Become a global human resource with an international internship

August 19, 2013

GroupIn 1990, I graduated from school and began my career. I entered the job market with what I knew to be a competitive advantage over most others in my field – international experience. From 1988 to 1990 I studied and worked abroad in my field. When I returned to Canada and began searching for my first job, I made sure that my international experience was highlighted on my resumé. Moreover, I made sure it came up in every job interview, where I looked forward to the part where interviewers asked me why I thought I was the ideal candidate for the position, so I could discuss all the unique experience I acquired working abroad. Things were different then – very different. In 1990, most or all of the candidates competing for jobs were local and had only local experience; the greatest distance from which an employer would receive an application was from another province, and even that was unusual.

Today, all that has changed. Through the wonders of digital technology, a university graduate 10,000 kilometres away is viewing a job posting for a position in your local area at the same time you are – and if you think they aren’t submitting their application, think again. A recent poll conducted by global research company Ipsos shows that two in ten employees in 24 countries reported being very likely to take a full-time job in another country if there was a 10% pay increase involved. Those most likely to relocate internationally were from Mexico, Brazil, Russia, Turkey, and India.

What has also changed is that employers are now more open to hiring international candidates, and there are a number of reasons for this. First, international applicants often possess technical and/or performance skills that cannot be found locally. For example, a local engineering firm may consider hiring an applicant from Japan or Germany, where they have an international reputation for developing highly skilled engineers and can bring alternative engineering practices to bear. Second, the logistics of employing someone from another country are much simpler now, and in some cases, it’s more cost-effective for a company to open a small branch in another country and then hire a local team, such as is the case in fields like engineering, accounting, architecture. So, just as technology has made it easier for job seekers to apply for jobs abroad, it has also made it easier for employers to hire them.

While there are benefits to companies pursuing ‘global human resources’, there are also considerable challenges that come with hiring candidates from other countries. The most common is the difficulty that international workers have in adapting to a new culture. In a previous post, we talked about culture shock and how it can be devastating to those who are unable to cope with it. Consequently, there can be significant performance issues with employees who are unable to effectively deal with culture shock. For this reason alone, employers may prefer to hire a local candidate with the same technical skills as the international applicant, who may have difficulties adapting to life in Canada. However, this can only work in your favour if you too possess similar international experience.

Whatever your field of study, consider an internship in a country that is known to offer unique, alternative practices and methodologies. If you’re considering a career in medicine, for example, Cuba has one of the best reputations in the world for healthcare with more than 70,000 doctors practicing within the country and another 25,000 working in approximately 60 countries throughout the world. Completing a healthcare internship in Cuba would most certainly give you a competitive advantage when applying to a medical program in Canada, or for jobs in healthcare, including nursing or physiotherapy.

Today, the importance of possessing experience abroad is greater than ever, and while the international experience I entered the job market with in 1990 was an asset, today that same experience has become a requirement for those aspiring to the best positions with the best companies.

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