Gen-Y is in dire straits in the United States and Europe. Since the recession hit, unemployment has remained a serious problem for graduates and is stunting the career growth of young people around the world. This is not a short-term problem, either. As more and more graduates pile into the market, those chronically “underemployed” people will continue to fail to build up a solid portfolio of experiences that will follow them for the rest of their lives.
However, the domestic unemployment crisis is a problem limited to those who lack the willingness to explore opportunities beyond their home country and seek careers and startups internationally. Launching a career abroad in Latin America, Asia, Middle East and Africa can give you immensely valuable experiences from both a personal and career standpoint.
We’ve created an international career blueprint laying out how you can graduate with an extraordinary career abroad.
If you are still in your freshman or sophomore year in college, you will have more time to prepare for this whole experience. You should first identify a specific country that you are interested in from a cultural, economic, and linguistic point of view. This country should have a bright future economically, socially, and politically, and also have a friendly policy towards recruitment of expatriate talent. Solid examples of such countries include Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Chile.
Curriculum and Language
This goes without saying, but you should aim to be proficient in the language of the country you choose. Thus, you can kill two birds with one stone by majoring or minoring in that language or a related concentration. Examples might include “East Asian Studies”, “Romance Languages”, “Arabic Studies” or something else that combines linguistic/cultural topics with political, economic, and sociological issues.
Your goal, above all else, is to become totally fluent and professionally competent in the language of your choice by the time you graduate. It is otherwise extremely challenging to realistically secure a job that is not English teaching - unless you have a particularly in-demand technical skill set such as computer programming.
We thus suggest that you major in a language and focus intensely on this. We also suggest that you choose a double major or minor in a topic with a more technical background, such as finance, accounting, engineering, or computer science. It will be important for you to be able to display a skill set outside of just being able to speak the local language. If the only skill set you come forward with is your Spanish/Arabic/Mandarin, then you are not really setting yourself apart from local hires who do not need visa sponsorship like you do.
Once the time arrives, you will have to arrange a study abroad trip. It’s incredibly important for networking, linguistic skills, cultural immersion, and work experience that you dedicate your entire junior year to study abroad. Preferably you will book your study abroad experience in your country of choice some time during your sophomore year. We strongly suggest that you choose the capital city and top-rated university in your country of choice, as this will afford you the best opportunities to build a local social network and professional network through internships abroad.
Once your study abroad experience is booked, you should leave early and spend your sophomore year summer in that city doing an internship. This will give you a strong head start on becoming familiar with the work culture and social scene in your target destination. This way, when the rest of the students show up for the fall semester of junior year, you will hit the ground running.
During your junior year abroad, you should do 1-3 internships. This will accomplish a range of goals. Primarily, you will be building a solid network of contacts in a range of different companies and industries. By doing so, you will place the foundation for receiving a full time offer later on when full-time-recruitment comes around. Second, by experiencing a range of industries, you will be able to fully understand which companies and fields demand your skill sets and provide long term opportunities for you. Finally, you want to expose yourself to as many different experiences as possible before your year is up. Your study abroad experience will be over in a flash, so it’s important that you make use of every possible minute in a practical way.
Sourcing Job Offers
In the 6-8 weeks before your year abroad is complete, you will have a very strong understanding of the local city and which industries provide the best opportunities for you. You’ll also know which companies want you to return for a full time position. It’s important at this time to approach the companies you worked for and ask them if they would be interested in taking you on full time after you graduate. Your graduation date will be about 10 months in the future by this point, so you will get a range of responses - managers will be uncertain because hiring decisions are nearly impossible to make that far out into the future.
However, your goal here is primarily to make sure that these decision makers are aware of your desire to return for a full time job and that the door remains open for you in the future. You want them to think of you, before anyone else, as a no-brainer entry-level recruit when they need to fill a position.
The fact remains, though, that your position is not 100% secure. Thus, you should set up “informational interviews” with competitor companies in your city of choice to see what their offices and company cultures are like and to spark up interest in a go-getter such as yourself. When they realize that you are currently interning with their competitors, they will be more interested in you than they otherwise would have been; companies like to feel like they are “stealing the talent” from competition.
Nothing is secure or safe in this turbulent age we live in. You will have to constantly fire on all cylinders and evaluate and source new opportunities all the time. However, when you depart from your study abroad year, you will have gained diverse work experiences and built a strong network of decision makers who will be instrumental in helping you launch your new extraordinary international career as a graduate.
Michael Park | Elite.
Career Hack is a Gen-Y international careers and entrepreneurship portal. Launch an extraordinary career or venture abroad.