December, 2015

Find out about the benefits of jetting off to learn new skills and show potential employers that you're no run-of-the-mill candidate

The advantages of gaining work experience have been highlighted by employers and careers services alike for many years now, and those same values continue to work wonders for young people hoping to boost their employability and secure that coveted first job in their chosen industry.

However, there is a whole new breed of graduates who are able to further distinguish themselves from the crowd by gaining work experience abroad.

Benefits of work experience abroad

Some people might wonder if there's any point heading to a new country to gain experience. 'All the skills I can gain from work experience in a foreign country I can gain here,' they might say. 'And what about the costs and logistics involved with moving abroad for months at a time?'

However, there is a whole host of benefits that these doubters seem to have failed to consider:

  • Culture and community - working abroad shows your desire to get stuck in and work alongside local people, rather than stand back and take in the culture from afar while you drift through the country as a tourist.
  • Sink or swim - demonstrate to potential employers that you can cope in a multicultural, multilingual working environment and produce great work in the process. Even if you go to work in an English-speaking country, employers will see that you can rise to the challenge and succeed despite being out of your comfort zone, away from your friends and family.
  • Language skills - these are hugely valuable to employers and spending time abroad and working alongside non-English speakers will help them improve. Remember, though, that languages are most valuable alongside another specialism, so don't pin all your hopes of employment on your new-found linguistic finesse.
  • Get up and go - moving abroad and finding work experience shows motivation, independence, maturity and adaptability - all extra ticks on your job application forms.
  • Travel - this is usually a secondary motive for many people, but it is quite a nice bonus.

Your opportunities

Internships - whether paid or unpaid - are a fantastic way to secure overseas work experience, and can be arranged with the help of a range of third-party organisations.

However, internships can often be arranged directly through specific companies, no matter how large they are. For example the multinational company L'Oréal offers international internships to graduates in a range of different company departments. Internships last from three months to one year, to find out more see L'Oréal Global Opportunity Programme.

Working as a language assistant with The British Council or teaching English using a qualification is also extremely popular, especially as the jobs often bring with them a regular wage.

There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer abroad too, regardless of where you want to go. Check out what's on offer through organisations such as The European Voluntary Service (EVS).

Gap years also offer a chance to get some invaluable work experience overseas. Why not combine work and travel and take advantage of one of the many gap year opportunities available to young Britons?

In a competitive job market, you may well find that expanding your horizons and gaining work experience abroad will help you reap the rewards in your future career.

Where to look

Search for work experience opportunities abroad at:

  • AIESEC UK - internships and work placements for students and recent graduates.
  • IAESTE UK - internships and work placements for science, engineering and applied arts students.
  • i-to-i - browse the organisation's range of travel volunteering opportunities.
  • - find out about teaching English as a foreign language.
  • Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) - opportunities for volunteering overseas, particularly in poverty-stricken countries.