By Jess Turner:
Many people choose to move overseas to enhance their careers once they have finished university. The two-year working holiday gap visa exists for a reason right? This is a little bit of my story and why, even when things are tough, it is always a good choice to work overseas for a period of time after you finish university. I have been really lucky and have embraced all the opportunities presented to me to move overseas and work in the public relations research industry.
From January to February this year, I went to Oxford on a short term visa as a research fellow for PRIME Research. I was lucky enough that after my fellowship, I was offered a job to come back full time as a Junior Project Manager. After a lot (I mean a lot) of weighing up the positives and negatives, I decided to come back. So I flew home from my two-months abroad at the end of February, graduated from UWS with First Class Honours in April (yay), worked as a research assistant for a few months back home while I sorted out my visa, paperwork etc, and flew back to the UK at the end of May to start my full time position in Oxford.
There is a part of me that wishes I wasn’t stuck in my office and was just travelling around (don’t tell my boss) but I think that happens whether you live in Oxford or in Sydney. I’m very lucky to work in an office with people who are passionate about their jobs and sometimes that makes the late nights all the more worth it. Along with the amazing opportunity for my career, I can also go to Denmark on the weekends (which I’m sure is a win in anyone’s books). I’m not saying that it was easy, I’ve always worked super hard, but I believe that you need to work super hard in order to have things finally pay off. And it feels like they are starting to finally pay off for me.
So here they are. These are my top five things that I have learned (so far) from working in PR abroad:
Let’s face it, picking up everything you have (if only for a short period) and going it alone (or even with a friend or travel buddy) is pretty daunting and overwhelming. There is no doubt that relocating to another country, whether it’s for two months or twenty years, is a challenge. Making the most of opportunities to work and experience ‘real life’ in a new place strengthens your ability to adapt. You learn so much about a place much quicker when you experience this ‘real life’ phenomenon. Sometimes this happens very quickly, allowing you to really enjoy and immerse your time abroad from very early on. You will find that homesickness will come in waves (happened for me a little around Australia Day the first time that I was over here, I’ll have to admit). However, the more you move, keep busy and challenge yourself, the easier it will be to adjust (and then you probably won’t want to leave).
Working abroad strengthens your independence, resourcefulness and problem-solving skills. You learn quickly to stand on your own two feet and this makes you more reliable in future situations. Overcoming obstacles can make you better at weighing up difficulties, analysing issues and ultimately encourages you to become more decisive (great skills in the public relations industry, but applicable to any industry). All of these skills are great on your resume, but are also great for you as a person.
Yeah, I know this is the bad part. But it goes back to the ‘real life’ experience of a place that I mentioned before. You feel like a local. Going to TESCO (supermarket) at 10pm to buy dinner because you are still running recodes for your gigantic data set (yay media analysis), might seem bad but it makes you feel part of your team and gives you that sense of ‘real’ about the place you are in. I have found that you learn so much more about a place when you eat where the locals eat, shop where they shop and work where they work. Late nights sometimes come with the job, but wherever you are, they are totally worth it.
So you are working 5 days a week (and those late nights) and by the time the weekend rolls around all you want to do is crawl up in a ball and sleep (after office drinks on Friday night of course). My advice: don’t. Get up at 3am. Go to Paris. Go on a massive long bus tour around England. Buy souvenirs. Fly somewhere new for the weekend. Spend a day getting lost where you are staying, like a full day. Go to the touristy spots that all of your colleagues and friends tell you about but they haven’t been to, because they can go ‘anytime’. You will be tired and feel like you should just go to bed. But you have plenty of time for all that ‘real life’ boring stuff when you get home (or go back to work on Monday). My next trip (planned with annual leave) is to Milan for a week to visit some of my relatives, then two weeks after I get back I’m going to Copenhagen in Denmark for the weekend and am currently planning my trip to Iceland to see the Northern Lights. Never a dull moment in Europe.
This is an important one and I am going to draw upon an amazing word that you probably all know and love; networking. Yeah, we all have to do it, but it is what makes working in this industry so exciting – you get to make so many awesome friends. With interconnectivity spanning across the globe in pretty much every industry you can think of, you never know when you might need to call upon one of your international colleagues for some help, or advice or even a contact they could put you in touch with. Even aside from the career connections you make, the people you meet and work with overseas will become your friends; they are your source of information when you get to a new place, usually your first point of contact, you’ll spend a lot of time working with them (and they’ll have a lot of questions about where you are from too) and they will be your support and become like your second family.
So there you have it. Insightful “wisdom” from someone who never thought they would be capable of moving and living and working overseas. We live in a time where we have the opportunity to do whatever we really want with our lives, so don’t let anyone ever hold you back. Say yes to opportunities and make the best of the time that you are given.
My name is Jessica Turner, I am a 23 year old PR Graduate from the University of Western Sydney.