Wavemaker encourages employees to work abroad

A beach in Bermuda

In a popular LinkedIn post, UK Marketing Director Loren Penney-Thomas described working abroad as the best career decision you’ll make. I believe she’s right.

She explains that her company Wavemaker, a London-based media agency, gives its staff opportunities to work overseas under its Globaltrotters programme:

which gives staff the opportunity to be immersed into another global market for a 2-3 week cultural and learning experience. With destinations such as Lisbon and Singapore, Sydney and Dubai, the beauty is that you don’t know where you’re going to go; it’s the ultimate work roulette for nomadic souls.

Wavemaker announced last month on its Facebook page that eight ‘Wavemakers’ were selected to experience a destination that included Dubai, Sydney, Dusseldorf, Hong Kong, Warsaw, Singapore, Istanbul or London.

It’s a great initiative that more companies should be offering, while 2-3 weeks of course is a mere teaser (it takes years to get to know a culture properly). Also, people should experience an overseas culture and work environment first before fully committing to a long-term overseas assignment, which is fraught with risk.

Working abroad is not only a great career decision – in many cases it’s a great life decision. There is a gargantuan difference between travel to a foreign location on holiday and fully immersing yourself in it (the good, the bad, and the ugly).

I remember visiting places like Malaysia for the first time as a tourist, and while fun and ‘exotic’, unravelling them like an onion took years. But with that came things like deep and meaningful friendships, the acquisition of new skills and knowledge, empathy, experiencing cultural celebrations, and travel to destinations recommended by locals rather than foreigners.

Tragedy of Millennials? International opportunities can transform lives

Wingtip - image credit: Ralf Roletschek

In a thought-provoking piece for the FT, Sarah O’Connor described how Millennials are too insecure to push for a raise. She suggests, by way of example, that two decades of uncertainty in Japan has instilled fearfulness and risk-aversion in the nation’s youth. O’Connor adds that many young people have bent over backwards to persuade anyone to give them a foothold:

In the US, the proportion of college graduates working in non-graduate jobs rose to 44 per cent after the recession.

In the eurozone, about 40 per cent of workers aged 15 to 29 are in temporary jobs that typically provide little training or progression.

But can the same be said of workers with international experience? An excellent report by the British Council (disclosure: I used to work for them, but I had no involvement with the making of this report) called A World of Experience reveals, among other stats:

  • 85 percent of those studying or working abroad for 3 months or more, or travelling for more than 6 months, described themselves as confident in their ability to meet new challenges
  • 82 percent of individuals with international experience were confident in their ability to adapt to new and unfamiliar situations
  • Respondents with international experience were also slightly more likely to describe themselves as resilient
  • Over half of those with university-level experience abroad (53 percent) reported that it helped them to get a job that interested them

Others agree. Writing for The Guardian, Felix Marquardt recognises that “young people are hurting and they are hurting on a global scale”, and warns of a generational crisis. The answer? “We need people to move.” He even suggests a global youth work visa that allows young people to work for up to two years in the country of their choice.

Finally, I can attest that grabbing opportunities abroad can be beneficial, as an expat with several years overseas experience. I’ve heard of an English-language teacher in China (teaching English can be well-paid, and there is demand) learning Mandarin, making connections and becoming a project manager. Imagine their value in the global labour market now!