunity.
I only volunteered for a few months when the position of Associate of Staff Development was posted. I applied, the Volunteer Manager gave a strong recommendation, and I got the job! My first “big girl” job, full-time, salary, benefits, YASSS!
But then, (dun dun dunnn) less than a year later, that position was eliminated and I was going to get laid off. Big time bummer. I was so sad when I got the news, not only because of losing money, but mostly because I didn’t want to leave the Red Cross family and I definitely did NOT want to go back to working at Olive Garden.
During my time in that department, I assisted in hiring over 30 employees for a new Emergency Communications Center that was opening up. So when I found out I was getting laid off, the manager of the Center scooped me up! I had no experience in casework nor the military nor disaster services, but the manager had seen firsthand how hard I worked and took a chance on investing the time and training on me.
Ways to make your application stand out
I didn't accomplish this overnight but after years of dedication. A job like this in this sector first and foremost takes years of experience.
After my first job, I transferred to the Service to the Armed Forces department and worked hard there for almost 2 years. Fast forward 5 years and 2 other jobs and I’m back with the Red Cross, still doing that emergency casework in addition to all the other Red Cross programs, (CPR classes, blood drives, disaster preparedness and response) but on a military base in Germany.
After all is said and done, I truly think that if you are interested in a nonprofit career, you have to show the organization that you’re willing to work hard to support their mission *for free*.
I completely understand that is a difficult commitment to make when you’re also trying to pay rent and bills and feed yourself, and I’m sure it’s not the only avenue, but it definitely worked for me. Honestly, I have applied for these overseas positions multiple times over the span of a few years and they are pretty competitive.
But I persisted and I couldn’t be happier. I think my Peace Corps service also strengthened my application a lot because they know I can thrive in another country and again, I was working for free.
Another great job option for volunteering and working overseas at the same time is in Phuket, Thailand. Find out more about this amazing opportunity!
Is moving abroad right for you?
It’s a big question. Let’s figure it out together in A Way Abroad's Skillshare course designed to help you answer that very question.
Join Kat, the founder of A Way Abroad, who over the past eight years of living abroad in various countries, has developed a set of 10 questions she asks herself before she moves, questions to help identify priorities, deal breakers, strengths, and growth areas.
Together in this course we will use these 10 questions to determine if moving abroad is right for you, and if so, what that move might look like practically. Along with the downloadable worksheet to accompany each question, you'll also receive invaluable resources like a guide with over 15 websites to aid in your planning and job hunting process.
Pro Tip: Although I never worked for them, I think the International Rescue Committee could be a great place to start volunteering. They work in countries all over the world, including many chapters in the US. Check out their site and see if there's a location near you. They will also hire people of a variety of nationalities, depending on the project and your skills.
Moving abroad with the Red Cross
Luckily, moving overseas with the Red Cross was incredibly easy.
Some perks of working abroad for them are:
- They handle the logistics
- Housing is taken care of
- No visa paperwork
- Family member's travel is paid for as well
Because I now live and work on a US military installation, I needed a no-fee official passport, but did not need a visa. The Red Cross helped me to arrange for the passport, walked me through the security clearance application, and paid for my flights and a relocation allowance. I had to undergo some medical exams and receive immunizations as well.
Since I am on official orders, they also paid for my spouse’s travel and I got to bring the cat (on my dime though). Housing and utilities are included and we have a 3 bedroom townhouse (with heated floors!). I make enough money that my husband doesn’t have to work and we get to travel around Europe on the weekends! It’s definitely a dream come true.
A few other similar job opportunities
I work for the Service to the Armed Forces department, but there are also other international opportunities with the Red Cross. If you are a trained Disaster Action Team member, you may have the ability to deploy to different parts of the U.S. or even other countries to respond in the case of natural disasters. In addition, there are many positions through the International Committee of the Red Cross in countries all over the world, all with varying levels of requirements.
If you’re not looking at just the Red Cross, but rather working on a US military base, you could also check out USA Jobs. I’ve heard DoDEA (schools around the world) pay teachers well and have lots of positions. Some DOD and contractor positions are listed there as well.
If a future in with the Red Cross Overseas seems enticing, start volunteering today! Whether you go for one of the organizations I've mentioned or not, see what kinds of opportunities are nearby and get started. A life in the non-profit sector isn't for everyone but it definitely is for me.
If you're looking for more volunteer opportunities around the world but you're not sure in exactly what sector, try out Workaway or Worldpackers. These are both great ways to try working in a wide variety of fields without committing to something super long term.
To get a paid job with a nonprofit organization, work hard for them for free, prove to them that you're committed and pester them until they hire you. Easier said than done, but so worth it in the end.
Good luck! And reach out if you have questions!