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Eight ways graduates can prepare for a career abroad

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CEO of the NSLS† Co-author of “Hacking the SAT: Tips and Tricks to Prepare, Plan Ahead, and Increase Your Score.”

For many, university is a stimulating and enlightening experience. Not just because of what they learn in the classroom, but simply by living on campus, students are exposed to new ideas, people, lifestyles and ways of being.

What if that doesn’t have to end with graduation? Working abroad is a way to keep discovering the world, even as you start your life as a professional. It can also bring financial benefits. Americans moving to Europe, Australia and some parts of Asia may earn a higher salary for doing the same work as in the US, in addition to perks such as a lower cost of living.

If working internationally appeals to you, here are eight ways you can prepare:

1. Know what you want from working abroad.

Do you have an affinity with a particular culture? Do you want a lifestyle that you can only find in a certain country or city? You may want to work in a particular industry and the best opportunities are in another country. Of course it’s also OK if you just want a new adventure. Just be clear about what it is and let it guide you through the next steps you take.

2. Learn the local language.

Translation and language learning apps make it easier than ever to navigate public transportation, restaurants, and social situations. While it is possible to move to most countries without speaking their native language, locals may find it rude or arrogant. Lack of fluency also limits your experience of the culture. If you have an idea where you want to live, enroll in a language course or use Duolingo or Rosetta Stone to develop your language skills.

3. Use your university career resources.

If your college has a career center, find out if they have resources for students looking to work abroad. Counselors may be able to provide advice, networking opportunities, job placement services, and other tools that can steer you in the right direction. International student departments may also have similar resources.

4. Study abroad or do an international internship.

Before embarking on an international career, it is a good idea to explore an area as a tourist. Study abroad programs are a great way to achieve this because they allow you to experience a new culture without the practical considerations of working there full-time. International internships are another great way as you can experience what it’s like to work in a new city without the obligations of a full-time move.

5. Build an international network.

Once you’ve selected a city you want to work in, start getting in touch with people who live there. Tap into your existing network for introductions to locals or people associated with your destination. Joining online expat communities is also a great way to meet people. Making these connections is important for adapting to a new environment and navigating the culture.

6. Research the job market.

When researching jobs in your target destination, don’t just think about how many opportunities you see. Consider average salaries, standard office hours, promotion structures, and other factors that influence your decision. Paid time off, public holidays and work-life balance vary from country to country, so familiarize yourself with these as you do your research and talk to your network.

7. Make use of your background.

Immersing yourself in another culture does not mean that your individual background is no longer an asset. If you land a job with a company trying to cross over to the US or Canada, your English skills and understanding of Western culture can be incredibly valuable.

In addition, large US companies with locations around the world can benefit from your familiarity with American culture. Countries like Mexico, Singapore and Portugal make it relatively easy for American workers to move. Start your career abroad and eager to learn new things, but don’t deprive others of the opportunity to learn from you too.

8. Invest in personal development.

The transition to the professional world after college comes with plenty of obstacles. Add to that navigating a culture different from your own and the challenges can be overwhelming. Decide to improve your relationship with yourself before moving. Assess how you deal with stress, what your needs are, and how you can self-regulate emotionally to be more resilient. You can learn these skills in both therapy and leadership training.

Our globalized market now makes it easier to work abroad than ever before in history. International experience will also enable you to stand out as a candidate in any future job you apply for. If you’re even slightly curious about living abroad, take the plunge. Your future self will thank you.


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