International experience | An opportunity that will boost your career prospects

Jalal Afhim is a career coach. He has worked in higher ed, corporate Learning & Development, teaching and the humanitarian sector. He has written an excellent piece on what do you if you want international experience so read on to find our more. You can follow him on Instagram at @kahina_resists for more advice.

So, first of all let’s address the scope of the title of this blog post: international work experience can be a lot of different things, and so how to get this experience can also vary a lot. A methodical approach can pay dividends, helping us to avoid information overload, Google-Fatigue, and general careers overwhelm. Let’s get started.


A good starting point is thinking about the kind of experience you want, and why. Do you already have a particular industry or type of job in mind for later, and you’ve identified that international work experience is a good way to pick up evidence that you meet the job criteria? Or are you still in the process of working out where you want your next career steps to be, and you just feel attracted to the idea of getting experience in other countries?


If the former, then make sure that you are looking at the entry level job vacancies in the area you’re interested in, taking note of the person specification, i.e. the criteria for the successful candidate. If the job specifies language or cross-cultural skills, or familiarity with specific regions, then experience of almost any kind in that region might be valuable. You could look at job boards in that country to see what’s out there, or seek out volunteering opportunities. will probably be useful as an online resource which lists vacancy/internship boards in over 130 countries, while Devex is useful for development related vacancies.


If it’s the latter, and you are still figuring out what direction you want your career to take, but you feel strongly drawn to international work then that’s ok too. Following your gut is good practice as long as you are backing it up with fairly rigorous information gathering/management. Consider whether or not you want your degree background to feed into your early career steps, and if so where is fertile ground for planting those early seeds. It’s ok to abandon your subject, but make sure it’s because of conscious choice, not drift.  Consider also the practicalities: do you need a support network? Do you have existing contacts you can reach out to? Is there study abroad options as part of your programme that will allow you to do some preliminary exploration in person? And of course, how will you support yourself? For my first international work experience I took an English language teaching job, which paid the bills and built skills while I picked up the local language.

Volunteering can also be a powerful entry point into a sector, at any point in your career. I volunteered in my holidays for a particular international NGO, and eventually this resulted in a paid role running a project in Greece. The initial volunteering work allowed me to turn an interest/curiosity into something in which I had concrete experience and skills. It also meant that I had built a small network of people who held my work in good esteem, hence the job offer. This kind of values-based work can be very rewarding in terms of both skills development and satisfaction. You can find potential host organisations online, through social media, or through databases like Look at the sector guides in the King’s Careers & Employability KEATS pages for links to other vacancy listings.


To summarize, international work experience is out there if you want it. If you feel it calling you then it’s never too late nor too early to start imagining where that calling might take you. Although you might not yet be able to see how to make it a reality, you can take the first steps in that direction by booking an appointment with your friendly college careers consultant. They will be able to help you identify tangible steps that will get things moving.