Four ways studying abroad will make you more employable

A student builds a bridge in Bolivia on his study abroad experience.

For the workers of tomorrow, job security may be simply a thing of the past. This emerging sentiment suggests employees must “be ready to make career shifts and changes as easily as breathing.”

A major factor in the shift between the stable workplaces of the past and the uncertainty of today is the increasing rate at which globalization changes industries, breaking down borders that previously kept positions static. While this change may be intimidating for many, those who have had educational experiences abroad can see it as a unique opportunity.

Here are four of the reasons that going overseas for your education can improve your career prospects:

1. Experiencing intercultural communication in-person

Experiencing intercultural communication through in-person interactions, rather than learning it through a textbook, can set you apart. Interacting with individuals from vastly different cultural and ethnic backgrounds can teach you to build stronger relationships and avoid miscommunication, which is a skill you can apply when interacting with clients or colleagues from around the world.

Experts studying the future of work have highlighted the need for graduates with the ability to handle tasks like networking, managing public relations, and demonstrating intercultural sensitivity, all of which are aided by experience with cross-cultural communication.

2. Improving your flexibility

In 2016, a study conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 87% of workers believe that in order to keep up with increasing changes in the workplace they must be able to develop new skills throughout their work lives.

The ability to respond to change proactively is necessary for the workplace and can be learned by moving to another country. For example, when you go abroad you can learn important skills, such as how to navigate a new city or open a foreign bank account, helping cultivate your adaptability.

3. Honing your creative instincts

Employers often look for employees with open minds and new ideas. One major trait that employers are drawn to is creativity, as this has been linked to both entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship. In this area, students who study or work abroad also have a head start, as travel has been associated with “cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought.” Studies have shown that there are concrete links between time spent abroad and individual creativity.

By travelling and engaging with alternate perspectives and worldviews, you can broaden your horizons and challenge the ways in which you approach problems and situations

4. Helping you stand out to employers

In the European Union, the Erasmus Impact Study found that five years post-graduation the rate of unemployment for students who had studied abroad was 23% lower than for those who had remained in their home country. In addition to this, 77% reported that their positions contained leadership components 10 years after graduation.

A 2015 study that surveyed employers in the agriculture and natural resources industries found that employers, if choosing between two comparable candidates, would give more attention to a candidate with study abroad experience than one without. These are just two examples, but the evidence supporting the value of internationalization does continue to grow.

International experiences are, of course, not the only factor that can make you employable, and studying abroad is by no means the only way to gain these skills. Nevertheless, an experience abroad – an exchange term, a study abroad course, a research project, a co-operative education work-term, or any of a variety of other activities – can be a great opportunity to see the world while also helping you prepare for your future. 

For those students with the opportunity to immerse themselves in other cultures, learning how to talk about your international experiences and intercultural skills effectively in both resumes and interviews can help you succeed in a globalized and ever-changing work environment. Learn more about how to study abroad and internationalize your degree at Waterloo.

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