Have you considered becoming an expatriate?
Can’t find a job at home? Maybe it is time to pack your bags…
Over the years, many students have come to me for advice on how to secure a job when they graduate. One of the things I tell them is to consider looking for opportunities abroad. Whether you are an Indian living in Mumbai, Chinese living in Shanghai, or a Spaniard living in Barcelona, there is often so much competition amongst graduates in your area to secure good jobs. You are all armed with similar credentials so it is very hard to stand out from the pack and get noticed.
It pains me to see educated, intelligent young men and women graduating with good degrees, failing to secure a job that is relevant to their chosen field of study. Worse still is when graduates cannot even secure a job months or years after they graduate.
Hopefully, the proliferation of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) will be disruptive enough to halt the astonishing rise in the cost of education, but for now, the situation is critical, especially for graduates on many European countries like Spain and Greece where youth unemployment remains close to 50%.
Saddled with student debt, they need to find work. Yet unemployment amongst graduating students globally is almost double the headline number.
You have worked hard for your degree, but the prospects of securing a good job have never been so dire.
Have you considered becoming an expat? –
I often tell students to seek out opportunities in countries where few of their compatriots would even consider living. If you are a Chinese national in China, despite having a good education, you compete against huge numbers of graduating students for every single opportunity. You have no real edge over your peers. But, for example, if you were willing to make the transition to let’s say the Middle East or Africa where there are few workers with native level Chinese lingual abilities, you would certainly have an edge since many companies there would be looking to develop their business with China.
Students of the World, you already have an edge over many of your peers in the United States and England - you speak two, if not more languages! They have companies that want to do business with your country, so they need people like you.
Now I am not saying you should become a translator although there is nothing wrong with that. No - arm yourself with your degree and lingual skills and market yourself in Business Development/Marketing/Corporate Communications, whatever. You are a specialist in doing business with your country, and these companies desperately want to do business with your country.
Taking the plunge
The decision to leave home and seek out opportunities in foreign lands is an absolutely life changing decision that should not be taken lightly. I hope that by reading this, I will be able to help you shed light on some of the considerations that need to be taken into account. An expat life is not for everyone, and the first and main concern would be leaving your friends and family for prolonged periods of time. Do talk to them before you make any decision. You might only plan to have a couple of years overseas experience before returning home, but in my experience, many an adventurous youth has left home and ended up living for decades abroad, most only returning during their sparse vacation time.
Life and work in a foreign country can often be extremely stimulating, exciting, and at the same time frustrating. You will need to put aside any notions of what is normal and socially acceptable and embrace cultural differences.
I know a European man who was posted to a regional office in Mumbai, and for the entire duration of his 3-year tenor, he refused to move from his Western hotel room to a local apartment. He did not embrace the culture, or socialize with the locals, and it was plainly obvious that an expat life in India was not for him. His understanding and assertion of what was socially acceptable and right or wrong also raised the tension level amongst his Indian colleagues. On the other hand, I know many foreigners who made the move to India never to return.
You might consider a move from the West to the Far East like I did 25 years go. You will encounter a culture shock no doubt, but if you keep an open mind, the experience can be thoroughly rewarding.
Overseas work experience will also broaden your perspective on our global community and you will learn to see things differently. The location you end up in will no doubt have an expat community, but I would strongly advise you to reach out beyond your comfort zone, learn the local language, and mix in with the local community. In the workplace, try to blend in and work with, and not against, your native colleagues, and always understand that cultural and behavioral differences exist. Observe carefully the way other nationalities think and work, and learn from them as they will likely learn from you.
It is extremely important to convey a positive attitude and not plainly dismiss their actions as wrong. Any air of superiority will be met with appropriate disdain.
The big decision –
There are a few things to consider when making a decision to work in a foreign country.
Firstly, are you ready to leave family and friends and familiar surroundings? Keep in mind it is rarely the case that you may never see them again, and in this increasing connected world, it is easy to stay in touch.
Secondly, it would be unwise to move to a foreign country and work for a company where you cannot communicate in either the local language or your own native language. So if you lack the lingual skills, but have your heart set on a certain country, take a basic language course beforehand. Once you have made the move, you can continue to learn through socializing, or further courses on the ground. At your age, picking up a second language is much easier than you think, and usually you will be able to get by within a year.
Thirdly, this is not usually an irreversible decision. If you find that working abroad is not for you, then relocating back home is an easy move. Having overseas working experience once you get back may also give you an extra edge in securing a job back home.
Finally, it is not always the case that working abroad lead to a more lucrative career than your university colleagues that found jobs at home.You will need to manage your salary expectations. Many countries may have lower average wages and a lower, or higher cost of living. As a graduating student, it is unlikely that you will receive a full expat package (which may include relocation costs, annual travel expenses for trips home, housing and benefits). Do your homework on your prospective country and be prepared to live differently.
Many a student has made the move to Hong Kong for example, only to find the housing rental market is so high that they can only afford to live in a tiny shoebox where they can cook and watch TV without getting off their bed. But if you are prepared to live differently, embrace the culture, and are excited at the prospect of living and working in a foreign land, then you will likely not regret your decision.
I left my hometown of London, England, many years ago. My two brothers stayed. I cannot for certain say that either they or I have had better more rewarding lives, but I can firmly say that I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work and live in a number of different countries.
Dean Ashley Owen – Co-Founder, Quimojo Global Campus Recruitment, and 25-year expatriate."
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