International Work Experience worth it?

Boreed's picture
Rank: King Kong | 1,090

Hi,

I need advice on what to do once I graduate.

I have a bachelor degree in Economics, I have 2 internships under my belt, one in corporate finance sort of investment appraisal etc for a logistics firm, and one in financial accounting for a small consulting firm.

These were done during my Bachelor, and once I graduated I worked middle office at BNYM and then BNP Paribas for one year...

Now I'm currently doing an MSc Finance and Management at a pretty good school and I want to know what I should do once I graduate.

I'm pretty international which I believe I need to emphasize. I speak 5 languages fluently, spoken and written, am of dual nationality, Swedish and Greek, went to the European School in Brussels, Belgium, did my undergraduate in the UK, and currently my MSc in the UK as well. The two internships were in Barcelona, Spain and Greece respectively, whilst the year of working was in Brussels.

My goal is to work as an equity research analyst or work in corporate finance within industry, preferably corporate development and M&A.

First of all, is international experience really looked well upon by employers within finance? Specifically the roles I'm looking for?

Secondly, my plan is to move and do an internship in Cape Town, South Africa for 6 months and then one in New York. So basically, one years worth of internships. The plan is to increase my international work experience, and hopefully this will be seen as a good thing by future employers.

Is it worth it? Or will I have done too many internships? I mean of course I want to do this stuff cos of the adventure and fun of it as well (I won't just be a hippy travelling, I'll be building my CV) but I always put career first for now, so if it's bad for my CV it's not worth it.

Thank you!

Comments (42)

Jan 18, 2012

International experience can be highly prized on the ER side (particularly in emerging markets) -- I'm not as familiar with banking, but it should give you points there as well. Language skills are more important than international experience for junior roles, but it looks like most of yours are probably European languages, which unfortunately are somewhat less prized than Asian languages (unless you speak Eastern European languages). I'm strictly for ER with that comment. Also, if you speak German, that's a plus. But most of the countries in Western Europe speak English in business settings, are very "thin" in terms of investable opportunities, or are almost completely uninvestable (like France, which is a commie shit hole). I don't speak anything but English and Spanish and I have zero trouble investing in Europe or calling companies from the US -- Germany, Italy, Scandinavian countries, UK, etc.

I don't know anything about MSc recruiting but you should be a viable candidate otherwise. I would skip the elaborate internship strategy and just get a job. After a couple of years, full-time experience trumps pretty much anything you have done previously, and the internships probably won't give you a high return on time.

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Jan 18, 2012

When I read international work experience, I thought it was someone who spent two or three years working in another country. Fetching coffee in a foreign country is not impressive.

As far as speaking several languages , let me break it down for you:

You are maybe fluent in Greek and Swedish because you hold citizenship from both countries or because your parents are from these countries.

Reality check: Not impressive.

As a multilingual person, I always laugh when people tell me: You are fluent in German, Russian, English, French, and Spanish? Waw!

I laugh at them because I have been speaking these languages since I was young. I have lived in countries that speak these languages, I grew up in a household where German and Russian where the main languages.

There is nothing impressive about it because my environment made it easy for me to acquire these languages at an early age.

You know what is impressive?

The Chinese and the Mexican kids who came to the US when they were 16 or 18 and struggled to learn English.

It is also impressive if a Turkish teen immigrates to Germany at 15 or 18 and try his best to learn the language.

That requires effort, dedication, and pain. So please before you boast about how many languages you speak, ask yourself if there is anything exceptional in the fact that a kid who grew up with bilingual parents or in a multilingual household know their languages.

No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he'd only had good intentions; he had money as well.

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Jan 18, 2012

Yohoo, I wasn't boasting and I too have the same sentiment when someone is impressed. I just say I got lucky because I was forced to learn these languages as a kid. (Mind you I learned 3 of those languages when I moved to a different country at the age of 10.)

So please chill out, you might get a hernia.

