Thursday, May 11, 2006

Why have International work experience?

Lately, I have heard several people whom I know fairly well came asking for career advise. Almost all of them had questions such as: Is it useful to have international experience, Is it beneficial for my career? How is it different to work in Singapore/Australia/New Zeland/USA/Europe?

These questions took me by surprise. Mainly because, Indians in general are eager to work abroad. When I was in college, there were no doubts in many of our minds - we wanted to go abroad. This time around, I see a little difference in young people’s minds. The rapid growth in Indian economy has created job opportunities which was unimaginable a decade ago. The economic growth has also enabled people to grow rapidly in their career. This is in sharp contrast to Europe, Japan & the US - whose economies have stagnated - leading to job cuts and virtually no career growth. As a result people are showing reluctance to go abroad.

My advice to all of them has been: YES!! Go abroad and get that valuable experience.

This advise often leads to the next question: "Why is international work experience valuable?" Fortunately, I don’t have to give a long answer for that, I just have to point them towards my earlier article on Value of International work experience.

Companies find employees with international work experience as a valuable asset. This is mainly because, The main value of International work experience is that working abroad gives a person an opportunity to learn new things. And it is this learning which makes the person valuable. Companies realize the value of international experience and therefore are eager to hire people with international experience.

Unique Skills acquired by working abroad

There are several unique skills one can acquire only by working abroad for an long period of time. These skills are:

  • Ability to work in an ambiguous environment
  • Better communication skills ( Better listening, talking & writing skills in multiple languages)
  • Risk taking Ability
  • Better decision making ability
  • Become a good/better team player
  • Overcome cultural bias - Ability to appreciate different ways to solve the same problem.

Many of the above skills cannot be listed in one’s resume. But these skills are highly valued. Often times, people who worked in foreign countries also learn the history of that place - this leads to improved decision making, as knowing the history of a place also teaches the cultural biases of the people in that land and their reaction to a particular stimulus. For example, a manager in a Bangalore based serving US customers can take better decision if he/she had worked in US before.

Closing Thoughts

My advice to all (irrespective of their nationality) is - When you have a chance to work abroad, grab it with both hands. Create such opportunities to work abroad - and then grab it. Work abroad for atleast for 3-5 years and then consider returning home. Remember that the value of your experience abroad is most useful for firms which are based in your home country.


Manish Agarwal said...

Hey Arun,

I was going through you blog. Unfortunately the post on value of international experience has got deleted or the link has changed. Can you post it again or send me the correct link. My email id is

ravs said...

hi Manish this might help

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