Can working abroad make you more employable?

Woman walking at an airport with a bag in hand

Working abroad is about more than travelling. No matter what country you work in or which role you take on, an international co-op experience will lead to learning new skills. Working abroad will help you build relationships, be more innovative and develop yourself.

Ten skills students can gain from working abroad: 


Illustration of a gear surrounded by changing shapes held by a human handEach time you adapt to a new or changing situation, you increase your ability to handle stress and embrace change.

For example, if people tend to bike to work in the country you’ll be working in, you might adapt your own commuting plans.


Illustartion of three people 9around a light bulb -symbolsing idea generation in collaboartive settingsWorking with colleagues who may have different perspectives can build strong working relationships.

For example, working with people of diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, religions, lifestyles and viewpoints.



Illustration of various communication mediumsEffective communication skills are essential to sharing different types of information. Working in another country improves your listening, speaking and observational abilities.

For example, during your work term you may learn new meeting etiquette or adapt your digital communication style to be effective.


Illusttration of a paper, light-bulb, pencil and gear symbolsing creativityAsking thoughtful questions, being curious and using out-of-the-box thinking help hone your creativity.

For example, when working to find a solution to a problem during your international work term, you’ll need to ask lots of questions, take the time to learn about the context and be creative in your approach.


    Critical thinking

    Illustration of a human head with a gear and nodes in place of brainsFinding innovative ways to solve problems requires understanding the big picture to making evidence-based recommendations.

    For example, you’ll need to think critically about how to take an approach to projects that aligns best with local methods.

    Cultural awareness

    Illustration of a globe with 3 people infront of itAs all workplaces become increasingly diverse, understanding, appreciating and navigating cultural nuances is important. During your international work term, you may learn about cultural workplace norms.

    For example, being aware that in some cultures asking your supervisor for clarifications could be perceived as challenging authority.


      Global mindset

      Illustration of a globe and a magnifying glassAs a student from a Canadian university working internationally, you can gain a more global perspective.  

      For example, consider the ways in which your international work term can help to advance the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and have a global impact.


      Illustration of a person with their hands up and stars in the backgroundThrough your travels, you can discover new interests and attributes about yourself.

      For example, visiting local cultural events, festivals and conferences by yourself or with colleagues can expand your horizons.



        Illustration of a person smiling and the word "go" inscribed in a star next to themClarifying your goals, persevering and achieving new challenges requires self-motivation and can increase your self-confidence.

        For example, finding your own place to live despite language barriers or navigating an unfamiliar transportation system are small goals that have inherent rewards and can build self-motivation.

        Gaining perspective

        Illustration of a man standing on a multi-level platform with binoculars looking in the distanceBy learning about the experiences of others and understanding diverse points of view, you can gain perspective.

        For example, working in a country that prioritize group harmony and collective success over individual performance can help you gain new perspective in how to approach group projects.


        Want to learn more about skills for the future? The University of Waterloo’s Future Ready Talent Framework (FRTF) is a research-backed tool to help students understand key competencies to navigate the future of work and learning.