Thinking of a working holiday? Tempted by an exchange program? Finding an internship abroad is challenging—without knowing the job market, business etiquette and professional expectations, it can be intimidating to navigate such unfamiliar territory.
After discovering that I have two months without classes, I decided to gain some professional experience in Germany to add more international work to my résumé. I scoured websites searching for internship opportunities in Hamburg, hoping to find the perfect position. Eventually, I landed my dream job working for an international organization that complements my studies.
Here’s how I did it:
Research, research and more research. You can never know too much about the job market that you are trying to enter. Research is the most important and painstaking task when internship hunting. Get in touch with locals who know the system, starting with your own extended network. Often, opportunities come from unexpected places; tell everyone about your job hunt and you may be surprised who has the inside connection.
Next, set aside enough time to conduct several thorough Internet searches by looking at job databases, organization websites, LinkedIn and other social media avenues. New postings are published daily, so even if nothing catches your attention immediately, check again the following day. Here’s a tip: don’t wait for an ad to apply to a company. Sending your résumé to the human resources department shows your interest in their work.
Before emailing a standard Canadian résumé, learn about the country’s specific style. In Europe, résumés are called CVs (Curriculum Vitae) and are written very differently than in Canada or the US. They include much more information including a photo, birthdate, marital status and citizenship. It is also a good idea to translate your résumé, particularly if you are applying for positions in a working language other than English.
Stay optimistic but you need to be realistic. You may not land your dream job, and many internships are unpaid or underpaid. You will face linguistic barriers; in other words, “No German, no job.” If you haven’t arrived in your destination country, employers may be more hesitant to consider your application. However, it’s important to remain positive and apply for everything that interests you—you may be surprised about your results.