What travel means for students and new grads in the current job market


What should students and new grads have in common with the ancient superhero Achilles? Mobility. Especially in times of recession, being mobile will give you an edge.

I haven’t personally gone backpacking in Europe or done an exchange program, mostly due to financial limitations, but my exposure to mobility comes from living and attending schools in different parts of the world. The lessons I have taken to heart from these experiences are to learn to adapt and be persistent in my pursuits.

I find it puts employers at ease when they know I’ve been independent for some time now and I’ve had the survival skills to make it through all my relocation choices.

Canada is the perfect country to move around in

Another dimension of being willing to relocate is that it opens up many more doors. In an April cover story in BusinessWeek, Peter Coy describes the recent crisis of the housing bust and how it has resulted in decreased mobility for employment purposes. Not being able to sell a house due to fallen prices stops some eligible candidates from pursuing jobs in different locations.

However, this is not a problem for freshly minted grads. Within Canada for instance, many cities, such as Calgary, were not as hard hit by the recession as some of the cities in southern Ontario or the Maritimes. Why? Not only does Alberta have a separate provincial fund to ride out recessions, but energy companies tend to have healthy cash reserves to survive and even invest in times like these, compared to the debt-heavy manufacturing industry which has to cut jobs and close factories.

The lesson here is that when one door closes, another opportunity is bound to open up elsewhere. But we have to be mobile enough to take advantage of those opportunities.

International experience gets students and new grads jobs

Beyond coping with recession, showing you have the ability to adjust to new cities and different cultures makes you stand out from the crowd of potential employees. This has been my experience when interviewing for jobs during my last semester of school.

During the second round of interviews at a multi-national Fortune 500 company, I observed that every candidate had international/relocation experience of some sort. Whether it was through a co-op/internship position or an international exchange, everyone had exposed themselves to new places.

In an increasingly global economy, exposure to working with people from different parts of the world is a necessity. Having previous exposure to different locales will definitely put your employer at ease. Additionally, it can help the conversation flow during those stressful recruitment or networking events.

So, how can you get this experience?

Simply living on campus may showcase your ability to adapt to a new situation.

Exchanges and internships are obvious options, however, they are highly sought after and most students do not get the opportunity to do this.

In lieu of that, you may opt to volunteer or work abroad, or nationally. There is a plethora of options out there and a little bit of research or browsing through the articles on this site may point you in the right direction.

So, go ahead and explore! The world is your oyster.