It is a story that is all too familiar for millennials. After spending four years and tens of thousands of dollars for an undergraduate degree, we burst onto the job market excited and motivated to finally get the job we have always wanted and make a real impact in an organization where we put all the knowledge we have learned at university to use.
But as we begin our job search, the reality of the job market sets in. Either the only jobs we are able to find are entry level positions that we are overqualified for, or there are 50 other candidates competing for the same job, or we are beaten out by overqualified candidates with PhDs. After all our time, money and effort spent on our undergraduate degree it seem that basic data entry, summer camp coach, or intern are our professional destiny right out of university. But what happens if you expand your job search internationally?
Well, what you may find is not only jobs that match your education and qualifications, but positions that exceed them. Roles and responsibilities that provide professional development opportunities and chances to learn and grow in ways you would never otherwise be exposed to. Here are a few specific professional growth benefits you might experience working internationally.
More Responsibility Sooner
Say what you will about millennials, there is no doubt that we are eager to contribute and make an impact. Unfortunately in the US, that often means waiting until we have a few years of experience under our belt. Not so, however, when you start looking at international jobs, especially jobs at startups in developing countries. Working in developing countries, you go from being just another kid with a bachelor’s degree back home, to being a really unique asset to be utilized as much as possible. And because the pace of startups is so fast and often money is a scarce resource, you will be asked to do things far outside your “qualifications,” presenting invaluable learning opportunities if you are willing to learn on the go.
“I…found my way into a great position at a fast growing start up with a ton of responsibility. I became a full-stack digital marketer without having any previous experience. And I have seen that exact same trend where these companies give their international staff a ton of responsibilities and really expect them to grow into the role…”
If you are someone who is flexible, willing to learn on the fly, and have the confidence to face professional challenges head on, working internationally provides great opportunities to expand your professional repertoire. Not only that, is the chance to gain that coveted two years of experience, giving you the experience you need should you want to move back home, all while living in a foreign country. And that sure beats the hell out of pushing papers all day.
In the US, as an example, even if you work in a diverse office with people from many different cultures, you are still operating in an American office. The pace of work, the mentality of the staff, the procedures, and the operations are all Americanized.
The challenge with the working internationally as, say, an American, is that you are no longer operating in that Americanized environment. Offices around the world take on the office culture of the country in which the office is located and as the expat you are expected to adjust to the culture that is already in place. And that office culture can be very different from the one back home.
While this can be frustrating, it is also an opportunity to learn new ways of doing things as well as learn how to assimilate to a different office vibe, rules, and culture than you are used to. As is the case any time you are presented with new ways of thinking, the lessons you will learn from working in a different work environment can be taken with you forever, adding to your wealth of knowledge, along with the skill of assimilating to new environments.
Whether it is the cultural adjustment in general, dealing with difficult local governments, frustrations with a new office culture, or stress from being away from home, living internationally takes some some serious resilience. There will be moments, which I fondly refer to as “Kayak Moments” (in reference to the flight booking site) where you may think that enough-is-enough and want to buy a ticket home. And it is in those moments, when you have to put your head down and push through challenges, that you will not only gain a sense of resilience, but also the self-confidence that comes with proving to yourself that you can overcome the stress and difficulties presented by new cultures and unfamiliar environments.
That self-belief that you can get the job done, personally or professionally, no matter the country or culture, is one of the most valuable benefits I have experienced from living abroad. I have the confidence now that any opportunity I get from here on, no matter the location, I could take on and excel in.
And in an unpredictable world, the freedom of options is invaluable.
Aaron Horwath is a Project Integration Manager at an international technology company currently working in Da Nang, Vietnam. Originally from Portland, Oregon, he has spent the last two years working internationally. Through his site 12hourdifference.co, he is sharing his insights as well as the insights of other professional expats from around the world with millennials who are curious about taking an international career path. You can follow him on Twitter @12hrdifference and find him on Linkedin.