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Working Away

Reasons to Work Abroad After Graduation

What do you do when you’ve graduated from college, have no notion of what to do next, and feel wholly unprepared for life after your diploma?

Many of my friends spent time in Australia traveling, surfing, and partying with an international assortment of like-minded youth. While this sounded fun, I had something a bit more interesting in mind—to get a job in Australia and carve out a temporary life in a faraway land.

I found that as a working “local” people saw me differently from a tourist or backpacker. Also, working made extended travel financially possible. While I didn’t cover all of my travel and living expenses in Australia, I made enough to pay for my accommodations and most of my food. Most importantly, I came away with a huge sense of personal accomplishment.

Short-term and seasonal jobs, not surprisingly, are easier to locate than professional career positions. Even though I had a university degree and several impressive internships behind me, I spent a good part of my time in Australia cleaning rooms and making beds at a holiday resort. This not-so-glamorous job would not be my first choice at home but it suited my needs in Australia.

Keep in mind that the main reasons to work abroad are to meet new people, see a new country, understand another culture, learn more about yourself, and come home with a sense of achievement. Waiting tables, bartending, and hotel work may not be ideal jobs but they are easy to find, and employers don’t mind that you will only be there for a few months.

Be persistent and don’t get discouraged by negative responses; remember, you only need to hear “yes” once. Talk to locals, check out notice boards in hostels and grocery stores, and don’t be afraid to ask anyone if they know of jobs. Always have copies of your resume with you.

Even if you take an unskilled job abroad, it gives your resume an impressive boost by showing your adaptability in handling new and challenging obligations. Employers at home have already been impressed by my international resume, even though my toilet-scrubbing skills have little to do with their needs.

Work Abroad Programs

Restrictive work permits and immigration policies may discourage you from looking for a job in your dream country. One way around the barriers is to locate an employer who routinely hires international seasonal workers. (Editor's note: See our lists of short-term employers.) Your employer—instead of you—often deals with the government paperwork.

Work abroad programs are usually the only way to get a work permit without first having a job offer. This flexible option allows you to find a job in a location that suits you once you have arrived in country. Programs charge a fee for work permit and document assistance, a student card, insurance, orientation upon arrival, emergency assistance, airport pickup, practical advice, and helping you find a job. Some programs will even take care of your travel details.

BUNAC offers work abroad programs in Australia (18-30), Canada (18-30), France (18-35), Ireland (18+), New Zealand (18-35). Work and volunteer abroad organization provides a work permit and job-hunting assistance. U.S. college students and recent graduates (within 1 semester) eligible for internships in Britain. Also has programs for those who live in the UK or live in neither the UK nor the USA.

InterExchange Working Abroad (tel. 1-212-924-0446) is another nonprofit organization that offers a variety of work abroad programs, some with job hunting assistance or guaranteed job placements in-country. Work and travel in Australia or New Zealand, work as an Au pair in Europe, Australia or New Zealand, Volunteer in Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Ghana, India, Namibia, Peru or South Africa, and English teaching in China, Germany, Italy, Ghana, Spain, and Thailand. Students and nonstudents alike can find opportunities here.

If you are a student or recent graduate who has studied a foreign language, the International Cooperative Education program provides paid summer internships in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Finland, Japan, and Singapore.