International work experience can significantly increase your employability whether you later return home or remain abroad. It widens your horizons culturally and helps to mark you out as adaptable and go-getting to employers.
While you might be fortunate enough for an overseas posting to land in your lap, it is far more likely, and almost certain if it’s an internship, that you will need to proactively seek out such opportunities. Engineers and technologists are more fortunate than most that openings still exist across the world. But to secure one of these it is important to be thorough and structured in your approach.
If you are already employed
For those individuals already in a job, an opportunity abroad could be closer to home than you think and may lie with your current employer. Find out what overseas postings exist within the organisation and make sure your manager is aware of your aspiration to add international experience to your CV.
Competition for such positions is likely to be fierce so you need to sell yourself and the benefits it will bring to the organisation. If your current employer only operates in the UK, you might have to consider a lateral move to a global organisation.
Explore the websites of multinational companies that you can target. Even if you don’t meet with success first time, inform the recruitment department that you would like to go into the talent pool for future opportunities. Also check out specialist engineering job boards as many of these post international jobs. Make appointments with recruitment firms and headhunters that specialise in overseas postings and pick their brains. These consultants should be well placed to provide invaluable insight on the skills that are most in demand as well as give you the lowdown on general global trends.
Ask how they would view you for an overseas posting and what else you could do to increase your chances of securing such a position.
If you are looking for an internship
If you are still studying, university careers departments will, of course, be able to provide information on what is available but to get the best and biggest overview of opportunities, look online.
Most accommodate searches by sector and location as well as offer additional advice. Location-specific ones such as My China Opportunity are also available.
Some sites feature an online application process or allow a click through to the website of the organisation offering the internship. These sites are extremely useful for initial research into what is available so be sure to check out several of them before making any decision on location or type of internship for the best chance of an accurate global picture.
Company career sites will also feature internship opportunities so include those in your preliminary search as well.
Boost your chances
Whether it’s a job posting or an internship, the guiding principles are the same when it comes to ensuring you are in the frame for such a move.
Discover as much as you can about the country and the organisation’s operation in that location. Also determine where it sits and how it fits into the overall global footprint of the organisation. Learn what issues and challenges exist for the organisation in that location and what are its overall objectives and goals.
On a personal level, essential characteristics that you need to exhibit for an overseas posting includes adaptability, flexibility, initiative, energy, tolerance and drive.
Additionally, being able to demonstrate cultural awareness and a willingness to fully commit to the local way of life are other pre-requisites. If the posting is a longer term one, make it known that you are prepared to learn the language.
Make certain the move is a good fit
While any international experience is likely to enhance your CV, it goes without saying that the posting has to be a good fit for you personally.
Over eagerness to work abroad can mean there is a tendency to overlook the impact that such a culture change will have on your immediate family, lifestyle and other personal matters. While some of these factors may prove less of an issue the younger you are, but equally you do need to think through anything that could potentially detract from what could turn out to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
So think through carefully about the where, what and why of the move. Also bear in mind that although you are shipping to another country to gain international work experience that the best overseas postings or internships will furnish you with broad life experience and personal development too.