INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCE – How to gain it early in your career

International experience is an important success factor for your career, because our world has become global. It is advisable to gain this international exposure early on in your career. This video outlines how to prepare for this and how to find the right job abroad.

Getting exposed to different cultures, countries, markets and ways of life is of crucial importance for a successful career in our today’s world. In our highly globalized economies, the ability to understand customer needs across the globe is indispensable.

International exposure is a competitive advantage

International experience essential for the interactions within or organizations or with our business partners, which are increasingly globalized and international. It will help you to navigate efficiently between different languages and cultures, because you will have experienced how people operate in other environments. This can be a significant competitive advantage for you in the future, when you will be targeting your dream jobs against other candidates (see also: 4 principles of career management).

Some may argue that anybody has been abroad spending holidays in another country. That is true. Hardly anyone today has not been able to gain such an experience. And this is why it is not a differentiating factor. Remember: you want to have an edge when you will compete for jobs all along your career.

develop you inter-cultural sensitivity

In addition to that, please consider that the experience you gain from working on a daily basis with teams in another country provides you with a very different understanding of ways of working in other cultures. It is very often the hard way that you have the most intensive learning experience. I have no doubt that you will be successful if you are open to this adventure.

That confrontation to challenging situations, where you might feel at times that there is a real communication gap between you and the others is the clear signal that you are experiencing inter-cultural differences. Learning to handle these situations is exactly what will be so beneficial for you.

How to acquire international work experience?

I guess you are no longer to be convinced. You probably had no doubt about the utility of such international exposure in the first place. The key question of course is HOW to acquire it?

Gain international exposure early in your career

My first recommendation would be to aim at gaining that experience as early on in your career as possible. I say this because of my experience from interactions with many career starters who find it more and more challenging to make that step the more they advance in their career.

Personal and family constraints

Private reasons play an important role: It is more challenging to move if you have to align job opportunities for two partners instead of just for yourself. Also, you may have to take care of parents and older family members at a later stage which may limit your mobility.

Social security

Furthermore you may have to look after There are also practical reasons related to social security, especially if you are coming from a country where these are state systems. The more seniority you have gained for example in the retirement systems the more challenging it is to resign from these local contracts. Starting abroad first and moving then back into a local contract of your home country is significantly easier.

International graduate programs

Last but not least, employers will find it easier to offer you jobs abroad if you are still at the beginning of your career. As a matter of fact, many companies have international graduate programs that allow you to make such moves as part of your on-boarding in the organization.

Government programs

Finally, some government programs exist as well to support such moves. In Europe for example you can get support from the VIE program, which is accessible to any European graduates below age 28. These programs are not so well known but can be very beneficial (

How to prepare the international job search

What is important in my eyes is to have a clear vision of what you are looking for:

  • Are you prepared to take a local contract?
  • Are you moving alone or with a partner?
  • If you are going together, what is your strategy (e.g. if one finds first, we move there and the other will search locally)?
  • What geographies would you prefer?
  • Are their countries or parts of the world you exclude?
  • How long are you planning to stay?
  • Are you willing to make the effort to learn a new language?

What are your constraints in your home country (e.g. family members you have to take care of) and what are the requirements for that on your side in terms of job flexibility and in terms of financial implications?

There are of course may more of such practical considerations and they depend on each individual situation. Think about it and try to be as specific as you can about your own needs and expectations. This will help you a lot in your communication with potential employers and in targeting the right type of job.

Option 1: search for the job before you move

There are many roots to search for such international job opportunities. My recommendation is to target multinational companies that have international graduate programs. Apply online or use job fairs where you can meet recruiters from these organizations. It is also very advisable to use on the alumni network from your school or university. Former students who are abroad or who have been abroad may still be able to leverage on their connections in order to guide you or even support you in finding job opportunities.


Option 2: looking for a job directly abroad in the host country

Finally, there is the option of travelling aboard and looking directly for a job once you are in the other country. If you are quite flexible, it can be a great experience to conduct the job search directly in the host country. This option is of course a bit more risky and you will have to assess it that is feasible for you.

If you move with your partner, the option could be to have one in the couple who has already a contract, while the other partner conducts the search locally in the host country. You may discover that the community of expatriates from your home country will be very welcoming and willing to help.

More information in my book:

Sven Sommerlatte : Successful Career Strategy – An HR Practitioner’s Guide to Reach Your Dream Job (Springer, June 2023).  ISBN: 978-3-662-66790-3

Click here to find my book

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