5 Reasons Why Moving Abroad Will Boost Your Career

In contrast to many bloggers that make a living out of their travels, I travel internationally because I have job, live frugally and save money for my adventures. I might have been able to live this lifestyle from my home island, but I chose against it. After all, despite not being a full-time traveler, I do consider myself a traveler of sorts. An expatriate traveler, maybe.

Rainbow after the Rain, LondonThe view from my previous office.

I enjoy taking time to explore a place and experience the local culture, but also like having a routine and pursuing my career, which is one of the many reasons for which I chose to become an expat. Many believe that moving abroad is risky and reckless:

You should be grateful: There are thousands of candidates that would kill for your job

Don’t be foolish: It’s already hard enough to get a job at home – you are doomed to fail if you try abroad

It will kill your career: You will go backwards in your career as you will have to accept a lower position and lower pay

Sure, moving abroad is challenging. There were times that I’ve felt frustrated, misunderstood and lonely. There were times I’ve even hated my adopting countries, and could only think of packing my bags and go home. After over 5 years of living abroad, though, I’m still an expat – and can’t imagine wanting life any other way.

I’m a firm believer of working and living abroad as a way to not only growing personally, but also professionally. I will write about the personal level some other day, but for now, here are the 5 reasons why moving abroad will help you professionally:

It proves flexibility.

Having the courage to up your sticks and move to not only a different company but a different country all in proves the ability to adapt to diverse work places. Having worked in 3 countries (Spain, Switzerland and the UK) I can assure you that each of them has different conditions and a contrasting approach to work.

I admit that, when I moved to London, one of the hardest things to get used to was commuting. I felt as if 1.5hrs to 2hrs of each work day were completely wasted. You see, a 45 minute commute to work in Switzerland was a sin – hardly anyone lived further than a 15 min drive away from the office. In London though, a 45 minute commute is completely normal (and almost a privilege!). I had to learn how to make commuting work best for me. The same goes for lunch breaks!

It increases your cultural awareness.

At first, I found the UK an odd place to work. People didn’t arrive on time – they arrived before time. The offices were mostly quiet spaces, interrupted by the fast tipping of its employees. In the kitchen, there was always someone looking outside the window and grumbling something about the weather.

It’s a cultural thing. The english value their time. If their work hours are from 8am to 6pm, they will do everything to avoid spending any minute after 6pm in the office. I can now perfectly understand this culture and am not shocked anymore – if I still have a long commute home after work, I will also want to get out of there, pronto.

You will learn how to communicate better.

I’m sure you’ve seen this: a communication misunderstanding that took a complete different route than it should have taken. E-Mails, specially, can be dreadful – is he/she ok with it or just being sarcastic? what exactly does he/she refer to with this request?

Add a group of co-workers that have english as their second (or third!) language and you’ll quickly learn how important it is to express yourself politely but clearly. You’ll become more patient and understanding, and will develop an important 6th sense: you’ll learn to perfectly grasp puzzled sentences from non-native english speakers.

You will build an international network.

Having friends spread around the World is damn cool, but having an international network of professional contacts is equally important. Previous professors, managers, co-workers, suppliers and clients; as well as people they have met in conferences, dinners and drinks – all of these are potential employers, business partners, mentors and friends.

A globalized agenda of contacts will open more doors than you could ever imagine.

You might even learn a new language.

There are plenty of non-english countries in which english is widely spoken for business, such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Geneva. This would allow you to pursue and practice your french or chinese, without the initial language barrier affecting your career. Then there is Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Germany, where the normal level of spoken english on is almost fluent, too. Even in countries that are known for a lesser level of english (ehem, Spain for example), you can find companies that work in english – it only takes some research!

Have you ever worked abroad? What skills do you think you’ve improved from this experience?

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23 thoughts on “5 Reasons Why Moving Abroad Will Boost Your Career

  1. Hey Kate,
    I think you’re right working abroad is always a good experience to take and a plus for your career. You become a kind of ”communication cameleon”, able to perform no matter where you are and with who you are.
    And that’s the most valuable asset you can get if your goal is to work in a global company

  2. Something I’ve always wanted to do! But I find that getting a job overseas without enough work experience very tough, so I’m still trying to get more experience back home in Canada and hopefully land something somewhere!

  3. Having moved from America to Australia 5 years ago and having been in multiple workplaces there, I can completely relate to this post. While they don’t speak another language there, all of the other points are still valid (plus, there is a knack to understanding what Aussies are trying to say with all their slang and abbreviations!). Great post!

  4. Totally know what you mean about wanting not to travel full-time, but rather pursue a career abroad — expatriate travelers unite! πŸ™‚

  5. A lot of truth in this! After living in Taiwan as an expat for nearly two years, I definitely feel like I have boosted my resume with the points you listed πŸ™‚ We’re still working on transitioning to being location independent though, and hoping to combine making money off travel with the same slow travel and immersion that working abroad provides. We’ll see which one is better for us!

  6. I haven’t worked abroad, but I feel the urge to move to another country to start anew too. I worked with companies based abroad through my blog and other freelance gigs. Must reconsider this option πŸ˜€

  7. I’ve worked in Korea before but it was a teaching job, which was more of a joke than a job, but still you definitely get a feel for how work is done in that country. It can be really frustrating at times and other times it can be an amazing experience . Although, I do think it will be more frustrating to work as a teacher in Canada than in Korea due to lack of funding and technology in the classroom.

  8. Hello Katherina. I am a graduate from a B.S. International Affairs and Political Science. I speak Spanish and English natively and I love our worlds cultures and peoples. I am currently living in NYC but feel stuck with my career as I am not working in it. I want to work abroad but don’t know how I can do it. I need some sort of help, guidance, or orientation.

  9. I haven’t worked worked abroad but I freelance for companies around the world. I have definitely learned the differences in how one company in one country will communicate compared to the other.

  10. I had the hardest time for awhile thinking I was missing out on opportunities back home while living in Spain, but finally realized I’m seriously boosting my CV just by creating all of these experiences here that I could never have back home. Some great reminders here!

    1. I think it’s sometimes hard to see the benefits of living abroad – after all, you’ll often be taking a job that may be below your previous position and pay isn’t always as great as it could be back home. But there’s no money or job at home that would teach us these skills we’re learning abroad.

    1. Haha I can relate to that, Paul! I had to learn (the hard way) that time is different in England and Spain. I used to always show up 30 minutes late in London and soon realized that I actually was the only one (and people didn’t appreciate it at all!). It’s flexibility and cultural awareness.

  11. I agree with all your points. Living abroad shows those qualities and ultimately makes you a more well-rounded, interesting person. I lived abroad for just 1.5 years and it definitely changed me for the better.

  12. Amen to all of that!

    I have very limited work experience in France because I left at 18 years old but working in Canada did make me fluent in English, improved my cultural awareness and immigrating in general made me more flexible and adaptable. It’s a win-win situation!

    I love the view from your office by the way.

    1. I think you’ve topped the experience, Zhu! Dealing with immigration is something I haven’t done yet (I bet it also teaches you lots of patience, huh?).

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