August 11, 2022, by Jackie Thompson
Top Tips to Make Your Overseas Career Dreams a Reality
By Brydie Youngman Ornelas, Communications Specialist, Genentech, USA
BA Jt. Honours English and American Studies with International Study Abroad, 2018
A large part of my decision to study for a BA Joint Honours degree in English and American Studies at UoN was the opportunity to study abroad at a North American university. Little did I know how much this experience would shape my life and my career, and I now live and work in the USA.
My year abroad literally changed my life
My exchange at the University of Florida was academically rewarding, but it also transformed my personal life in unimaginable ways. The opportunity to travel led to an incredible chance encounter with my now-husband in a Washington DC hostel. I was also diagnosed with a chronic illness and had a dramatic 17-day hospitalisation in Florida which overwhelmingly altered my life. This profound experience opened my eyes to the intersection of politics, private business, and health in the US and inspired my final year dissertation topic, as well as my future profession.
Finding my niche
At UoN I joined a variety of societies that fuelled my various interests and developed my transferable skills. Joining the Sustainability Society activated my ambition to contribute to a more sustainable future, while my time as Publishing Director for The Mic magazine gave me invaluable creative media experience. Combined, these societies motivated my decision to pursue an MSc in Sustainability after graduation, so I could gain the technical expertise that would support a communications career in sustainability.
As I wrapped up my masters, I made the bold move to join my partner in a small town in West Texas, USA. Naively, I wasn’t expecting the search for entry-level sustainability communication roles to be so challenging, and I hadn’t considered the market for these roles to be so location-specific (research industry locations before you go!). When you move to the US, your UK work experience and references are less meaningful to employers and I encourage anyone looking to relocate to volunteer with an international organisation, or a local one once you move, to build up your international network and reference list. I started volunteering at an Adult Literacy Centre in my community while I applied for jobs, which gave me current experience for cover letters and interviews.
A humbling lesson from moving to the USA as a new graduate without a job is the prevalence US employers place on internship experience. Organisations across the country have programs to provide students and graduates with professional experience, which act as a stepping stone to full-time employment. If I had been better prepared, I would have explored American internship options as an undergraduate to streamline the transition to the US job market. Instead, I felt behind – but I didn’t relent!
The second year of the pandemic opened up remote opportunities from all over the country and I applied for a Sustainability Communications Internship at a revered biotech company based in San Francisco, California (hello, dream job!). When I got offered this role that integrated my passion for communications, sustainability, and US healthcare, it felt like the stars were finally aligning, even if it was only a three-month position.
Falling into place
I thrived in the role and my contract was extended to a full year, then this summer, my department created a specialist position for me. Now, I create content for a newsletter that reaches over 12,000 employees, develop executive leadership communications, shape organisational sustainability narratives (I just led our company-wide Earth Month campaign!), and even contribute to materials used by the global network. I hope to continue to develop my craft in communications to support innovative campaigns for a sustainable future and look forward to seeing where in the world my career will take me next.
Top tips to make your overseas career dreams a reality
2. Get work experience in any way, shape, or form throughout your studies and after. I waited until my final year to undertake formal work experience and I wonder what opportunities I could have created for myself had I engaged sooner! Moreover, going for a short-term internship is how I landed a long-term position.
3. Volunteer for causes that inspire you; you’ll develop your skills and expand your professional network, especially if you’re looking for your first professional role or a career change.
4. Don’t give up! Don’t let rejections deter you: there’s something even better just around the corner. Read our blogs on coping with rejection and moving forward.
If you’re looking to work overseas after your degree, visit our working abroad webpages. Log in to Passport Career, an online careers information database for working in 80+ countries and job vacancies. Need some advice along the way? Talk to one of our advisers by booking an appointment.
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