5 Ways Working Abroad Right After College Can Expedite Your Career Growth

5 Ways Working Abroad Right After College Can Expedite Your Career Growth

Every taxi ride for me always starts out in the exact same way, with the driver incredulously asking, “Really? You’re an American and out of all places, you came toUruguay to work? ¿Por qué?”

And then I usually get taken the long way...

Never mind being ripped off by taxis, this is the story of how I ended up as a 22 year old Chief Marketing Officer of a fast growing technology company in Latin America and why I urge millennials to seek their first employment abroad.

Some of my Abstracta co-workers and I at the annual Genexus Conference during my first week in Uruguay.

In the fall of 2014, I was starting my final year of studying marketing at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. As I contemplated where I saw myself when the school year was over, the idea of working 9 to 5 in a more-than-likely entry level sales position as all of my peers were preparing for, just didn’t make me want to pack up my things and go.

College was the best time of my life: I lived in a house with my five best friends, studied the things I loved, and had the liberty to follow my own schedule. If I wanted to drive to the beach or go to the pool on a Tuesday afternoon in January (Thanks SLO weather!), I very well could.

How could the joy and freedom of the past four years be topped? Was there nothing as thrilling to look forward to?

On the other hand, I also wondered how could I catapult my personal and professional growth during my first year out of college? Shouldn’t I put myself in a more challenging environment instead of staying within the comfort and familiarity of home in suburban California?

That’s when the idea to apply for one year marketing internships abroad via AIESECcrossed my mind. AIESEC is the world’s largest non-profit organization managed by youth leaders whose members coordinate professional and volunteer exchanges globally.

Where did I set my heart on going? Buenos Aires, Argentina, a place I fell in love with during a one month high school study abroad trip I took at age 16 (My parents should have never let me go, but thank goodness they did!).

Come December 2014, it was time to start filtering through the internship postings in the AIESEC portal, making a list of the ones to which I would apply and then applied to as many as I could. My AIESEC mentor was taken aback by how proactive I was in my search, but...

I NEEDED this, it was my only option.

Once this dream took ahold of me, there was no way I was going to take a job in the states.

The rest was history.

Short side story: Being raised on spiritual and metaphysical mumbo jumbo, by January, my dream board was made and propped up on my dresser, in the hopes that it would help me manifest the perfect life I wanted to have in the next year. One particular aspect of the board was a map of the southern cone of South America, with a magnifying glass completely covering all of Uruguay. Although I printed out the image because it had Argentina on it, I should have realized its main focus was Uruguay!

‍ See? Uruguay is basically the bullseye here.

And so, guess where my marketing internship ended up being located?

Across the river from my original target destination, in Montevideo, Uruguay.

With virtually no job postings in the AIESEC exchange portal for Buenos Aires, I figured Uruguay would be close enough! With the same flavor of Spanish, more mate, even more of a European heritage, less political corruption, more stability and tranquility; it seemed like the ideal place to live.

Moral of the side story:

Be careful what you put your focus on, you will manifest exactly that!

And, whether you believe in dream/vision boards or not, it can’t hurt trying one out! I have to believe that it had SOMETHING to do with me getting for that which I had already “thanked the universe in advance.”

Anyway, fast forward to now, I am thankful to say I am completing my year abroad which comprised a complete cultural immersion and professional growth. What started out as a marketing assistant position grew to be so much more. I have been busy working for an Uruguayan software testing company, learning on my own how to build a marketing machine from the ground up.

It hasn't been easy, and there's still a long way to go, but I've come incredibly far in growing our marketing in the past 12 months. The great part is that post-college is when the real learning begins and never ceases.  

Because of this year, I’ve come to the realization that working abroad is one of theBEST ways to jumpstart your career (and comes with several other non-work benefits, but I’ll leave that for another post). It’s not just for self-indulgence and staving off the doldrums of living in the “real world” but, there are REAL reasons for and advantages of going abroad straight out of college that even your parents could get on board with:

1. The same job you want in the US may be easier to obtain abroad.

Trust me, it’s true!

You don’t have to teach English and let your business or engineering degree go to waste in order to work abroad.

It might even be EASIER to get that coveted “marketing associate” position elsewhere. Each year, there are thousands of students just like you, graduating at the same exact time, applying for the same exact jobs on your campus. Why not look elsewhere?

As the United States is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, there is also a plethora of foreign companies that want to tap into its market. And you, a native U.S. citizen, with your own network, perfect English, in addition to knowing what you learned in college, are an invaluable asset for their growth! You’d be surprised as to the lengths that a foreign company would go to find and retain your talent! :)

So, find the ideal position for you and start your career faster by looking abroad for companies who are searching for an American to fill it.

