By Scott Westcott
When deciding on whether to work abroad a few years ago, Elena Sheppard , Culture Editor at PolicyMic, thought of Mark Twain’s famous words:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”
With that notion in mind, she headed off to Bangkok where she spent more than two years working and immersing herself in another culture. In an article titled Why I Chose to Work in Thailand (And Why Millennials Should Work Abroad Too!) Sheppard details the many benefits of working overseas – particularly for those workers in the millennial generation.
And, indeed, many millennials are now working abroad – or seriously considering the option. The trend is fueled in part by the high value many millennials place on real-life experiences combined with the continuing challenges recent college graduates face finding work in the U.S.
While working abroad can be exciting, fulfilling and can help jumpstart your career, it takes time and planning to help ensure a positive experience. Here are some things to consider before booking your flight.
What do you want to accomplish?
Laying the groundwork to work abroad can be a time-consuming and costly process. So before making the leap, consider what you want out of the opportunity – and how it can best help you in the future.
- Do you primarily want work experience or the opportunity to immerse yourself in another language and culture?
- Do you want to gauge whether you would like to live overseas for an extended time?
- Are you seeking a commitment or an adventure?
After defining your goals, consider the various options from internships and teaching English to landing jobs with multinational corporations or government positions. Wikitravel provides a good overview of the job options available, as well as links to some of the most popular international job boards.
International Job Market – Can I get a job?
A basic question for sure, but probably the most important one to ask yourself. Heading overseas without a realistic plan or the legitimate promise of a job is the fastest way to end up broke, and thousands of miles from home. Many economies around the world are struggling as evidenced by the recent news that Spain’s unemployment now tops 27 percent in the first quarter of 2013. Also consider that a 2011 International Gallup Poll showed that young people are twice as likely to be unemployed worldwide than as their elder counterparts. Certainly, good opportunities do exist, but it’s best to have a legitimate plan before heading overseas.
If you are up for a challenge try something like WWOOF (World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), this organization offers free room and board in exchange for work on an organic farm in most parts of the world. Or try to get a work abroad grant from the InterExchange Foundationthey support people with a passion for improving the world while learning about and sharing culture.
Have you done your research?
When it comes to working overseas, you can’t do enough homework. Jess Dante learned that lesson the hard way after arriving in Florence, Italy with aspirations to teach English. “Little did I know that the market for English teachers in Florence is saturated and it is almost impossible to find a job teaching when you don’t have working papers,” Dante wrote in a recent blog post. If I had known this, I would have saved the $2,000 I spent on the course I took and the overpriced housing they had put me in.”
Kickstart your research with these guides to working abroad:
- The Abroad Guide is good starting point for research on all aspects of prepping for, working abroad and what to do while you’re there.
- The InterExchange blog shows what its like living and working abroad from the eyes of traveler.
- STA Travel is a global travel specialist with 30 years experience advising young people on holidays and adventures abroad. NOt only are sites like this excellent resources to research the types of jobs you can find abroad, but they also help with travel and what to do when you get there.
What are the requirements for working in a certain country?
Every country has its own regulations when it comes to foreign workers – and it is essential you know exactly what is required. You should remember that paperwork takes time to process, so make sure you research well in advance what is required to work in a certain country. Obviously, everyone needs a passport to travel outside the U.S. but rules regarding work visas and other documentation vary considerably.
When doing research about your international move, try searching through sites like Movecentral.com not only offers a comprehensive overview of what types of paperwork may be necessary but they also have other uselful tips and suggestions that you may not have thought about like:
- Relocating a family abroad.
- Finding a place to live
- Taking care of personal paperwork (taxes, personal, financial, etc)
- Contacting local embassies
- Do you need insurance?
- Will you need a different driver’s permit?
Done right, working abroad can offer the experience of a lifetime – and provide invaluable career and personal experience. That is why Elena Sheppard, the woman who worked in Thailand, says it is a “must-do” for any millennial.
As she concluded in her blog post:
“Distance, both physical and emotional, affords the chance to figure out who you really want to be,without anyone there to tell you who they think you are supposed be.”
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