The idea of working in a foreign country for any length of time is naturally daunting. Whether it’s culture shock and all that comes with it, or simply the fear of leaving behind the basic comforts of “home”, picking up work in a foreign destination is something many people would not consider. As scary as it may seem, it is actually one of the greatest things you could do for your career.
Adding a working abroad experience to your resume or CV shows that you are not afraid of challenges that may come from putting yourself in potentially unfamiliar situations, and that you are willing to learn in any environment you find yourself in. It teaches you a confidence that is hard to come by when working in the familiar territory of your native country. It proves your dedication to your work, as well as your passion for what you do, as you are willingly embracing the peaks and pitfalls of trial and error.
So how exactly do you go about finding work experiences, internships or jobs in foreign countries?
With a bit of effort and a lot of patience, you will find what you’re looking for.
I’ve spent a couple of days working retail with a friend of mine in Frankfurt, Germany, and I’ve ran an English section of an online publication in Florence, Italy for several months. Whatever the end career goal you have in mind, the most important thing to remember is that putting yourself out there is the key to finding work abroad.
Throughout Europe, you will find countless cities and countries that are looking for native English speakers. Even if it’s not the largest idyllic travel destination, keeping an open mind of smaller, less touristic locations will be the ones even more grateful for the presence of English speakers.
Christian Borys, a Canadian journalist who moved to Kyiv, Ukraine for work, described the working abroad experience as hugely beneficial, aside from the inevitable culture shock that follows the huge move.
“Working abroad is the most incredible experience. The only drawback is that you lose touch with ‘home’ after a while,” he said. “[There are] huge benefits for a resume, especially if you can add a language.”
Applying for work through work abroad companies also has its benefits. Doing so ensures that you will have nearly everything you need taken care of before your arrival at your foreign workplace, and will assist you in the event of the unfamiliarity becoming overwhelming.
This is the process I followed for acquiring a journalism internship with STAMP Toscana in Florence. I found it to be extremely useful, as it eliminated nearly all of the uncertainty I felt when picking up my life in Canada and moving abroad for a few months for work. While learning the language is a completely other category of adaptability when it comes down to beginning work in a foreign country, as is acquainting yourself with your surroundings– coworkers, making friends, finding your way around– it all comes with time. And a whole lot of patience.
Gui Botelho, a student from Coimbra, Portugal, explained that the idea of leaving home to work overseas is made much easier with the help of companies recruiting workers, and simplifying the process for employees.
“I heard working at Disney Land is a great experience,” he said. “They have a good plan for people overseas to go there and you meet a lot of people from around the world.”
The power of connections is also a significant help in acquiring foreign work. Working at a sports shop for a couple of days in Germany was thanks to a friend of mine, who had told her work about an eager Canadian wanting to join the team to experience working abroad some more, and improve on her spoken German. Yosemite Sport Shop welcomed me with open arms, and being able to promote their store was half the fun. I was able to interact with customers, help out in a German retail position (not something I’d thought I’d get the chance to do in this lifetime) and become more confident in my abilities to pick up work in different countries if I truly dedicated myself to it.
What you gain from experiences like these is the knowledge that, with enough confidence and dedication, you will not only have an impressive job background and credentials, but you will find yourself able to adapt very easily in any work environment you come to find yourself in.
By the end of my internship in Florence, I was covering local breaking news, conducting interviews in Italian on my own, and offering up journalistic ideas to the editor-in-chief about the best ways to write eye-catching articles. While my time in Frankfurt was exponentially shorter (only two days of work), by the end of it I was creating videos in German for their social media promotion, helping out customers in the language, and learning the ropes of sports retail.
Breaking News Reporting: Mayor of Florence on Road Collapse [Video: Diana Whistance-Smith]
None of it comes easy, but it’s worth it. After all, you have your career to thank for it.
[Feature image: Diana Whistance-Smith & Amerigo]