Working abroad as a young professional has its rewards. Here’s how to justify renewing your passport.

A lot of us dream of working overseas; after all, the idea evokes images of glamour and adventure.

The truth, of course, is that it’s not always so glamorous. Working in a foreign country is a big challenge.

But those challenges bring great rewards. Among them, experience that can help you stand out from the job-hunting crowd when – or if – you choose to come back home.

Here are a few of the advantages of working overseas as a young professional:

1. Creativity and resourcefulness

Every employer wants to hire creative problem-solvers. A September 2010 article in Harvard Business Review features research suggesting people who have lived in more than one country are better problem-solvers and display more creativity, especially if they’re not isolated from the local culture.

My own international work experience certainly made me more resourceful and outgoing. Right after finishing college, I left the United States to find work in South Korea. The first time I heard the Korean language spoken was on the flight to Seoul – and today I’m proficient in the language. I can speak, read and write Korean well enough to get by in a work environment. And I never took a formal Korean language class! How was I able to do it? Simple: Necessity.

When I started my first job in Seoul, I realized that if I ever wanted to leave the neighborhood where I lived, I had to learn some Korean. The buses had no English signs and I hadn’t run into anybody in my neighborhood who spoke much English. I asked one of my Korean co-workers to give me a crash course in the language. Then I forced myself to get out of my apartment on the weekends and after work and use my newly acquired (and fairly awkward) language skills. In other words, I was resourceful.

2. Exposure to people and projects

Stacie Nevadomski Berdan, author of Go Global! Launching an International Career Here or Abroad and co-author of Get Ahead by Going Abroad, says you can’t beat the exposure and opportunities you get working overseas. She credits the opportunities she took advantage of during her stint in the Hong Kong office of PR giant Burson-Marsteller with her rapid rise in the organization: vice president by age 27, managing director by 30.

“If your CEO travels to New York, there may be 500 people fighting for his or her attention,” says Stacie. “But in Bangkok, you may be one of just a handful of players making a difference for the company in that market. Likewise, it is not uncommon for a mid-level manager to counsel and escort traveling political leaders, members of the C-suite, and even client CEOs when they are on an international tour.”

3. Independence

If you’re a recent college grad, chances are you’re living with your parents again. You probably aren’t too excited about being mom and dad’s roomie. Going overseas to work forces you to cut the cord and live on your own. And in many expatriate work scenarios, you’re either given a housing allowance or housing is provided for you.

4. More disposable income

With a personal savings rate below 4 percent, most people in the United States live paycheck to paycheck.

But for most expatriates, that’s just not the case. Americans’ first $92,900 in foreign-earned income was excluded from U.S. tax in 2011, and tax rates and real cost of living in many countries are significantly lower than in the States. So even if you earn a smaller income before taxes, in many overseas markets you’re putting more of what you make in your pocket (and hopefully bank account).

5. See the world while you’re still young

One of the things that I’m most grateful for is the traveling I did while still in my 20s. I got to visit places and have experiences I probably wouldn’t have wanted to drag my young kids along for.

The reality is, starting a family will add constraints to your time and mobility. So take advantage of that freedom while you can. While I was living and working in South Korea, I traveled to more than 20 countries in Asia and Europe, plus a trip to Australia.

If you’re really passionate about working overseas, go for it. As a young professional, you’ve got little to lose and a world of experience to gain.

Dylan Alford is publisher of For tips on the best places to go to work overseas – and the single fastest way to get a job and get up and running – download his ebook, How to Work Overseas.


  1. Rotvik

    Definitely! I plan on working in Singapore as soon as I finish school and get some work experience (2Y max).

    • Dylan Alford

      Great idea, Rotvik. Singapore is one of the top destinations for expats, and a really interesting place.

      I would encourage you to keep an open mind about the length of your stay. When I first went to Korea after finishing college, my plan was to stay 1-2 yrs. About 6 mos into it, I met the woman who is now my wife and the plan changed. I finally came back to the States 7 yrs later with a beautiful wife, an awesome daughter and invaluable work experience and contacts that I NEVER would have made had I left after a couple yrs.

