Believe it or not, a competitive edge for your candidacy in the job market is international work experience (and volunteering abroad too!). The global exposure, problem-solving, and intercultural communication skills that millennials develop overseas are talent-based commodities. These talents are in high demand from employers and will continue to take precedence in the years to come, which is an interesting byproduct of globalization.
If you’re wondering about whether or not take an internship, job, or volunteer stint abroad, then these 5 reasons will help you understand how traveling with a career goal in mind and/or personal purpose makes you a better job candidate and young professional.
On merit alone, and I’m slightly bias, the experiences that millennials gain abroad do not remain isolated in the sphere of their professional development, but spillover into their personal life as well. In other words, having an interest in traveling overseas makes you an interesting person, not only because you have exciting stories to share from your own adventures, but because you demonstrate a genuine interested in something greater than yourself – you care about discovering new places, meeting new people, and understanding ways of life that exist beyond the boundaries of your familiarity, and not everyone has such an interest.
Here are 5 reasons why traveling makes you an attractive job candidate:
1. Builds Character
To be fair, there are a whole host of experiences that can help you build character, but none quite like traveling abroad, especially traveling to a foreign country for the first time. You build character through broadening your perspective in unforgettable ways. Most importantly, you figure out how to navigate living a new country with limited knowledge of the language (even though, being proficient in a foreign language is helpful while traveling, its not a surefire guarantee the experience will be a breeze), develop familiarity and a sense of comfort with cultural customs, and of course, you learn how to use the currency. At least one of these challenges posits a guaranteed learning outcome for any trip abroad.
2. Curiosity and Creativity
Being curious requires a certain degree of imagination and creativity. So, how do you quantify an abstract concept with solid evidence, say during a job interview? Well, traveling abroad provides you with concrete examples and stories to draw from that really forced you to be creative or use your imagination, which is difficult to quantify with traditional job experience alone.
For example, the work I’m doing now with a for-profit company, designing a brand for daily hygiene products (i.e. philosophy, identity, vision, and mission) and conjuring up a compelling brand story from scratch and connecting it (at the same time) with a social agenda of improving hygiene and sanitation for rural women in India requires being creative in one’s thinking, presentation, and implementation of ideas. In fact, you really need to be willing to put yourself in the shoes of others in order to understand the needs and fill gaps.
3. Organized and Goal-Oriented
As someone who suffers from a type-A personality (for better or worse), I cannot stress this point enough, and I want to emphasize the value of honing organizational skills and setting goals for yourself. I’ve traveled to five countries, and believe me, planning and being organized makes or breaks your trip. Just think about it, before your trip (at minimum) you have to figure out and complete the following: (1) dates of travel, (2) applying for a visa (and the right one!), (3) booking flights, (4) housing and accommodation, and (5) securing an internship, volunteership, or job for a certain period of time. The logistics speak for themselves, I rest my case.
Tip for job seekers:
A good self-reflective exercise to practice and an important way learn to how to make a case for your experiences is linking them back to employable skills, don’t shy away from being creative about connecting the dots. For example, if you don’t have experience in event planning, and a job you’re looking into requires this kind of experience to a certain extend, then find a way to package and refer to a trip(s) abroad that you planned, and summarize details, but don’t leave out any of your organizational thinking, goal-setting, or planning-ahead skills.
Employers are using this trendy concept known as “risk-taking,” and referring to it more often, making it a characteristic that is highly sought after in most sectors. Mind you, this quality is not meant to imply recklessness, but rather calculation – a risk-benefit analysis of sorts hardwired into one’s thinking. A risk-taker is always on the hunt for new experiences and exciting challenges, and more often than not, are the kind of people who take projects, ideas, and goals to the next level.
If you can cultivate patience and self-awareness in the face of frustration and confusion, then you have mastered the ability to adapt. It’s a special skill because its the hardest (in my opinion) to learn. Being adaptable presents a huge learning curve, but also the most exciting opportunity for personal growth and self-discovery. Can you imagine having unique and/or constantly changing situations, and yet still finding your footing? That’s what happens when you’re adaptable, even the most frustrating and challenging situations become manageable and (eventually) easy to handle with a dash of grace and composure.
For these reasons, international experience can make you a better young professional and job candidate.
I believe an important aspect of traveling abroad requires having a compelling story to backup the personal motivations, interest, and dreams to fulfill the goal of living and working overseas. Check out this TED Talk about owning your story:
Torin Perez believes we each have a unique story to tell. He believes that when we own our stories and go after our dreams, the future will not only be brighter for ourselves; but for the people we love, and others we impact throughout the world. In this powerful talk, Torin draws listeners into his own story — one filled with timeless lessons in self-discovery, building courage and facing fears on the path to our purpose.