MYTH VS. REALITY
Do you want to set the groundwork for an international career? Great! The opportunities are out there! BUT--you can save yourself a lot of wasted effort by learning a few realities of the international job hunt.
Paid entry-level professional work opportunities abroad are difficult to find. To gain experience which an employer will find valuable, you might consider an unpaid internship or volunteer position, a short-term, non-professional work position, or even continuing your studies abroad. Alternatively, some people successfully get placed overseas by first paying their dues working in the U.S. for a company with foreign operations.
(Note that these are true stories of alumni we have worked with. Last names have not been used because we have not received permission to use them.)
1. One traditonal path
As an undergraduate, Jack studied in France and worked hard to improve his language skills. When he was a senior, Jack specifically sought out and applied to U.S. companies with operations in France and French companies. When a major French manufacturer with offices in New York offered Jack a job, he was very specific about his desire to work in France, and he received assurances from a number of people that this was a good possibility after he established himself with company. About two and a half years after he was hired, Jack was transferred to the company's Paris office, the first American at his company to be transferred.
2. Paying dues in-country
With the intention of eventually finding full-time professional work, Jim moved to Taiwan and enrolled in a year-long intensive language course. While gaining fluency in the language, he spent considerable time tracking down and speaking with the people he had been referred to through his contacts in the U.S.
In particular, Jim targeted smaller Taiwanese companies that did business overseas. When he met with Taiwanese businesspeople, he stressed his fluency in their language and his familiarity with Asian ways, having previously spent a semester studying in Taiwan while in college.
At the end of his year of study, Jim was hired by a small manufacturing concern that employed 22 people, none of whom spoke English with any proficiency. Jim said his responsibilities ranged from literally sweeping the warehouse to helping negotiate a major contract with a Swedish firm, a situation where his fluency in both English and Mandarin was invaluable.
Eventually, Jim parlayed his experience at this company into a job working for McKinsey Consulting in their Hong Kong offices. At the end of his time in Hong Kong, McKinsey paid for part of his MBA degree at Harvard Business School.
3. Persistence can pay off
Lisa was an international studies major who had spent a semester studying in Africa and had done an internship with an international relief agency at their headquarters in the U.S. Her plan was to graduate and go to work for a development agency in Africa.
Her restriction was that she would only work for an agency that based its practices on the needs defined by the locals that were being served. In other words, she didn't want to work for an agency, particularly a governmental agency, that imposed its will or ideas on the local African communities. The problem was that most of the agencies that fit her criteria made a point of hiring in-country as much as possible, limiting the opportunities for Americans.
Lisa did a lot of networking - through former professors, through the contacts she had made studying abroad, through the alumni network, through contacts at her internship - AND through anyone that those people could refer her to. It took a long time, but after about six months, Lisa landed a job with the organization that ran the study program she had participated in as a student. This was the beginning of a series of jobs in development, both in the U.S. and in Africa.
That said, you can find professional work opportunities abroad. But--and this is IMPORTANT--you won’t find them through traditional channels. Very few American companies send recent college graduates abroad. There are very few entry-level professional jobs abroad listed on the Internet (or anywhere else, for that matter). And most foreign companies won’t hire you until they’ve interviewed you in person.
In a word--networking. Sounds like a nasty word, but what it really means is establishing relationships with people who can help you. Employment in most countries is driven by whom you know. And if you put in the effort, you can establish a lot of good connections with people whom you’ve never met before.
How do I do this “networking”? Start talking to everyone you already know--professors, friends of your parents, parents of your friends, graduate students, your family doctor--anybody and everybody. You have a dream of what you’d like to do and where you’d like to do it. Start sharing that with people, and ask them if they know anybody who might be able to help you.
Contact people you don’t yet know. Come to the Career Resource Center and ask for the BC Alumni Directory. Ask us to help you draft a letter that you can send to all BC alumni living in the country in which you hope to find work. Don’t ask if they have a job for you. Do tell them what kind of work you’d like to do, tell them what your background and preparation is for that career field, and ask if they know anyone in that field who might possibly be of assistance to you.
Know thyself, know thy career field. Unless you’ve spent the time to carefully examine your interests and skills, researched possible careers and chosen one or two specific career fields, employers abroad (and in the U.S.) won’t even look at you as a candidate for their jobs. Do your homework (come to the Career Center--we’ll help).
Intro to work abroad
University of Michigan’s excellent introduction to the variety of opportunities available to students and recent graduates.
UCal-Irvine work abroad page
A huge collection of programs and links to opportunities abroad.
Council on International Educational Exchange
For a fee, CIEE arranges a work permit for you (normally a very difficult and uncertain process), helps you find a job once you’ve arrived in the host country, and assists with housing needs.
Global Vision International
Critical conservation and humanitarian projects in over 30 countries rely on GVI for volunteers, promotion and direct funding.
GVI volunteers benefit from exceptional support, training and an internship program.
Global Vision International's Career Opportunities Program
This site features a range of jobs in the fields of education, research, environmental management and wildlife research with GVI's partner organizations in countries across the world
This is the sole publisher of two unique multinational business contact directories. From the University of Denver career office.
Industry, Career and Company In-Depth Profiles
FREE book-length reports from Vault
Alumni who have volunteered to speak with you about their careers and to serve as networking contacts.
Watch interviews with professionals
courtesy of Road Trip Nation
The Riley Guide - Links to job listings for this career field.
NOTE: Riley links ONLY to a few select Web sites. Be sure to visit our JOBS page for additional resources
International Studies - What can I do with this major?
Excellent overview of career options related to your international studies major.