      • danjc

        Agreed. The best way to stir up fate is to move to a new country.

        My plan was 2 years in Spain, but after 6 months I was offered a gig in China, which in turn led to a 2-year all-expenses-paid master’s degree in the EU. Eight years abroad now, my passport features residence permits from 7 countries and a gazillion tourist visas. I too met the woman who is now my wife along the way. We are building our life together toward our big dream – living in Chicago (near my family) and Istanbul (near her family) at the same time. It’s ambitious but I have no doubt we will achieve our goals.

        I agree with all your listed points but would raise the flag over one bit: the expat work scenarios. While they are fantastic, I think a recent grad who decides to try his or her chance abroad should keep in mind that these cushy scenarios are hard to come by and often expectations get dashed by reality.

        Still, for anyone thinking about living abroad, I have one mantra: Just go!

        • Dylan Alford

          You’re absolutely right about the “full package” expat gigs being few and far between, danjc. Especially at the entry level, nobody can expect to get a cushy deal.

          Thanks for sharing your experiences – and your mantra!

  2. Melodie B.

    Considering going to Latin America to teach English for a year. I am graduating college in May and think it is an auspicious time to go while I don’t have responsibilities here in the US and I’m use to being a broke college student.

  3. Anonymous

    If you want to work abroad check out Mind Valley as a case study. What a great company that moved from the States to Malaysia. But I’m just not sure where Malaysia is, haha.

  4. Jrandom42

    Been there, done that already. Traveled most of the world already, have no more desire to throw my duffle on the floor and call it home. Got tired of being just a visitor and a transient.

  5. Gwen

    I went to Scotland for college, and have stayed here to work. It’s been a great experience. I imagine I’ll return to the states at some point, but probably not until I’m much further on in my career. Hopefully, I’ll change country again before that happens. Of course, this depends somewhat on the lovely Scotsman in the next room! But his skills are pretty versatile too.

  6. Adam Britten

    As a graduate student originally from the states, now going to school in London, I echo your statements. “Seeing the world” is something I’m really thankful I’m able to do in my 20’s. You can do this during your early career stages, as you said, or even while still a student.

  7. Xik Sa

    Traveled most of the world already, have no more desire to throw my duffle on the floor and call it home. Got tired of being just a visitor and a transient…
    join my party if you pass by 🙂

  8. Eric

    I would argue that working abroad is a great deal in your early to mid-20’s. However, the shine starts to wear off after your 2nd to 3rd year abroad and it’s probably a detriment to your career if you plan on moving back to your home country. At that point the “experience” doesn’t mean as much as it did those first two years. There aren’t as many upward promotions of raises when you’re stuck in what is already deemed “management” level jobs. If you’re planning on staying abroad however the more experience obviously the better. Coming up on my 4th year in China (and my last) I cannot stress the 2 to 3 year time frame more!

  9. ronnie

    find a job in English-spinking country is every atractive for chinese people

  10. ronnie

    finding a job now, feel tired….

  11. R Kelly Albums

    As for it’s quite difficult to change place of living, especially overseas!

  12. J.X

    I would love to work abroad…problem is it’s hard to find a job as a recent grad with no experience. I also have no plans on teaching English overseas (been there done that).

    • Dylan Alford

      Hey J.X.,

      It’s hard to give advice without knowing the specifics of your situation, but if you’re not open to teaching English as a means to getting yourself established overseas you might consider something like PR. Check out this article on breaking into an entry-level PR job:

      That article is specific to working in China, but the principles outlined apply to just about any country you might be interested in.

  13. vinay

    hi my name is vinay i m a graduate, i m from a small town which is in state of karnataka and country india after completing graduation i started a small buisiness in my town , but i wanna do job overseas after 4 years gap can i get a job overseas please help me in this

  14. Put Your Travel Bug to Work | Peer Into Your Career

    […] 5 Convincing Reasons to Find a Job Overseas – Brazen Careerist […]

Comments are closed.