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Jan 18, 2012

Well-said Boreed. I actually disagree with Yohoo's rather unnecessary rant. I think if you do speak those languages fluently and you're not merely using the term 'fluent' to characterize 2 years of AP Spanish in high school (I've met ppl who claim this), then yes, I think employers would be impressed with you. You'll definitely be more appealing than the other applicant who speaks only English and some conversational Chinese.
Honestly, some employers don't care HOW you acquired certain skills, so long as you actually have them. Yes, it may show something about your character if you struggled to learn a new language as an immigrant or whatever, but when it comes down to it, skills are skills, and if you have the right combination of skills, character, and academic credentials, then you'll get hired.

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Jan 18, 2012

Thank you MuddleMint,

While I appreciate all of your comments so far, my main question is still whether or not going for a year of internships after I graduate, in Cape Town and New York is worthwhile or a waste of time and opportunity cost of money making...

Thanks!

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Jan 18, 2012

I've talked to a lot of senior leaders about this, and International experience is essentially required if you want to become an executive over the next ~10-15 years. It will help his resume quite a bit.

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Jan 18, 2012

The value of international experience is showing you can adapt to different cultures, gain a wider perspective and live outside your comfort zone. Global mobility makes you far more valuable to an international company, and some firms (including my bank) don't even consider people who haven't worked outside their home market for leadership roles.

Commuting to Mexico from across the border probably won't have the same impact as say living in Mexico for 18 months, but then again his resume doesn't have to disclose that he never really lived in Mexico and he will still have to deal with Mexican business issues on a daily basis which I'm sure will be interesting to say the least.

Jan 18, 2012

Unless you have kids middle school aged or older, I would do it.

Jan 18, 2012

He was just recently married and no kids that are in school or anywhere near the age of being in school. Appreciate the feedback and sounds like it would be a good move to make. Anyone else have thoughts? Would you do it if you were in his shoes?

Jan 18, 2012

At my F500 CPG international roles are highly prized and necessary to get leadership roles in the future. The company actually has a specific spot for international experience on the performance/potential grid. However, I personally wouldn't count Mexico the same as a BRIC country or other more foreign location. Even if its just in my head Mexico/Canada feel a little to close to home to fully count.

Jan 18, 2012
F500Guy:

I have a friend who works as a controller in the US for a F500 company, and he was recently offered a promotion as a controller of a larger operation in Mexico. The operation is very close to the border, so he would be able to live in the US while working in the position and cross the border daily for work. He would likely be in the role less than 18 months.

My question is how valuable is this experience and how much would it help him in terms of his resume and marketability? He is struggling to decide whether to take it since he could apply for comparable roles in the US that wouldn't require him to work in a less desirable location, so I'm curious to see your thoughts.

Having international experience is invaluable. It'll make him stand out among his peers. I would also recommend living in Mexico versus the US to get more of the experience, it'll give him more to talk about, and why the hell would you want to deal with border patrol daily?

Jan 18, 2012
Eskimo Brothers:
F500Guy:

I have a friend who works as a controller in the US for a F500 company, and he was recently offered a promotion as a controller of a larger operation in Mexico. The operation is very close to the border, so he would be able to live in the US while working in the position and cross the border daily for work. He would likely be in the role less than 18 months.

My question is how valuable is this experience and how much would it help him in terms of his resume and marketability? He is struggling to decide whether to take it since he could apply for comparable roles in the US that wouldn't require him to work in a less desirable location, so I'm curious to see your thoughts.

Having international experience is invaluable. It'll make him stand out among his peers. I would also recommend living in Mexico versus the US to get more of the experience, it'll give him more to talk about, and why the hell would you want to deal with border patrol daily?

because dealing with border patrol daily is better than living in Mexico?

Jan 18, 2012
Eskimo Brothers:
F500Guy:

I have a friend who works as a controller in the US for a F500 company, and he was recently offered a promotion as a controller of a larger operation in Mexico. The operation is very close to the border, so he would be able to live in the US while working in the position and cross the border daily for work. He would likely be in the role less than 18 months.

My question is how valuable is this experience and how much would it help him in terms of his resume and marketability? He is struggling to decide whether to take it since he could apply for comparable roles in the US that wouldn't require him to work in a less desirable location, so I'm curious to see your thoughts.

