5 reasons why an international internship is a great career move

March 5, 2015

Interning abroad has come a long way from being a great experience, but nothing more. Today, it’s a smart and strategic way to get a competitive edge in your chosen career field. Yet, an internship abroad still seems to mostly attract the really creative, forward thinkers. Those who dare to go out on a limb in search of opportunities. Like every newly emerging trend, the opportunity exists mostly for those who get in early. Completing an internship abroad is no exception. Here are 5 reasons to do an international internship now:

1) Networking. Robert Kiyosaki said, ‘The richest people in the world look for and build networks. everyone else looks for work.’ No matter what career field you pursue, building a network will be key to your long-term success, and since the marketplace today is a global one, you need an international network. Through an international internship, you will meet people from all over the world, in your career field. With today’s technology, you can stay in close contact with them after you return home, and sooner or later, it will pay off;

2) Employers are looking for people with international experience. Employers like to have employees who have worked abroad because they can bring fresh, new ideas; an alternative way of doing things, new methodologies. They also like the fact that they are not afraid to travel abroad, if necessary, and this makes them more versatile. Today, many employers are competing globally, so they are thinking globally, hiring globally;

3) It looks great on a university or college application. Now, think for a moment. Schools are businesses. Their long-term success and sustainability lies in the success of their graduates. When you apply to university, they are not only looking at your grades. They want to be certain that you are sure this is right for you. An international internship in your chosen field tells a school that you are invested; you have tested the waters and are still here, wanting to pursue this career field. It tells them that you are unlikely to drop out of the program. It says you’re all in;

4) Most people aren’t. This means that you will have a competitive edge over others in your industry. Whether you are starting your first career, or between jobs, an internship abroad will ensure you stand out;

5) Get used to travelling and working abroad. Did you know that culture shock is one of the biggest contributors to a lack of productivity for those working abroad? If you are going to have any success in your career field, you will be traveling for work. So, get used to it now. Employers will like that you are open to it and that you can handle the culture shock.

Oh, and of course, there’s the whole ‘great experience’ reason, and there’s nothing wrong with that one.

Leave a comment

Immerse Yourself in the Land of Smiles

February 17, 2015

One of the best ways to experience the world outside your window is through nothing less than full immersion. I have had the opportunity to live abroad in a country that I had previously visited on vacation, and I can tell you that the cultural enrichment you gain from living abroad cannot be experienced through a vacation. First, local people always act very differently around tourists than they do around one another. They are generally more polite, patient, and pleasant. I liken it to how differently people behave when a guest is in their home. Second, you are generally frequenting tourist areas, and if you live in or near a tourist destination, you’ll know that locals generally stay away from tourist areas. So, as a tourist, you’re not gaining a true and full understanding of what the country or its people are like. You’re seeing a highlight reel. In order to become truly culturally enriched in a foreign country, you need to go with the flow, move at the local pace. In other words, you need to integrate, and the best way to do this is to work and live there, even if only for a relatively short period of time.

Working abroad is a great way to immerse in a foreign culture. Today, through the wonders of globalization, there is no shortage of opportunities to work abroad. International internships allow you to work abroad for a pre-determined period of time, and benefit from all the supports provided by an internship provider like ICS. For example, if you are interested in being a teacher of English as a Second Language, there are countless opportunities worldwide. Thailand provides many of these opportunities. In his June, 2013 blog, Matthew Barby, a Digital Media Consultant in the U.K., explains that ‘Thailand attracts more international travellers than any other country in the world because of its growing export and tourism sectors. This has made it necessary for Thais to learn English in order to manage their day-to-day lives. As a large number of Thais work in the tourism and other related industries and many students study abroad, mainly in the US and UK, there is a demand for qualified people to teach English in Thailand.’ Barby goes on to explain that ‘Native English speakers usually get preference over Asians’, and ‘A majority of the foreigners teaching in Thailand are males. Therefore, there is always a great deal of demand for female teachers, especially for teaching younger kids.’

