How to Launch Your Career Overseas
By Leslie Forman
Have you ever dreamed of working in China? India? Brazil?
The new landscape of work transcends national boundaries, which creates unprecedented opportunities to work worldwide.
Here's how you can get started.
"Overseas stints have launched many a career because of the inherent curiosity, flexibility and interest in the world they indicate to an employer," says Stacie NevadomskiBerdan, author of the new eBook GO GLOBAL! Launching an International Career Here or Abroad.
Even if you're no longer in school, study abroad is still an option. Consider a graduate degree or language program. The Rotary Foundation offers Ambassadorial Scholarships. ESADE and IE have international MBAs in Spain. According to Ben Apple, the Chinese government is giving out scholarships for masters' and PhD programs "like candy."
Just about any native English speaker can make a living in a foreign country by teaching English.
And lucky for you, teaching can prime you for many careers. English classes can spark conversations about expectations, obligations, traditions and more. You might learn more than your students!
These intangible lessons are invaluable in a cross-cultural office. A colleague who studied in a school system where the answers could always be found in the textbook might react differently to a brainstorming meeting than someone from a more creative background. Classroom experience helps you negotiate the unspoken landscape of cross-cultural communication.
Apply for a fellowship
Funding for your international career launch is available if you look in the right places. Many twenty-somethings move to China as Fulbright, Luce, Teach for China, AYAD, and Princeton-in-Asia Fellows. The first step is to apply!
Do an internship abroad
Dozens of organizations can help you coordinate career-launching international internships. For example, AIESEC, the world's largest student organization, brings together go-getters from Brazil, China, Chile, India, Norway, Slovakia, the United States and more, and places graduates in internships and traineeships worldwide.
You can also coordinate your own opportunity, using your own research, connections, and savings. One aspiring public health advocate decided to volunteer with a health clinic in Mexico. She saved up cash, contacted everyone she could, and drove south with a friend. She has since studied for a master's in public health (and married a Mexican!).
An international student from China connected with a fellow alum through a university network, traveled to Chile for a summer internship with the alum's startup, and ended up giving some impromptu Chinese lessons.
These opportunities are within reach of any creative, resourceful and motivated careerist.
Get a job with a global organization and convince them to transfer you to an overseas branch
Natalie Tan worked in the San Francisco office of international PR agency Burson-Marsteller for a little over a year before she transferred to the company's London office.
"I had a great study abroad experience in Paris and really enjoyed vacations outside of the U.S., so I always knew I wanted to work abroad at some point," Natalie explains. "During my interview, I was upfront about international opportunities being a key factor in my decision." She sought out global assignments, like coordinating press tours and analyzing global coverage.
During an early performance review, Natalie and her manager made international office transfer a long-term goal. "I really had my heart set on Europe so I focused my search in that region." Natalie worked out of the London office for a week, alongside colleagues she'd previously met over email. She later moved to there.
After two years in London, Natalie returned to San Francisco and joined a global technology company. When wanderlust struck again, she traveled through Europe and Morocco, and is now looking for a more strategic and analytical role, ideally in the travel industry.
There are many paths to an international career, but take note of these two common threads: a global mindset and the willingness to step outside your comfort zone.
Where overseas do you dream of living and working?
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