The only way to get experience when you need it is to leverage someone else’s.

January 4, 2014

In a recent post, Sir Richard Branson talks about the benefit of experience, and playfully quotes comic Steven Wright, who said “Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.” This is very true, unless you get into the habit of leveraging the experience of others whom have been where you’re going.

A great example of such an opportunity for today’s high-school aged student comes from a recent Ipsos-Reid survey of adult Canadian parents, where it was reported that they place a very high priority on exposing their kids to a variety of experiences outside of school. More specifically, 59% of those surveyed, indicated an interest in exposing their children to different character-building experiences. Also, 41% of adult Canadians expressed a desire to help their children develop career-related skills and aptitudes. Finally, only 2% reported no interest at all in these areas.

These statistics are very reflective of a generation that has accumulated a wealth of experience in the area of education and career development and possess a heightened understanding of its connection to long-term success and fulfillment.

So, where have adult Canadians been and why do they hold such strong opinions about their children acquiring character-building experience? Well, as a parent and member of the demographic in question, I can offer some of my own thoughts. As I think back to when I was a high-school aged student, I recall not feeling, in any way, ready to make important education and career decisions. It was not until I travelled abroad to study and work that I gained the maturity to handle more responsible decision-making. Moreover, I gained international experience that served me well in all areas of life. Many people of my generation wish they had pursued volunteer opportunities, or other character-building activities, rather than focusing solely on their formal education.

There are a number of opportunities available today that were much more obscure to previous generations. One that has been spoken of at great length on the International Career Studies website, is the international internship. There is, perhaps, no better way to build character, acquire additional skills and aptitudes, than through an internship abroad. Moreover, completing an internship in one’s chosen field can be an ideal way for a high-school aged student to be sure of his or her career choice before entering college or university. In fact, post-secondary schools are now looking beyond grades in deciding whom to accept into their programs. They’re looking for people who are mature beyond their years, possess transferrable skills and aptitudes, and are interested in making a contribution to their communities. This can also be said for employers, when recruiting new, bright minds to join their organizations. These are all traits that can be acquired through an international internship.

There are many ways to build character or develop additional skills and aptitudes. An international internship is one of the best ways to do this, as it also helps to drive your education decisions and bolster your career. For this reason, many parents today are encouraging their children to complete one. They understand how valuable an internship abroad is in building a successful and fulfilling future because they’ve been where today’s students are going. They have the experience students do not yet have, but need, and the best way to get the experience you don’t have is to leverage someone else’s.

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