“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” Ludwig Wittgenstein


As a former language student and teacher, I’ve spent a lot of time abroad. In spite of the cruelties that I endured by leaving behind: my family, friends, partners and life as I understood it; I emphatically stand behind my decision to live and work abroad. From my confidence to speak to different stakeholders to my linguistic abilities, I use the skills I developed whilst working and living abroad on a daily basis. The value placed on these skills by businesses is recognised by CBI as it highlights that 36% of employers recruit employees specifically for their language skills yet only 38% of us can speak another language. The reasons why we are ignoring the significance of an international mindset would exceed the limits of this article. Instead I’d would like to focus on the importance of an international mindset in the labour market.


My work experiences in Guatemala, Colombia and Brazil have had an immeasurable impact on my professional and personal development. As a result of living in Guatemala, Colombia and Brazil, my whole perspective changed. Uprooting myself and immersing myself in other cultures meant that I developed key employability skills: multilingualism, resilience, verbal and non-verbal communication, self-awareness, self-leadership, curiosity to learn, flexibility, adaptability and cross-cultural awareness and sensitivity. I cannot think of another experience that would allow you to develop such behaviours in such a comprehensive way.


From a business perspective, employers increasingly desire an international mindset. Working for Futureboard, a graduate recruitment specialist, I help multi-national companies find the right graduates for their business. Time and time again, a second language or meaningful work experience abroad appears on the essential qualities list.  PwC’s “Talent Mobility 2020” report estimates that annual international assignments will increase by 50 percent between today and 2020—having already increased by 25 percent over the last 10 years.


If we limit our work experiences to our terra firma, then we limit our own opportunities and as well as the growth of the organisations in which we work. Globalisation is alive and well. In spite of the 2008 recession and the subsequent collapse in the movement of goods and services across borders, digital globalisation has transgressed that trend. Instant access to a world of information and the growth of start-ups has meant that more people around the world can be touched by global economic growth. To capitalise on digital globalisation, companies increasingly conduct business across international borders and thus it is expected that international career opportunities are expected to expand too.


EY’s recent study Redrawing the map: globalization and the changing world of business exposes the lack of diversity on the boards of global companies means that they lack the skills to solve  intercultural issues. At the same time, it cites the need for staff to have had work experience abroad as the most significant cultural factor in conducting business on a global scale. This demonstrates that crossing borders, sharing ideas and gaining a different perspective are becoming increasingly important for even the most senior hires.


If you want a CV enhancer, take the plunge into the world of the unknown and move abroad. The consequences for your personal and professional life will be indefinite but one thing is for certain, it will make you more employable for the rest of your career.


Vita Shapland-Howes, Researcher at Futureboard.

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