Working and studying abroad are among some of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have. New places, new sights and sounds, new cultures, new food await! Also, many new professional experiences lie in wait.
Just as the study abroad process requires a bit of legwork, so does working abroad, but you can do it. If you want to stay where you are studying abroad or find a job abroad after you graduate, take a look at these strategies.
1. Find a student job before graduating
If you are already abroad and your visa allows it, find a job locally. Start learning the culture early (see #3). In France, for example, the French "Right to Disconnect" law says that you do not have to check your email after hours. In Sweden, learn about the fika, or Swedish coffee break. Some places are formal, breaking at nine and then again at three to have what we consider 'water cooler conversations.'
If you are in India, you will learn that meetings typically start 15 minutes late, and in Japan you will experience the 15-minute wellness break called "Radio Taiso." Argentinians air-kiss each other and parents in Iceland get three-month parental leave.
By getting a job as a student, you will give yourself a leg up on cultural norms and expectations of working in a different country.
2. Look for a summer internship after graduation
A summer internship is another great way to get a sense of the global work environment. Internships abroad will give you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture and give you a test run of a specific career in a specific place.
International internships also boost your international network, always a key for success, especially if you know that working abroad appeals to you. It helps to know a variety of people with a variety of positions in a variety of places.
You will set yourself apart, too, earmarking yourself as someone willing to take a professional risk, with a sense of adventure -- and a strong sense of commitment.
3. Learn local job search culture
In addition to learning the local customs about working around the world, you will learn the culture of cover letters, resumes, emailing, and interviewing.
You will learn whether you can do spontaneous applications, or apply only to job offers. You will learn the do's and don't's of following up, and whether your cover letter should emphasize your personality or your work history.
You will also figure out how you should behave during your interview -- whether it's a formal or more relaxed event.
In Germany, for example, titles are very important. Insist on them when applying and use them appropriately during your interview.
In Japan, you will discover that understanding how the hierarchy works is critical to your success. In the US and Canada, the hierarchy may be more relaxed.
The more you know about how to apply to jobs abroad, the better off you will be.
4. Master the language
In some places, this matters more than others. If you want a high-level job in another country, though, it helps to learn at least some of the language.
If you want to work a large city like New York, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Paris, Madrid, London, Rome, Tokyo, Beijing, Sydney, Delhi, or anywhere else in the world, learning the language not only reflects your competence, but also your respect for where you are and where you want to be.
If you want to work in any NGO, learn French and Arabic. You will be able to work nearly anywhere in Africa or the Middle East.
If you want to be in Asia, at a minimum, learn Chinese.
An immersion experience is worth it, especially before you go. If you can't swing that, sign up for classes when you get there, even if your primary job is in a language you already know.
Show some respect. You will get it back, trust us.
Learn more about studying abroad.
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