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Working abroad: A way to get new experiences and boost your career

Many millennials want to work abroad when they are young, flexible and don’t have children. Getting a company to post you overseas when you are in your 20s or early 30s, though, can be difficult.

Working abroad: A way to get new experiences and boost your career

Many millennials want to work abroad when they are young, flexible and don’t have children.

Getting a company to post you overseas when you are in your 20s or early 30s, though, can be difficult.

One option is to find gig work that takes you out of Singapore for a while.

If you are a millennial and do want to work abroad, you are in the majority.

A recent survey by the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers community, for example, found that nearly 70 per cent of Singaporeans between 18 and 35 said that they would be willing to work overseas to advance their career, with Australia and the United States as their preferred destinations.

These Singaporeans are similar to millennials around the world. Globally, consultancy firm PwC finds that millennials have a strong appetite for working overseas and 71 per cent want to do an overseas assignment during their career.

It helps that millennials are flexible in looking for a job. OCBC bank found in its Frankly Asked Questions survey earlier this year that 45 per cent of millennials would consider being a freelancer, so a gig job overseas could be an attractive option.


Along with a desire to do something different, many Singaporeans see working overseas as a personal career goal. It offers opportunities to experience new cities and cultures, recruitment firm Robert Half says, and to gain international work experience that can provide long-term career benefits.

There can be financial benefits as well.

The HSBC Expat survey found that workers under age 35 may see earnings rise significantly after moving abroad. Moreover, more than half become more confident while abroad and more than 70 per cent learn new skills.

They are also more likely to benefit from quicker promotions or move into a new career path, with one in 10 even starting their own business after moving to a new country. 

Moving to another country can also enable people to see the global marketplace from another perspective, and being forced to navigate the workplace in another language or culture can make you a better communicator.

Seeing how a different country approaches business in general can offer a great way to understand new ways of doing things.

However, that does not mean everything about moving overseas is easy.

Executive search firm Korn Ferry notes that finding work back home afterwards may be tougher. “Out of sight, out of mind” can be a phrase that’s all too familiar, says networking portal InterNations. Not being around your contacts here every day can mean that good impressions fade, and it can be hard to find a job or get a promotion when you come back.

And whether your company sends you overseas or you find a job on your own, it can be harder to switch jobs, since your visa may depend on working at a particular company and you may have to head home if you leave the firm.


If you do want to work overseas, co-working space manager WeWork suggests starting by figuring out where you want to go, whether there are potential language barriers and whether you need a visa.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides links to visa requirements for Singaporeans considering going overseas.

If you are keen on using overseas employment to enhance your professional experience, recruitment firm Robert Half suggests focusing on countries where your skills and qualifications will be recognised and put to good use, and selecting a destination based on what will serve your career best over the longer term.

If you happen to work for a multinational company, it can be worth requesting an overseas transfer.

If you want to look for a job on your own, a number of online sites list flexible jobs., for instance, says it features international employment opportunities for professionals and adventure seekers.

Online community Workaway has hundreds of opportunities for volunteering or working abroad and, while it is not an employment agency, you can look through the website and contact an organisation to find work.

Or if you want to consider something really different, you could look at volunteering on a farm through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, which links volunteers with organic farmers.

You can also use your networks and connections, particularly if you know people who work for global companies, and ask them to check with their colleagues overseas. While their contacts may not have opportunities at their company right away, they are likely to have a local network that may be able to look for jobs that might fit.

Some countries also make it easier to work abroad. New Zealand has a Singapore Work Exchange Programme Visa that New Zealand Immigration says helps young people from Singapore who are either studying at a university or polytechnic, or have graduated from one in the last three years, to go to New Zealand for work experience.

If you are an entrepreneur, the Netherlands is looking to create new products and jobs by attracting foreign innovators and scientists.

If you have a startup idea, you can apply for a one-year residency there.

While working abroad may not be for everyone, it is becoming easier than you might have expected if you want to give it a try.

Related topics

working abroad millennial overseas job career visa

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