Your decision on where to study should not depend (entirely) on what your favourite country is, or where the best nightlife is to be enjoyed. OK, these factors will play a role, but the most important thing is to pick a study programme that suits you and helps you develop the skills you need to get a job in the sector where you want to work. You may not yet be thinking about finding a job, even if you’re near graduation, as you’ve got so many things on your plate at that time. But it is smart to be aware of what skills you are working on, and how these skills resonate with the job market.
Whether you want to go back home after your studies, or want to find a job in Europe after graduation, the trend is the same: companies require an increasingly diverse skill-set from potential employees. Often it is not enough to have be a (good) graduate of a relevant study programme. Employers want your CV to feature internships, part-time jobs and extra-curricular activities. Depending on your sector, employers may also want to see a portfolio with examples of your work.
When looking for a job, soft skills are almost as important as knowledge, experience and study background. Luckily, as an international student, you have (unconsciously) been working on those during your stay abroad. To name but a few:
- Intercultural communication: when moving to another country, you will find that communication works in a different way from what you’re used to. People may be more direct, or more ‘polite’. This may lead to challenging situations, but these situations help you adapt to a new culture and learn to communicate in a culture-sensitive way. This is an important skill to have, especially when you want to work in an international environment.
- Adaptability: Living in a new country, you will have to adapt to this country’s ways. You’ll eat new foods and have to deal with different weather: your reactions to these are just two examples of how you can deal with changes to your environment. Knowing how to adapt will also prove very valuable when you start a new job.
- Problem-solving: Life is full of challenges, so practise how to manage change when you’re in a familiar setting. This will make easier to tackle change at a time when you feel less comfortable. Outside your comfort zone you will also learn how to be resourceful and creative as you come up with solutions.
- Self-reliance: the journey of studying abroad will mostly a solo one. You are going to another country on your own, and will have to find your own way. This means it is up to you to create a new comfort zone for yourself. Be ready for this, and get used to relying on yourself, your skills and your decisions. Self-reliance brings more self-confidence and a greater feeling of independence too.
- Initiative: for most people, things do not simply fall into their laps. You have to work for them, be outgoing and proactive. Without your usual network around you, taking initiative is absolutely essential to make new friends, achieve your goals and adapt to a new country. And by the way, a clear sense of initiative is probably the main thing that employers are looking for.
And it is not only these five skills. To cut a long story short: studying abroad will change your life and yourself. And it may well give you a head start over the other people applying for that job.
Finding a job in Europe
After graduating from university, with a bachelors or masters diploma in your pocket, you may have grown to love the city you are living in and want to stay in Europe. Be aware that there are rules and regulations that apply to working in a European country. EU citizens can work in other EU countries without needing a visa or a work permit, but if they want to work in other European countries, visa and work permits are required. For non-EU citizens, a work visa or work permit is always required. It makes sense to find out about this before you decide where to study.
Many European countries are looking to attract international talent to diversify their economies. Most countries offer a specific visa for these talents to come (or stay) and work in their country. For instance, Italy offers a Startup Visa, to retain non-EU innovators that want to establish a start-up in Italy. Estonia and Finland offer something similar. The Netherlands and Germany offer specific visa for non-EU job seekers, allowing them to look for a job for a limited period of time. France has a special talent visa called “passeport talent”. But wherever you want to stay, there is always a visa or permit suited for your situation. Applying may turn out to be complicated, as rules differ per country. But don’t let it stop you from following your dreams.
Whether you decide to find a job back home or apply for a job in Europe: remember that your diploma and your soft skills are valuable assets. Another useful thing to have is a professional network. Your network can provide you with job vacancies and tips for employment. Especially if you decide to stay abroad, a network can provide you with insights about the local work culture. Don’t be afraid to ask (local) friends to review your CV and motivation letters. Or link up to your university’s alumni network to meet people in the field. Many of the soft skills you develop during your studies abroad are really useful for your job search. Take initiative, be confident and you’ll stand a strong chance of finding a job that you love.
Have you recently graduated and want to share your experiences finding a job? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Preview image: © iStock/seb_ra, 2019.