If you are an international student and you have had any experience of studying abroad, chances are that you have also considered gaining work experience also.
Now this can manifest as an internship abroad, voluntary work or potentially an entry level graduate job. Regardless of how it works out, you shouldn’t decide to do this just because it is in fashion and your mates are doing it.
You should have a clear understanding of how gaining work experience abroad will benefit your career or you will end up wasting opportunities.
In this article I will explain the important things that you should consider before you apply to any positions that aren’t based in your home country.
Importance of Location
Whether it is the UK that you are planning to work in, or another country, the location of where you plan to get some international experience will have a heavy impact on not only your CV, but any future opportunities that come your way.
I always try to get my clients to think carefully about not only the country, but also the city of where you are targeting potential employers. Take the UK for example. Any university student studying Finance should focus on working in London as it is the country’s financial hub. On the other hand a student studying a degree in IT should target their search for companies based in London and also the midlands as it is a growing area for IT in the UK with a lot of interesting start-up companies who have received funding.
As with most things that relate to your career, it will require research. I suggest starting with your target country and then depending on what field you are interested in, research what cities have the highest concentration of employers in your industry. If you are an engineering graduate and most of the employers in your field are based in the north, you should not be looking in the south!
Have a clear plan of what new skills you need to develop
Now this is a mistake that I see both experienced job seekers and recent graduates make on a regular basis. In the case of graduates it is ultra-important that you have a clear path to the career you want to pursue.
Now I am not saying that you need to have the next 10 years mapped out month by month. However you at least need to know the direction that you want to go in, and at the minimum, have an idea of 2 – 3 jobs within your industry that you are interested in.
This will then enable you to have a clear picture about the skills that you should be developing along the way to reaching your career goal. It is a case of reverse engineering how you envision yourself in the future. Do you see yourself as a future business owner in your field? Maybe an area/regional manager within a large corporation? Perhaps you would like the life of a freelancer within your industry and work on your own schedule?
However you see the future you, you need to start with the end result and then work your way back to the present in order to understand the required steps and ultimately what skills to equip yourself with.
Many employers are valuing more and more international experience as the world becomes more inter-connected, and yet I am still amazed at how many of my clients I work with have just a vague idea of what, and why they want international work experience, or they don’t understand how it could contribute to where they would like to be.
If you are passionate about your career and want to reach a high level and have a real impact, then you should be making regular time to inform and educate yourself on the direction your need to go. Talk is cheap!
Being an individual instead of a follower when making decisions
We live in the age of information and through technology we have access into the lives of our peers and icons like never before. On the one hand it is hugely beneficial and we are able to accelerate our learning to achieve our goals by learning from others. On the other hand there are many of you who mistake the success you see from your peers as the success you want for yourself.
So many graduates I work with pick their degree or decide to work in a particular country because “it’s the in thing right now”, or they “heard it pays a lot” from a friend previously. That’s all well and good and advice from friends can be valuable but not at the cost of not taking the time to ask yourself if what they recommend is actually right for you.
It is quite easy to spot a graduate who have listened to friends instead of making their own decisions. When I look at their CV I see qualifications from unrelated industries and work experience which don’t match what they say they would like to do.
I know you guys are young and yes you should explore and try new things, but time is precious and should not be wasted.
There is a difference between tasting and exploring new opportunities and being a follower that bases their decisions on other people’s point of view. I have even met graduates who decided to come to study in the UK because a mate told them to instead of actually researching for themselves. This is a recipe for failure.
Working in a different country can be such an enriching experience both personally and professionally, but it must be done for the right reasons and your decision to do so must be an informed one. Take the time to understand and think about the career decisions you make to ensure that they are based on what you want, not what is popular at the right now.