Work Placements Abroad

You don’t have to stick to these grey shores when it comes to doing an industrial placement. In fact, many universities are happy for you to look for a work placement overseas, and, believe us, there’s a whole glut of opportunities out there. So let’s throw caution to the wind and consider a placement on foreign soil.

Why do a placement abroad?

Doing a placement as part of your course gives you the double whammy of work experience and education. Industrial placements are fantastic for boosting your employability, and doing your placement abroad can also bring other desirable traits to the table, such as language skills and experience of working in another country.

As business is becoming increasingly globalised, these are important things to have on your CV, and they might just give you an edge over other candidates. Plus, living and working abroad is a real test of your independence and confidence.

However, finding a work placement abroad is a whole different ballgame. You’ll have to be prepared to put extra effort into the whole process. After all, you’ll be dealing with different languages, different application processes, and perhaps even visa complications if you’re planning to go outside of Europe.

Where can I do a placement & how can I find one abroad?

The most obvious place to go is Europe. With an EU country, there won’t be any complications about visas. Also, if your placement is under a year long, there’s the added bonus that you’ll be able to apply through Erasmus, meaning you’ll be eligible for an Erasmus grant, which will help you with your living costs.

Most employers will expect you to have a certain level of language proficiency; although some companies will offer placements in English-speaking offices, which can make things easier. Regardless, it’s a good idea to achieve a basic proficiency in the native tongue before you go out there.

Alternatively, you can look for placements further afield in places like China. This might be a more expensive option, as you’ll have to handle the admin fees of getting a visa, the extra cost of travel and the fact that you won’t be getting an Erasmus grant. That said, once you’re out there, living costs might be significantly cheaper; although your wage is also likely to be smaller too.

So where can you find placements abroad? A good tip is to look at big multinational companies in your industry and see if they’re offering placements in their overseas offices. You can find some of the biggest companies in your area by browsing our list of graduate employers.

Alternatively, there are some established organisations, like IAESTE or AIESEC, that specialise in arranging work placements abroad for students. You could try your university’s placement officer or even send off some cheeky speculative applications. Check out our find a placement article for more advice.

Finally, if you’re doing an industrial placement as part of your course, then you’ll need to check that the placement is relevant to your degree and your university approves of the placement.

Will I be paid?

You should be paid for your industrial placement abroad; however, it won’t be a huge amount. You’ll usually earn around £15,000 for the year.

Applying for placements abroad…

You should treat your application for a placement as seriously as you would for a graduate job. It’s worth spending more time on fewer applications and really tailoring them to each individual company, rather than churning out generic applications for hundreds of placements.

Before applying, you should have worked out what employers are looking for from applicants, and how you can fit the bill. You’ll also need to be aware that companies in other countries will have different expectations. So make sure you’re clued up on the application process for that country, e.g. how you should structure your CV and how they normally assess candidates.

The golden rule is to tailor your application for every company and make sure you back up your assertions (e.g. “I’m a great problem solver”) with evidence. For advice on how to write an international CV, how to write a covering letter and how to complete an online application form, check out our careers advice section. Book an appointment with your careers service and go over your CV and covering letter with them too.

All in all, be prepared to apply to plenty of companies and only get a few responses. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback when your application is unsuccessful. This can help you find out where you’re going wrong.

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