Career service professionals already understand that students with internship experience under their belts are more likely to be hired after graduation than students who don’t (D’Abate, 2010; Knouse & Fontenot, 2008). In fact, considering today’s competitive labor market, professional internships are the standard first step (or several steps) before a young person lands a first job. Bright, talented students are struggling to stand out and find their competitive edge. Meanwhile, the world is becoming increasingly globalized. Supply chains move from country to country and businesses are becoming leaner and more international. Political propaganda won’t stop the fact that our economy is global and the exchange of goods, ideas and personnel across international borders isn’t stopping anytime soon.
Considering this economic reality, it’s in the best interest of employers to seek out students that have an interest in and understanding of the world beyond their borders—students with professional experience abroad. Young people who dare to intern or work abroad early in their careers bring a global mindset to their industries and future employers. They understand how their field operates in another country and have a nuanced view of how international clients might perceive doing business in their home country. Students with professional experience abroad broaden their employer’s company-wide knowledge and network of contexts to a new country and region. These professionals are starting their careers with a global perspective, which will drive them to pursue international points of view for the rest of their lives.
Students with experience interning abroad have also gained a number of soft skills that employers don’t always see in young job candidates. Students with international experiences behind them are naturally more adventurous and have pushed themselves out of their comfort zones. Forced to adjust to a different work rhythm and culture, interns abroad learn how to adapt quickly to new environments and be flexible. They are forced to observe closely and adjust their tactics and expectations in order to have a successful experience overall. These are all highly desirable qualities in an employee that matter as much as their qualifications. A professional who adapts quickly and rises to the occasion can always learn the technical skills they lack—the important thing is they know how to learn and adjust to their environment.
Often students with professional experiences abroad also bring a second (or third) language to the table. After immersing themselves in another culture, they’ve boosted their language skills in many contexts. Having spoken another language in an office setting is particularly valuable for employers, as students have perfected a more pragmatic, professional vocabulary. As companies look to expand into developing markets, like Asia and Latin America, coming to a job interview with fluent or advanced Mandarin or Spanish can really set a candidate ahead of the rest.
A job candidate who has experience living and working abroad has also proven their independence and maturity. It isn’t easy to leave the comforts of home and your home country at a young age—or any age. It takes character and a willingness to march into the unknown—the qualities required for the next generation of leaders.
An intern abroad is bold and doesn’t back down from a challenge.