Why Seek an International Work Experience

Every year, a fresh class of graduates enters the workforce. Early career decisions can profoundly impact long-term career outcomes. Ambitious graduates are often found weighing the pros and cons of various industries, roles, and companies. Some considerations include the type of work experience that can be gained, possible career trajectory, and income potential. All of the dimensions can be a lot to consider, especially when factored in with personal decisions, which may include familial and work-life components. Many new graduates would like to have an international experience during their careers. The 21st century has seen continued globalization. More than ever, countries, governments, and businesses are connected. There is clearly a need for talent, but what is in it for the individual global leaders?

Mike Hoer, spent over 30 years living in and working in Asia, Africa, and Europe. He has held consulting and management positions in global firms such as Schlumberger and Continental Grain. With this experience, he gives three compelling reasons why graduates should seek international career opportunities – globalization, cultural experiences, and financial gain.

Globalization

With the advantages of world markets and supply chains, many organizations may not be able to survive competitively if they do not go global. Hoer suggests that seeking an international work experience may become essential as “there are so many businesses that now are not able to exist in their home country or in one or two countries.” Furthermore, he advises, “you really have to think on a global scale to be more efficient and more effective in your business model.”

Beyond the need for organizations to expand internationally, individuals will also need to acquire global skill sets. With an increasingly merged world economy, even individuals working for entirely domestic companies will need to know how to respectfully interact with those of other cultures and traditions. Hoer adds, “it could be that even if you don’t want to have an international career, in order to progress in your career, and in your company, you are going to need to… be willing to go overseas at some point.”

Cultural Experience

Gaining a broader perspective by experiencing the way others live is one of the most rewarding aspects of a global work experience. Having experienced this himself, Hoer ensured that his children grew up knowing of the larger world awaiting their exploration. He reflects, “we had a big map on the wall so that our kids when they were growing up could see that the world was bigger than just their little place where they lived.” And this was given the fact he was already raising his children outside of the U.S. at the time. He says, “we lived in Hong Kong at that time… so it was easy to show them, ‘look this is just a little island at the bottom of China; the whole world is out there waiting for you.’”

What is so great about discovering the world, that Hoer would convey its significance to his children from a young age? Explaining, Hoer says, “the cultural experiences that you’ll have, the growing experiences, the opportunities to learn a language, to think and feel like other people do, that’s just an amazing experience that you can’t duplicate if you stay home your whole life.”

Financial Gain

Compensation is an important consideration when considering international work opportunities. Many business professionals are looking for ways to increase their own bottom lines while doing the same for their companies. Accepting an international work assignment is one way of doing so. Hoer suggests that having one offers “the ability to make more money [and] to be promoted more quickly.” Earning promotions is a well-known method to increase personal income. Speaking from experience, Hoer says, “typically when you are willing to go overseas, especially if other people in your company are not, then you’re going to be promoted more quickly.” Elaborating, he adds, “you’re going to have a chance to learn and do more things at a younger age, and the financial rewards come along with that as well.” Though money may not be the only motive, it is definitely one that increases the appeal of an international work assignment.

Conclusion

Globalization is changing the business landscape. Barriers to trade are decreasing, forcing companies to adapt their ways or risk being surpassed. New technologies like cloud computing have created entire new industries and fostered new opportunities. The cultural experiences to be gained from an international work assignment will make upcoming professionals more well-rounded and capable of positively contributing to world-wide prosperity.

Through global experiences, leaders can learn to understand and to be understood by people of different backgrounds and cultures. International work experiences will grant valuable perspective to individuals as they navigate an increasingly fast paced and complex world. At the heart of it all, a fast track to promotion and earning a higher income should appeal to the majority of young graduates entering the workforce. As Hoer says, each of these benefits can exist in an international assignment, and together they play to various motivations that people may have over the course of their careers. If any graduates or young professionals haven’t investigated the possibility of an international assignment, now is the time to do it.

To learn more from Mike Hoer on the different aspects of working internationally, view his Global Perspectives Summit 2020 presentation here.