In April 2012, the Associated Press reported that 53 percent of recent college graduates were either unemployed or underemployed, which means that they were working a position that did not require a bachelor’s degree—something they’d just spent tens of thousands of dollars securing. The financial burden on new college graduates is staggering. Not only must they now begin paying off their student loan debt, but without grants and loans to sustain them they must also find a job that pays enough to support them. With more than half facing low odds of being able to accomplish all of this, it’s not surprising that so many are looking abroad for job opportunities.
The International Job Market
The U.S. Census Bureau doesn’t currently track the number of Americans living and working abroad. That makes it difficult to get a handle on just how many job opportunities there are. A 2009 Newsweek article found that about 25 percent of recent Wharton MBAs were working abroad, a 9 percent increase from a few years earlier. That may not give us concrete numbers but it certainly indicates that going abroad is a popular option, in part thanks to the increase in international job opportunities.
In a 2012 Chicago Tribune article about the global job hunt for college graduates, an expansion of English lessons in primary schools all over the globe was mentioned as causing an aggressive need for ESL instructors, making teachers of English one of the most in-demand jobs globally. In fact, one website, which offers to match potential teachers with jobs, lists anywhere from 700 to 1000 ESL job openings each month, but that’s not the only industry experiencing growth. From tourism to transportation, technology and finance, industries all over the globe are on the rise—even in some extremely unexpected areas. According to Business Day Live, Sub-Saharan Africa is the home of one of the fastest growing mobile markets having had, since the year 2000, an annual growth rate of 40 percent.
It’s Not Just About Jobs—It’s About Spending
While a job is obviously going to help any recent college graduate support himself and begin paying off debt, that’s not the only benefit being provided from broadening focus to international employment opportunities. The aggressively reduced cost of living in some areas can cut a graduate’s monthly bills so much they may be able to get out of debt faster than their U.S.-employed equivalents. But an international worker can only get out of debt if she maintains an equivalent lifestyle to the one she’d have at home, so that the difference between the cost can be applied to paying off debt. Unfortunately, some college grads working abroad give in to the allure of living a swanky lifestyle at the same cost they’d live their normal lifestyle at home, thereby netting no savings for cost of living and making no big dent in their debt.
Not an Easy Road, Just a Different One
It’s not easy for everyone to move away from their social network and family to another country where they may not even have a firm grasp on the language spoken. And just because you get a job, that doesn’t mean you’ll actually like the work you have to do. While some graduates are lucky enough to love every aspect of their move, there’s no guarantee that you’ll feel the same way which is why it’s important to have a plan to maximize the benefits of living and working abroad.
Having the international job on your resume can improve your chances of finding employment once you come back to the states, but it’s not a guarantee which is why having a plan to pay off debt and save money by exploiting the difference in the cost of living is vital since that could create an adequate cushion for you to find a job stateside once your international contract is over.
You must also consider the need for proper insurance while you’re abroad. That doesn’t just mean health insurance, but also international life insurance. International life insurance is especially important for those individuals who had their parents or other family members cosign on student loans or auto loans since that debt doesn’t get erased after your death.