Having international experience is invaluable. It'll make him stand out among his peers. I would also recommend living in Mexico versus the US to get more of the experience, it'll give him more to talk about, and why the hell would you want to deal with border patrol daily?

Depends on which US border town we're talking about, but if it is a choice between living in Tijuana or San Diego, then I would happily deal with border patrol daily.

Jan 18, 2012

I don't see much difference between living in Mexico and living around the border. Sad to say, but one and the same.

Jan 18, 2012
Jan 18, 2012

Could go either way, international experience, in my opinion is always good. Different countries have different business models,regulators,customs, etc. The more familiar you are with these things, the more valuable you are as a partner/employee.

Jan 18, 2012

International experience is absolutely invaluable, and I would take it in a heartbeat, even if you live on the border. People in general are impressed by international experience, because more people than you know have never left the country in their entire life (Canada doesn't count). Business schools love it (Tuck has a section on their application dedicated to this) and if he does end up lateraling to a different company, that experience will definitely stick out.

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Jan 18, 2012

I love how people who have yet to start work are already looking at grad school.

I think being international is a great thing to have, but it doesn't trump work experience or GMAT scores. Maybe if you are applying to LSE or LBS, but in H/W/S they will have enough international students to diversify things.

Furthermore, I don't think ECM is the same as ops and I wouldn't consider banking at a BB to be a dead end career. Question is if you went to a great UG and have a great GPA why are you signing up to do something you obviously already dread doing just to work for 3 years and go back to school. Nothing like waiting 5-6 years to start working in a career that you want to be in.

Jan 18, 2012

Well I wanted to start off in banking so no problem there, I was fine with both banking and consulting opportunities actually. I'm just not sold on the location given that I have no friends or family abroad and exit opps. are very unclear to me, hence dead end. My instincts tell me I'm going to exit off to be a garbage man or a prison guard so I figure I might as well figure out my escape plan before the building burns down. Seems like my only recourse is to go b-school.

Jan 18, 2012

If you have an offer in NY go for it. If not I would just go with Israel. I am not sure about visa issues though.

Jan 18, 2012

Doing a project or stint internationally didn't seem to alter the landscape much for MBA apps for people I knew in consulting.

Jan 18, 2012

I thought you were in NYC.

Jan 18, 2012

i thought you were about to have a kid

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

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Jan 18, 2012

Can we please ban this guy? This is getting ridiculous.

Jan 18, 2012

THANK YOU.

Jan 18, 2012

Absolutely. Most interested in working in Switzerland and Australia

Jan 18, 2012

He's probably 14 living in Detroit.

Jan 18, 2012

You could move to Nigeria with your new baby and start writing emails to people that you are a RICH BANKER who needs to get MILLIONS of US DOLLARS out of the country.

PS: good luck with the pregnant gf . And how did you get an MBA at age 24?

Jan 18, 2012
IlliniProgrammer:

You could move to Nigeria with your new baby and start writing emails to people that you are a RICH BANKER who needs to get MILLIONS of US DOLLARS out of the country.

PS: good luck with the pregnant gf . And how did you get an MBA at age 24?

I'm pretty sure bro is trolling. And you can get the MBA pre-24 if you're in Europe OR if you're in the US and you have no idea what the point of an MBA is (some schools offer an MBA without experience, usually in a 5-year plan, OR an academic route to getting the MBA immediately after UG)

Jan 18, 2012

Definitely a troll. Saw him talking about the destiny of prop trading and HFT the other day, yet in another thread, didn't know what a basis point was. Suspicious...

Jan 18, 2012

I was only thrown off because it was a long day/I always work with them in percentages - not decimal points (I believe)

Jan 18, 2012

Really? He's trolling? I thought he was serious and ultimately wanted to move to Nigeria and be a con artist, but what do I know? :D

Jan 18, 2012

@IP: Haha, just trying to further illustrate that point.

@kotr: What is "them"?

Jan 18, 2012
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