It seems like everyone wants to work overseas now. Unheard just a generation ago, placement overseas is not only possible, but desirable. The benefits are many - from experiencing another place and culture, to gaining valuable experience directly related to your chosen career.
Depending on what stage of your career you’re at (and there are opportunities for everyone), how you find a work experience placement abroad may differ, even if only slightly.
For Current Students
Many fields of study include work placement as part of their course. It may even be required before you finish the program. In these cases, your placement may be arranged for you, overseas or otherwise. Your school will likely provide a list of available spots, and you simply indicate which ones interest you. Speak to the office/head of your department to discuss placement options. Even if your subject has no formal placement requirement, they may be able to assist you in finding one for when you do finish, or during the summer break, or even for extra credit. You simply need to ask, as most schools and/or individual departments recognize the value of work experience while studying.
Boston University has an excellent study and work abroad program, as just one example.
For New Grads
If you’ve recently graduated from your program and are now looking to join the “real world”, there’s good and bad news. The good news? There are plenty of work placements out there, from virtually every industry and company (of a certain size). The bad news? The competition for these coveted spots is just as fierce (if not more) than applying for an actual full-time position. The bigger and more popular the company or firm, and the harder it is to land a placement with them. But that shouldn’t stop you from trying.
Many companies will list their work placement positions on job boards the same way they would a full-time position. You can also inquire directly with their HR department (find the contact details on their website, or try Googling “HR department [company name]”).
There are many to choose from, so do some background checking before you decide to go with one over another.
- Dream Careers - works with high school and college students to find appropriate placements in a handful of American cities, as well as London, Paris, Hong Kong, and Barcelona. As they work exclusively with full-time students, this is a summer program.
- Intrax Global Internships - another student service, Intrax works with companies in the US, and ten other countries (UK, Spain, Peru, Japan, Ghana, Germany, France, China, Chile, and Belize).
- Cultural Vistas - this nonprofit organization works primarily with North American students, but it does offer a few options for working professionals.
- Projects Abroad - a slightly different focus (primarily volunteer work), Projects Abroad is available to students, grads, professionals, and even retirees.
- Go Abroad - Go Abroad has a popular internship placement service that can connect students with positions in a wide range of countries.
For Working Professionals
Perhaps the easiest route for finding an overseas work placement, a working professional can simply inquire with their present company. If you work for a large multinational corporation already, they likely have satellite branches and offices around the world. It is usually possible to request a temporary (or permanent) placement somewhere overseas. You don’t have to quit your job, you get all the benefits of living and working overseas, and it just might be possible to move up the corporate ladder faster than would be possible in your home country. Depending on the country you choose, though, the competition may be fierce. Western European countries are very highly sought-after, so consider looking elsewhere. Eastern Europe, the Middle East (especially the United Arab Emirates), and Southeast Asia are all wonderful but somewhat off the radar locations. They offer a high quality of life, but with at least a slightly less competitive pool of applicants.
Ask to speak with either Human Resources or your immediate supervisor to investigate the available options.
International work experience is becoming a key asset in the modern world. Adding this experience to your resume not only sets you apart, but makes you better able to understand the global village in a way your non-traveled contemporaries can’t. Regardless of your current age, industry, or stage of career, a work experience overseas is a feather in your cap, and is something that companies are increasingly looking for and expecting from their employees.
Photo Credit: Rubina Kwon
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