By Mollie Moric, BCom, ’17
In January, I had the pleasure of giving a presentation to Gustavson BCom students at the Work Place Skills Conference. I spoke about my experience of being a young, female professional working in Asia, and why I started my career abroad.
When Gustavson invited me to give this presentation, I hesitated. I felt like it might be irrelevant or even insensitive given the current global situation. I didn’t think anyone would be thinking about a global career when they haven’t been able to leave their house in what feels like a decade. But I was wrong. Of the 60+ attendees, 96 percent said that they would like to work abroad at some point in their career.
Although the pandemic has forced a lot of countries to close their borders, it’s also highlighted how much we can learn from other countries, cultures and communities around the world. For example, Taiwan, where I am currently living, went over 200 days with no local transmissions of COVID-19 during the height of the pandemic. The whole world turned to this small island nation, hoping to learn how they kept the virus out.
That’s the best part about living abroad. You never stop learning, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and discovering new things that you like (and dislike) every day.
At Gustavson, we’re taught to think outside of the box. This pandemic has been a lesson for the world on thinking outside of the box. We’ve seen huge companies adopt remote and flexible working solutions that no one thought would have been possible a year ago. E-commerce, especially cross-border, has become a crucial channel for businesses who want to keep their doors open. There’s no doubt that the world and businesses have changed.
Although students can’t pack their bags and start their international careers today, the world will be ready soon. And new grads are going to have more opportunities than ever to have mobile careers and international opportunities.
In my presentation to students, I stressed the importance of staying open to opportunities. Of course, it’s important to have a plan, goals and direction. But we need to be prepared for change and not close any doors — especially right now.
The opportunity to work abroad likely won’t come knocking on your door in the first five years of your career (even though it’s often the easiest time for you to pack up and leave everything behind). You’ll have to work for it. So, if it’s something you want, you need to start pursuing it right now.
One way students can do this is by reaching out to professionals on LinkedIn and asking if they’ll join them for an informational interview. This is a great way to talk to people who are where you want to be. Students can also find out more information about what it’s like on the ground in the country they want to move to.
I also suggest that students do their research before they move abroad. To set themselves up for success, they should look at:
- Vacation allowance
- Cost of living
- VISA requirements
- Air quality
- Gender equality
They should also be aware of the cultural adaptation curve that is taught in international business classes. It provides an overview of the highs and lows that many people working internationally experience at different stages in their journey.
While researching for this presentation, I also learned some shocking statistics about the demographics of international business opportunities:
- Only 20% of international assignments are awarded to women
- 71% of millennial women want an international assignment
- 37% of survey respondents agree that a lack of international assignments for women contributes to unbalanced senior management teams
The undiscussed gender disparity in international assignments and global business communities is yet another glass ceiling.
I hope that my presentation inspired other Gustavson students to pursue international opportunities after graduation. Together, we can encourage companies to offer equal international assignments to men and women, as well as normalizing the highs and lows of the incredible journey of living and working abroad.