2. Move up faster.

As for myself and several other of my fellow American friends on exchange in Uruguay, all working in sales and marketing for local tech companies, we were able to assume positions with a high amount of autonomy and responsibility quickly. As soon as we gained a solid understanding of our company’s offerings, industry etc, we were able to grow into our leadership roles, going from simple “interns” to substantial team members.

Many of us will be returning to the states to open offices there for our companies, which is a pretty incredible opportunity at such a young age. For example, my friend, Nick Scheifler, has opened Switch Software Solution’s first US office in Austin, Texas and I will soon be joining my CEO in our new San Francisco office, where we are much closer to our partners and clients like New Relic and Verifone.

3. Abroad, vacation days are given out like free samples at Costco.

Vacation days in Uruguay are called “licencia.” Yes, like it’s your license to have a good, long vacation (which is 20 days per year, minimum)! Companies here know that workers are more productive after having a chance to “unplug.”

I managed to "unplug" in Iguazu Falls, Argentina last December.

The whole “two weeks off per year, if you’re lucky” notion when it comes to allowed vacation time? Guess what, that only exists in America where the the Protestant work ethic reigns supreme!

You may argue that our work ethic and limited time off is why we as a nation are so successful, which may be very true, but why not delay succumbing to this for a while? It’s been great for me to be able to take off many days, while I am still young and have no real bills to pay (wait, just kidding, those days are paid time off so either way, it’s okay)!

The only thing better than waking up every day in a foreign country is having plenty of time to explore it. And, research shows taking time off increases productivity, which can lead to more successful outcomes and the avoidance of burnout.

4. Sharpen those foreign language skills and nail that accent.

Okay, so my Spanish and my Uruguayan accent are far from perfect, and switching to and from writing in English and speaking in Spanish while at work can be exhausting, but, if you minored in a foreign language like me, put it to use!

Don’t speak another language? Don’t sweat it. As an American, you can work almost anywhere because English is the language of business! Just make sure to take some classes once you get there. Over time, working and living in another country, you will increase your fluency and sound less and less like a “gringo” or whatever they call Americans where you are.

Speaking and being able to work in another language can make you significantly more employable in the future, broadening your possibilities for advancement. Now that my Spanish is strong, I can confidently approach and network with Hispanic professionals.

5. Make connections and access more opportunities across the GLOBE.

Work begets work. You may start in Uruguay and end in London, as my fellow exchange participant, Phil, managed to do for ebizmarts. His company is promoting and transferring him for six months to their London office.

I find that once you go abroad, all of the other possible ways to work and live abroad become more visible to you because they are not always spoken of back home. Here, I have met people who find a way to make a real living abroad, and there are several ways to do it.

Not only do you find other non-U.S. work opportunities abroad, you can make connections with local expatriates and fellow travelers from all over the world. In my year here, I have gotten to know other young people from Italy, France, Belgium, Mexico, Brazil, and so on. Now, there will be familiar faces everywhere I go and my world is much smaller.

All of these increased connections and opportunities amplify the possibilities for career growth.

The key takeaway

I can't imagine where I'd be if I hadn't taken advantage of this amazing opportunity to come to Uruguay. So, what I hope that other recent college graduates and students who are about to graduate take away from this post is:

Remember there is more than one way to climb the career ladder, and starting out abroad can be one of the most fulfilling, advantageous ways to expedite the process!

Whether you choose to go through AIESEC or some other way of seeking employment abroad, make sure to look into it! It will positively change the rest of your life.

When choosing a job, it’s also highly important to make sure to find yourself a boss you can believe in and let that matter most. Don’t worry about brand name recognition or having a high salary, those things can wait. Living abroad, you will realize that meaningful experiences are worth far more than possessions.

That entry level position at a Fortune 500 company will always be there for you when you get back if things don’t pan out (Well, AIESEC also has internships with enterprise companies. My friend, Jeremy, worked for Dell in Panama and my other friend, Jhon, works here for Movistar, an international telecommunications company.). Home will also be there to come back to including the people who love you.

So, now is the time to GO!

Get out of your normal surroundings and you will grow and develop exponentially more in one year than your peers. Become a global citizen and watch your inner and outer journeys unfold (trust me, they are real).

Design and chase the experiences in life you wish to have, they  are waiting for you.

Thanks for reading!

Have you had a similar experience? Let me know!

This article was originally posted on Kalei's personal LinkedIn profile. To see the original post, visit: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/5-ways-working-abroad-right-after-college-can-expedite-kalei-white?trk=pulse_spock-articles

Kalei White

Kalei is a recent Cal Poly SLO graduate who is getting lost in Uruguay. Live and work to travel is her motto!