In this post we would like to touch on another point we are commonly asked about – “How much responsibility will I be able to take on, and how much will I be able to learn with the companies you work with?”
Throughout our experience over the past year we have come across a surprising reality; the location of the position is less important than the company, the work responsibilities you will be given, and the opportunity you will have to grow and learn throughout that time.
We have found that candidates care more about the opportunity they are being given, and how it will help them grow at an accelerated rate in comparison to their peers. They care about the opportunity for growth.
And this mentality is rightly justified. For recent graduates evaluating their first job opportunity straight out of school, the most important questions to ask yourself are as follows;
– “How much will I be able to learn and grow in this position?
– “How much responsibility and autonomy will I be given?
– “How much will I enjoy the projects that I am being given?”
One of my friends Kevin, over at The Niche Movement (an organization catered towards helping people find meaningful work opportunities), once expressed to me, “Students used to tell me that when they are in school they are constantly told about all of these exciting opportunities that await them once they graduate, only to graduate and ask themselves ‘where the hell are all of the cool opportunities everyone was telling me about?!”
This seems to be a startling realization for many recent graduates. While in school we are told that there are all of these amazing opportunities, and that if we have a degree the world is at our fingertips.
While this is true to some extent, we have found that many recent graduates are utterly unsatisfied with the work that they are doing and the positions they find themselves in 0-5 years out of school.
So when evaluating the question, “should I work abroad or should I stay in my home country?”, how does working abroad stack up against the positions you will find at home? Let’s explore.
In the US, Canada, UK, etc. an entry level job typically doesn’t provide you with very much responsibility (especially if you’re non-technical). Most positions will have you doing 200 cold calls a day as an Account Executive of some sort, or doing some basic analytics work with your head in a spreadsheet all day. (Exciting stuff!)
Minimal responsibility, minimal decision making, and minimal ability to expand on your skill set.
Your role looks something like this; here’s your clients, hit your numbers, prove that you can work somewhere for a year, and build your resume until you can move onto a new company and get a bump in pay.
However, when working abroad (especially in emerging economies) you are coming in to fill a role that they are having a hard time finding locally. You are coming in to provide an outside perspective and a different way of thinking.
Your opinion matters, and top level leadership will often ask your opinion on pressing matters because they value your insights. Companies will give you more responsibility than you know what to do with.
They will allow you to work on things that are outside of your skill set. They will allow you to (and encourage you to) wear multiple hats, take on responsibility, and make decisions. They are fine with you failing and learn from it.
While working abroad companies will give you more responsibility than you would be given back home. Although you might work in marketing, you will get to actively see the data side, the tech side, and the design side of the business in real time. You will be able to get hands on experiential learning that will be very hard to find in the typical entry level position straight out of school in your home country.
For example when I worked for Zoom, I wore multiple hats. I would design advertisements to go out on FB, use reference tags to monitor conversions, then take that data and work with the data science team to learn about how people were converting, what stages they stopped at, etc. Then we would take that information to the UX/UI team and then discuss what changes needed to be made to the website to enhance conversions. Then we would take that information to the tech team to implement the changes. Then we would run new ads to monitor the changes that we just made. Full circle.
In the typical entry level position, you only get to see one of those stages, not all four. In a startup, you can see all four and see what is really going on that makes a business not only survive, but thrive.
Moreover, In the US/UK/Canada, etc, many of the people who end up working with startups only do so once they are later into their careers and are financially stable (once again especially the non-technical). Historically, startups can’t pay much. Because of this, a young professional fresh out of school with lots of student loan debt isn’t able to go work for a startup because they know that they probably won’t be paid much for the first year….potentially even years. The people who go work for a startup are financially stable and are able to take a pay cut in exchange for some equity and a kickass learning experience.
With startups in emerging economies however, you can get the best of both worlds. Work for a startup and learn the realities of what it takes, but don’t wait 10 years before you can make it happen. The costs of living are far cheaper, which enables you to earn less but break even and get the startup learnings that many have to wait several years to take on. Get a job fresh out of school with a high growth company, and do it in a foreign context.
Now I will say that that this is a double edged sword. Many companies will give you this responsibility and allow you to work in a startup environment, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with it’s downsides. Many foreigners will frequently complain that things are “unorganized”, “chaotic”, “people don’t respond to emails”, and sometimes “things are just backwards”. But in my mind, that’s the learning experience. That’s the struggle. That’s the difficult part.
For example it will be your responsibility to take the countries legal requirements into consideration, as this will differ depending on what country you work in. If you are working in India like I was, it is worth making sure you apply for a new PAN card to ensure you are on tax records. Your company might not know how to handle this, so it will be your responsibility to take this into your own hands and ensure your safety.
With difficulty lies the ability to learn and grow. Things won’t be as organized or efficient as you are used to in your home country. This will frustrate you. But if you can learn to deal with it, you have now picked up an invaluable skill set. Learning to work in an environment where things don’t typically work as planned is an invaluable skill set.
I like to think of it this way. With many of the companies we work with, you can come here and be the head of Marketing with 0-2 years of Marketing experience. You can be a lead Engineer despite the fact that you have limited coding knowledge. You can head up and build a sales team. You can be the one running the show.
When you work a position like this for a year, and demonstrate that you are able to handle that responsibility and execute, you won’t be going BACK to an entry level position. Once you have taken on this level of responsibility, the types of positions you will have access to will be far greater than if you were to stay in your home country. If you so choose to come back to your home country, you will be going after positions that you wouldn’t have been able to go after had you not worked abroad and showed what you are capable of.
Simply put, working abroad gives you the ability to work in positions that you don’t have access to in your home country, and take on responsibility that you will rarely be given. Entry level positions fresh out of school provide limited opportunities for growth, whereas international opportunities provide you with the ability to have the growth curve of a hockey stick. On top of this, international experience is more valuable than ever, so working abroad in something that is relevant to your career gives you a solid differentiator between yourself and your peers. You will be able to get better jobs, learn more, and live life to the fullest.
…and by the way, you’re doing all of this while you’re in a foreign country