Statistics show that more and more people are studying abroad. And organizations like to hire people with international experience. But what can people gain from the experience?
The following are a few reasons why you may want to spend part of your professional life in a different country.
Broaden your background. Living in another country will force you to increase your cultural awareness and understanding of others. At the same time, you can learn skills that you haven’t had the opportunity to develop at home. And during your free time, you can travel widely and explore your new environment. Depending on where you choose to go, you could immerse yourself in a single country or explore many neighboring countries.
Improve your communication skills. Immersing yourself in a foreign country, especially one where people speak a different language, means you will have to enhance your communication skills. This may mean learning a new language before you go or learning the subtle pronunciation and grammatical differences in the same language used in different regions. Body language, gestures, and idioms may be significantly different from what you are used to and will require more attention to decipher. And if you don’t learn the language before you go, you may have to quickly improve your pantomiming skills!
Expand your professional network. Moving to a new country means that you will meet a new group of people, each with a unique set of knowledge, resources, and connections. If you take the time to build relationships with them and keep those professional relationships alive throughout your career, you will greatly expand the types of information available to you.
Grow personally and professionally. Moving abroad is taking a big chance, and completing it successfully shows that you can adjust to new experiences and fit into new cultures (like at a new company). Successfully uprooting yourself will increase your confidence for the next time you take on a big challenge and show future employers that you are not afraid to take risks.
Making such a significant change will certainly break you out of any career rut you may be in. You will learn what you need and what you can do without.
While working abroad can be done at any stage of your career, it’s generally easier earlier in your career when you don’t have as many personal complications. And in any case, you’re not getting any younger, so now just may be the time to do some looking, then take a leap.
Get involved in the discussion. The ACS Career Tips column is published the first week of every month in C&EN. Post your comments, follow the discussion, and suggest topics for future columns in the Career Development section of the ACS Network (www.acs.org/network-careers).