Working abroad, whether in Europe or further away, is an excellent way to kick start your career. Why? Because when you work in a foreign country you learn a lot about yourself and others. You are forced to be more open and more analytical and you gain knowledge about diverse cultures and distinct ways of doing things. Both of the former make you more creative and flexible. And research proves this: William W. Maddux and his colleagues (2010) discovered that multicultural experiences boost creativity (Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin).
So how can you go about building your career internationally? Below you will find my three pieces of advice.
Keep your eyes open
Often my students target countries that they know a lot about. However, that might not be the best way to maximize the positive effects of working abroad. I encourage anyone looking to build their career to open their eyes and look beyond the usual options. You might not expect it but a professional experience in a less known country might bring unexpected benefits. First, competition will be lighter than that in big cities like London or New York. Two, it is less likely that you will come across your compatriots and that being around locals is the best way to learn and grow from your experience. Three, knowledge of a less travelled country or region can give you the competitive advantage you need to find a job when you get back home.
Be open-minded and tolerant
Human beings are united by common values and needs but different cultures do things differently. Instead of seeing those who are different as strange, weird or even less advanced, take the time to appreciate new ways of doing things. You might be surprised by the unexpected benefits of taking your time do get things done, or building relationships before working together. The lessons you learn from living and working abroad will follow you throughout your professional career and personal life.
Develop your soft skills, they make all the difference
In an extremely competitive job market, what distinguishes candidates from each other? Most recruiters say that soft skills make all the difference. Hard skills are important but they are not enough to gain and retain an exciting job. Moreover, soft skills are those which will allow you to grow and evolve in your job. International careers require you to adapt and learn quickly. They also help develop a sense of self and mission that can help you choose the right career.