Good question! My short answer is to first assess the student’s tolerance for risk.
A significant proportion of US-based jobs already require international experience, and the trend is only getting bigger. With each year, Internet technologies move us further and further towards a new global economy, and students in all fields are going to have better job prospects if they have international skills when they graduate. Almost every profession will soon require workers to have global career skills.
As a technical writer (and this applies to most fields), you can certainly make better headway in your international job search by teaching English abroad and networking with professionals in your field. Because teaching in Europe without an EU passport can sometimes be difficult, why not try South America or Asia instead? There are more jobs available in these locations, and it can be much easier to get a visa because of that.
ANSWER: The way you target your international job search will be determined by your education and areas of expertise. You're correct to assume that finding meaningful international work is not as simple as sending your CV around the globe. You’ll need to prove to international employers that you can function in an international environment, one that may be very different from your home. If you have no previous international experience, I would recommend taking a sabbatical for four or more months.
There are fewer and fewer free volunteer NGO experiences to be had. Students almost always have to pay an NGO or a private company to find a volunteer placement position abroad. Some NGOs (especially faith-based NGOs) require that you fundraise to meet your travel and accommodation expenses. Students can save money if they arrange their own placement directly with a third-world NGO, but this is only recommended for those who are very independent and have a high degree of risk tolerance.
You should definitely question this offer. There are similar situations in which unsuspecting new employees are asked to process financial transactions to ensure their position. This, of course, turns out to be fraud. Your offer contains none of the normal parameters expected from an international employer. Even though it looks attractive, you should proceed with much caution and undertake a thorough background check, including references from other recruits. My first reaction would be to ignore this “to good to be true” offer.
The perspective of North American employers has been changing rapidly over the past decade, in response to changes in the new global economy. With the realization that the world is only growing more interconnected, global career skills have now become truly important in almost all fields of work. If you are abreast of Internet technology, attuned to North American cultural norms, and adaptable, you should have no problem. These days, international experience is anything but a hindrance when looking for work.
There are always risks associated with being abroad. In my personal opinion, the rewards are generally much greater. When I meet college students, I can quickly tell that some of them are not risk tolerant and they should therefore travel or study only in more Westernized nations, in order to ease in to the process of cultural adaptation. For other students, I know at first glance that they could thrive no matter whether they were in Kenya, India or Hong Kong.
Sounds like you’re looking to start an international career. That’s great! Trust me, it is an incredibly satisfying way to live and work. International careers are built step-by-step, as you build up your international credentials.
International employers hire people with high International IQs. You need to assure your future international employers that you understand the cross-cultural workplace and that you have the skills to navigate and be successful when working in places that are different from your home.
There are many characteristics that define a successful international employee, but there is one main trait that stands out as being essential: adaptability.
Ask yourself: “Do I enjoy change?” Your answer to this question will give you an idea of whether you are cut out for work and life abroad.
Thanks for your question, Paloma. I need to start off with a warning: Don’t limit yourself to one country! It's almost impossible to do a country-specific job search unless you are looking for low-skilled work in the service or retail industries. If you're looking for professional work, you'll need to do a sector-specific job search with North American organizations (private firms, NGOs, or government). When looking for an international job, the most important approach is to stay open and flexible.
I have bar membership in two states and will soon be starting my career as a lawyer. My partner is from Munich and I’d like to move there with him for a period of time. I don’t want to start all over and qualify as a lawyer in Germany, but I’m determined to do something I am passionate about. I don’t like corporate law, so working with a big American firm’s Munich office doesn’t excite me. How would you suggest I explore work possibilities? What can I do besides teach English? I feel that I have more to offer than that at this point in my life.
The value of your relocation package is heavily tied to your industry, with NGOs and small firms providing less compensation than multinationals, national governments and international organizations. The best advice I can give you is to speak to others who are currently working in your field in your host country (ideally those working with your prospective employer). Ask your employer for references from their employees posted abroad. Research the norms in your industry by contacting your trade association. Speak to other expats and research relocation services.