6 Key Skills to Gain While Working Abroad

Working abroad is about more than just bragging rights and listing an exotic country on your resume. It’s about building important skills that will help you get hired and give you an advantage in your future career. Taking time off to work or volunteer in another country before you start job hunting will turn you into a true global citizen that employers value.

These are six marketable skills that I’ve gained while working abroad:

  1. Flexibility
  2. It’s best to expect the unexpected when you’re living in a new country. You’ll be faced with new cultural norms and customs that you need to respect and adapt to as a visitor. Being exposed to a completely new lifestyle can prepare you to think on your feet and quickly react to changes.

  3. Sense of Humor
  4. I’ll never forget when I accidentally asked a stranger in the plaza, “May I please feel me here?” instead of “May I please sit here?” When things get stressful and frustrating, just like they can in your home country, you’ll learn to take things less seriously, less personally and more lightheartedly. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to laugh at yourself as you learn the ropes of a new culture and potentially try your hand at a new language.

  5. Independence
  6. Living abroad requires that you be observant and figure things out on your own. This may mean asking questions or it may mean that you need to problem solve how to flush the toilet when there’s no flushing mechanism, how to avoid getting ripped off by taxi drivers and various other challenges. Learning to take charge and solve problems on your own can give you a one-up in the North American workplace.

  7. Teamwork
  8. As you learn to live independently, you will also learn that no man is an island. You’re going to need help in a completely new environment, so you better be humble enough to ask for help and receive it. The ability to work well with others and appreciate others will start you off on the right foot when you begin your career.

  9. Interpersonal Skills
  10. You can’t avoid making tons of new friends while working abroad, but when you’re out of your element, you’ll find that you’re more conscious of how you interact with others. Reflecting on your communication style gives you a chance to reassess and choose the best way to communicate with others. You’ll especially learn to listen more, one of the best interpersonal skills for the workplace and in life.

  11. Cultural Competence
  12. While interacting with others in your new country, you’ll naturally build cultural competence as you learn how to best interact with people of different cultures or worldviews. The world is becoming more interconnected each day, so employers cherish global citizens who exhibit cultural sensitivity. Respecting others’ beliefs, values and differences in opinion is a key skill, applicable whether or not you’re working in a unicultural or multicultural setting.

Which skill would you consider the most valuable and why? For those who have already been there, I’d love to hear about your experience working internationally. Are there any skills I’ve missed?

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