There’s no questioning the fact that the world is a more connected place now more than any other time in history. And it’s only going to be more so in the future.
Take me for an example. I am writing this in Sydney, Australia. It will be published by Kathrin, who is in London. And read by people all over the world.
That kind of reach for people like me was unthinkable just 10 years ago.
It’s easier than ever to do business internationally. We all know the majority of products are manufactured in China. Sophisticated software programs are coded in India. And many administrative tasks are outsourced to the Philippines.
But until 10 years or so ago, only huge corporations could do that.
You see, the barrier to set up a branch overseas prevented many small businesses to reach markets other than their own, let alone do all those things. Today… let’s just say I was part of the team of a startup who did $30 million in annual revenue by selling to 34 countries… with but 4 employees.
And the more we connect to each other, the more international opportunities arise. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a business who doesn’t, in one way or another, deal with someone overseas.
Now here’s the problem…
Forbes ran an article earlier this year that was proudly titled “Record Number of Americans Now Hold Passports”. Guess what that number was?
Just 110 million – or a third! Most Americans haven’t even been out of the country, let alone understand foreign business culture and practices. See the disparity between the labour market and what employers are looking for?
If you really want to stand out from the millions of graduates every year (half of which are either unemployed or underemployed, according to USAToday), doing an internship abroad is one of the ways to do it – only 2% have ever studied, let alone work, internationally.
More Benefits Of International Internships
Standing head and shoulders above the rest is just one benefit of doing an international internship. Here are a couple more.
- Employers outright prefer it. 65% of UK employers, for example, said they favour applicants with experience overseas, according to The Independent. And in the US, 91% recognize its benefits.
- An overseas internship will do more than help you land your first job. It will also help you get that promotion you want in the future. The higher you climb the ladder, the more likely it is you’ll have to manage someone overseas – or go there to make deals. Those with experience get an edge immediately.
- International internships show you are more initiative than 98% of your peers. It shows you’ll go to the lengths others won’t – and you’re not afraid to go against the grain if need be.
- International internships also show a sense of adventure and risk taking. It shows you’re not afraid to act despite uncertainty – an essential trait for creativity.
- You get a unique perspective of how things work. For example, Steve Jobs was said to have adopted a lot of business practices he learnt when he was visiting corporations in Japan.
- You’ll get a chance to travel and experience local culture instead of wasting away your weekends.
- You get to learn a new language. Sure you can do this by taking a class, but nothing works better than immersion. And that new language, of course, can open up a whole new world for you… work in Seoul, perhaps?
- There are just more opportunities. Looking for an overseas opportunity doesn’t mean you have to give up looking for local ones. So why not just add them to your list of choices?
Be Careful Though…
Doing an internship abroad does come at a cost.
For one, don’t expect to make any money out of it. If the internship is paid, expect to be paid in local currency, and expect minimum wage.
But instead of going back home to live with your parents, you’ll have to pay for your accommodation and other living expenses. Many graduates find it difficult to make ends meet because they have a student loan to pay back (and probably some credit card debt too).
This is why if you plan to do an internship abroad, make sure you start saving for it as early as you can. Sure, there a couple of companies who will pay for your trip there and give you a stipend for your labour, but those are rare.
Second, like any local internship opportunity, some overseas employers are out for free labour and have no intention to train you. The problem is, you can’t back out without losing all the money you’ve already spent getting there.
To prevent issues like this, try looking for agencies to help you find legitimate opportunities. Your university might even have some.
So Should You or Shouldn’t You?
There, the benefits and costs of doing your internship overseas. Will it guarantee more employment opportunities? Well, no.
But nothing will.
What it will give you is an edge few of your peers will ever have.
This article is written by Tess Pajaron. She is part of the team behind Open Colleges, Australia’s provider of exemplary tesol courses. She has traveled to many different countries and has her fair share of living abroad and aims to share her learnings through her experiences.