Depending on one’s qualifications, an ESL teacher can be paid between $300 and $1,000 USD per month plus accommodations, meals and some cultural excursions. To put this into perspective, the average monthly disposable salary for a Thai is approximately $500 USD, and a meal for 2 in an average restaurant is about $15.00, so even $300.00 USD a month, when your meals and accommodations are covered, goes a long way in Thailand.

If you have never been to Southeast Asia, the land of smiles is a great place to start. Thai people are among the friendliest and most hospitable people I have met, and their food, culture and architecture will leave you spellbound, even long after you too have become a local.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

Preparing for an International Internship – Don’t just fill your luggage, fill your mind

July 11, 2013

SuitcaseIn packing for your international internship, you’ll certainly fill your luggage with a lot of clothes, technology, and other personal items you’ll need during your stay. What you might not think to do is fill your mind with a commodity much more valuable than anything you can possibly squeeze into your luggage – knowledge. See, while most or all of the stuff in your luggage will be of some practical or material use to you, chances are none of it will help you to adjust to your temporary new home as much as an advance and thorough understanding of the culture you will be immersed in. In fact, the more diverse the culture is to your own, the more likely there will be numerous cultural gaps that you will need to fill with knowledge and understanding. Some of the things that can be vastly different from what you are used to might include the pace of the environment, the way people meet and greet, how people interact socially, or their attitudes towards certain things. Having some basic knowledge of the language and culture will prevent some avoidable and unpleasant incidents and enhance your overall experience. As an example, before leaving for Thailand, I learned through my own research that Thai people love children so much that they won’t hesitate to display their affection even for ones they don’t know, by picking them up in their arms and talking to them. Given the culture I reside in, had I not known this, I may have mistaken this affection for a threat of some kind and reacted inappropriately, possibly offending the very well intentioned locals. Instead, I reacted appropriately, and showed appreciation for all the attention my children were given throughout our stay.

In acquiring knowledge about the country you are visiting, it is easy to become misinformed with all the information available on the internet. So, you should be certain to only reference credible, well-informed sources of information. One such source is the Cultural Navigator, an online application that compares your cultural orientation to that of others, or as is the case, of the country you are visiting, and identifies potential gaps. It then assigns to you a series of exercises and activities to complete that are designed to prepare you for successful immersion within the targeted culture. Other ways to learn about the country in which you will be completing your international internship is to visit your local library, and websites like Wikipedia to acquire basic information about the history, geography, and culture of every country. Other sites, like the CIA World Factbook, provide lots of valuable data about a country’s people, economy, communications, and transportation. Finally, consider the communities around you. If you live in or near a large city, odds are that you are not far from a community representing the country you will be visiting. Ethnic communities usually have cultural centres you can visit and events you can attend to meet its people and learn about its culture.

In addition to learning about the culture of the country where you’ll be completing your internship, it is very important to learn at least some basic phrases in the native language. In having the benefit of being able to communicate in the most spoken language in the world, one could probably get by anywhere with English alone, but being able to exchange basic communication in the native language of your internship destination will allow you to immerse more quickly in the local culture. This can only contribute positively to your experience. Also, knowing some of the local language extends a level of courtesy and respect to the native people, that you can be almost certain will earn you the same in return. Now, learning a language can be thought of as a fairly onerous task – becoming fluent takes months if not years of study, and some say it requires immersion in a culture that speaks the language as well. So, of course, you shouldn’t expect to become fluent in the language in the short time you have before your departure, but you should expect to learn a little bit of it so that you can do things like introduce yourself to others, make simple requests, and ask people for assistance. There are a few ways to do this. One is to research podcasts such as those offered by the Radio Lingua network to get short, easily digestible lessons for a variety of languages. Another way is to get a phrasebook, which is a little pocket-sized dictionary that you can carry around with you. While this tool will be very useful to you during your internship experience, you can begin to learn and practice short phrases even before you depart.

So, once you have made the decision to participate in an internship abroad, spend less time filling your luggage and most of your time filling your mind. The knowledge you take with you is so much more valuable, and remember that unlike the contents of your luggage, the information stored in your mind doesn’t get heavier the more you have of it, so keep packing it in.

Leave a comment