Globalization is here to stay and the key to a successful and fulfilling career (and life) is a diverse international network. But how does one begin to lay the foundation for such a network? One of the quickest and most effective ways is to spend a gap year or study abroad semester overseas. In fact international networking is often times one of the most valuable and measurable outcomes of time spent traveling. Years later you might not remember the content of the program’s education curriculum but you will certainly remember and maintain contact with the people you connected with while abroad.
Ways To Build Your International Network
Focus On Real Connections – When people think of networking they often times think of awkward forced interactions where each party wants something from the other. It’s no wonder this word is often seen as negative. By focusing on genuine connections with the people you meet while abroad the chances of that relationship lasting long into the future are much greater. Plant seeds of friendship across borders and harvest the fruits of those friendships later when say you need a reference or contact in that country.
Choose A Study Abroad or Gap Year Program That Forces You Out Of Your Comfort Zone – It’s completely normal and easy for study abroad students to go abroad and spend 6 months hanging out with people from their own country. They form small pods of safety and fail to branch out and meet the locals. It’s important to choose a program that forces you out of that comfort zone. For example, Up with Peopleparticipants travel not only to multiple countries each semester, but they travel with participants representing over 15 countries. This forces you to make connections. Look for programs that utilize host families (like Up with People) as well. These connections can last a lifetime.
International Internships – In general students who choose to study abroad or young people who decide to take a gap year are among the most ambitious and driven of their peers. Taking this to the next level and landing an internship abroad can be a valuable and fast way to start building relationships. Internships have the highest probability of paying off quickly.
Volunteer Abroad – Helping those in the the communities you visit is not only incredibly rewarding but it can put you in contact with locals in a way that is hard to replicate. Many young people have a burning desire to change the world. Volunteering abroad not only fills that need but can lead to opportunities later on in fields that are driven by purpose over profits.
Attend International Webinars Online – From the comfort of your own home this can be a great way to learn about a chosen field, develop professionally and make international connections. Are you an expert in a certain field? Create your own webinar and open it to strategically targeted countries where you are interested in building connections.
Live Abroad – There are many opportunities to live abroad at least for a short while. Many people choose to teach abroad (especially languages) or simply freelance while they travel. Not only is this a rewarding life experience but it helps you build the type of strong global network that is hard to do in a shorter amount of time.
It Takes Work To Stay In Contact – In the end, after you return home and move on with your life, you must use social media and other tools to keep your contact list fresh. Staying in contact is incredibly important so your network doesn’t go stale. This can be something as simple as saying happy birthday or sharing a recipe with your international friends. Networks take work.