You might have heard that internships can be key to making it in the business world and it's true. By undertaking an internship, you can get hands-on experience in the field, see what aspects of a business you prefer and perhaps even which ones you don’t! You can achieve this all before you commit to a full-time career.
So, why choose to do your internship abroad? Well, not only can you gain all the benefits from a traditional internship, but you also get the added experience of living and working in a foreign culture. Here’s my top 7 skills I learnt by going halfway around the world and interning abroad.
Aretha Franklin said it best, but respect has many different meanings and understandings around the world. Learning how to be respectful to your co-workers is a vital skill for any young professional. As a new entrant into the workforce, it’s important to be able to pick up on office etiquette and social cues that differ from the university or high school life you’re accustomed to. You want to show your employer that you provide value, and can slot into the team without any disruptions. During an international internship, you'll develop a strong sense for cultural norms as you learn on your feet what is and isn’t acceptable in a new country. Sometimes, it can be quite different from what you’re used to! Maybe they introduce themselves differently, or have a siesta instead of lunch breaks - no matter the difference, you’ll get quite good at quickly reading these norms and adapting, which is a professional skill you can take home with you!
Adaptability is a fundamental skill to master, no matter what area or industry you end up working in. Seating and desk arrangements change, air conditioners break and the IT Team is always changing something. Employers appreciate professionals who are able to quickly adjust to workplace changes and the new challenges that can entail. By taking on an internship abroad, you’re showing that you aren’t afraid of big change and that you’re someone who knows how to adapt to a new environment. Once you've overcome that first culture shock and your internship abroad has become a part of your routine, you'll have learnt to be prepared for whatever kind of changes come your way in the future!
3. Communication is King
Communication is the cornerstone to every relationship, including professional ones! Learning how to communicate effectively in a foreign country can be a challenging, but very rewarding, achievement. Even in your own language, it can be difficult to express exactly how you want something to go. In a foreign language, it can be even worse! If you master the hurdle of expressing yourself overseas, you’ll find that you have no problems back home when it comes to giving constructive criticism on a task, or asking for that pay rise. Negotiating daily life in a foreign language will give you many insights on how to approach problems. Being abroad also gives you the chance to improve your listening skills which is just as, if not more, important than talking when it comes to effectively communicating. An added bonus of being a great communicator in an international office is it enables you to broaden your work opportunities globally and enhance your career prospects massively.
Living abroad puts you in a position where you have to make quick decisions on problems you never encountered before. Whether you didn’t exactly understand what your Spanish supervisor said or the instructions given to you by a Irish colleague with a strong accent, or you're facing problems navigating your way around Melbourne city to get to a meeting on time, you'll have plenty of problem-solving to do and challenges to face. People who can solve problems in a swift and efficient manner will always have an advantage over others, no matter what career you choose. The experience of an internship abroad will give you the chance to enhance your problem-solving abilities tenfold.
As soon you land a full-time job, it's your responsibility to organise & complete your tasks on time. During your internship, you will learn this even better overseas than at home. Abroad, you'll need to train yourself to organise arrangements in a foreign environment and often completely on your own. If you can meet deadlines abroad, it will be easy to manage them in your home country because you'll approach problems in a new and more experienced way. Just imagine how proud you’ll be of yourself when you manage your daily routine completely on your own and without your family or friends around to help out.
6. Showing Initiative
In the professional world, employers expect you to contribute your own ideas and suggestions, and will rely on you to complete the tasks they give you without detailed instructions. An internship is your opportunity to demonstrate that you cannot only follow directions confidently, but you can also contribute ideas that benefit the company. Doing this in foreign lands gives you insight into how problems are solved differently in other countries, and can help expand the way you view challenges and make you stand out in the crowded job market back home.
7. Cross-Cultural Abilities
Communicating with people outside your native culture, especially in an unknown language, can be challenging. However, cross-cultural bridges are crossed every day, and often by those with experience living in a foreign culture. You can be one of those people too! While you’re on your internship, you'll have the opportunity to overcome oodles of these barriers and gain experience connecting easily with people from all walks of life. Knowing what topics and conversations are appropriate in an international community is a unique and important skill that will boost your ability to build strong professional connections globally. It will be a total breeze for you to be polite and communicate well while you’re sitting around the boardroom table with your Indian, Australia, American, Portuguese & German coworkers to-be.
Sound appealing? Whether you need some help upskilling, or you just want some out-of-the-ordinary work experience abroad, clicking on that green button is the first step to getting started on your very own international internship!