Now more than ever, is it important to stand out during your job search, as employers are looking for more than just a strong academic background. The value of intercultural competency has greatly increased over the past few years, and international experience is one way to gain a leg up on the competition. An internship abroad not only sets you apart in the job market, but also helps you develop your professional skills, expand your networks through new connections, and sharpen your foreign language abilities. We think you should make interning abroad a priority, and here’s why!
1. GAIN SKILLS EMPLOYERS ARE LOOKING FOR
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), some of the top skills employers seek include:
- The ability to work in a team structure
- The ability to make decisions and solve problems
- The ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside an organization
- The ability to obtain and process information
Interning abroad aids tremendously in the cultivation of these skills. Not only will you hone your ability to work in a team, but you will encounter cultural barriers and obstacles that force you to problem solve, communicate effectively with others and utilize new information. All of this will be achieved in a foreign context that will further sharpen these in-demand skills.
2. MAKE YOUR RESUME STAND OUT
Adding an international internship to your resume will set you apart from other job seekers. Only a small fraction of Americans intern or study abroad. According to the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors Report, during the 2012/2013 school year, 15,089 students participated in non-credit work, internship, or volunteer program abroad. This does not include students who gain academic credit for their internship programs, which has been around 14,000 in the past. The number of both non-credit and credit bearing internship participants are on the rise as the significance of international experience becomes more and more recognized. Having an international internship under your belt provides numerous resume-building skills and can give you a plethora of experiences to rely on during interviews.
3. LEARN A LANGUAGE
Fluency in a second language is not only beneficial for finding a job, but may come with a sizable pay increase; some employers have increased salaries 10-15% for employees with this skillset. Having proficiency in a second language allows you to naturally communicate with other native speakers, but it also serves as a method to gain deeper insight into a culture. By understanding a language, you can develop deeper connections with locals, expand your cultural knowledge and even build your global network. In the age of globalization, a second language is a coveted skill to have.
3. EXPAND YOUR GLOBAL NETWORK
Networking is key for job seekers and through an internship abroad you’ll be able to build a global network. These contacts could help you find job leads, introduce you to others in your desired field or possibly help you secure employment. At the very least, you will have the opportunity to get a letter of recommendation from your supervisor that will speak to your ability to work in an international context. It’s not always about what you know, it’s who you know!
5. DISCOVER YOURSELF
Diving into a new culture, a new country and–although temporary– a new life, will test you in ways you’ve never been tested before. Handling ambiguity and stress both in the workplace and just in your daily life while abroad will help you discover a lot about yourself. How do you respond to uncertainty? How do you deal with conflict? What are your passions and motivations? These are the questions you can truly answer once you’ve moved completely outside of your comfort zone. Fully understanding yourself, how you think, how you react, is an invaluable tool not only in your daily life but in your future job search. Take that plunge into the unknown and you’ll come out on the other side knowing much more about yourself than you do now.