Ten ways to find a year abroad work placement
We know that for your year abroad work placement you are looking for: 1) a salary which will support you to live abroad, 2) a job which includes something more interesting than photocopying and coffee-making, 3) an opportunity to develop your language skills, and 4) a CV boost. That's fair enough! So you need to 1) forget the words 'work experience' and 'unpaid internship', 2) think positive and remember you have a lot to offer a company, and 3) up your game. Here's our advice...
1. Trawl the job boards
Job hunt on foreign job sites like a local would (in your target language), or on English job sites, like an expat would (you will still be developing your language skills, inside or outside work). It's an exhausting, time-consuming process, so set up Google Alerts to help you out. Get your CV and Cover Letter up to scratch, and be prepared for a Skype interview, employers mostly want to meet you face-to-face before confirming anything.
2. Apply speculatively
Decide what sort of company you would LIKE to work for, consider how they would benefit from hiring you (You speak fluent English! You understand students! You can use social media! You're bilingual! You already have relevant work experience! etc.) and then apply to them speculatively. Write to an individual in the organisation (no 'Dear Sir/Madam' please), personalise your letter/email, and show them how you could help them, what you could bring to their organisation (perhaps they only trade locally, but you could get them business from your home town?), and why they would want you, even though they're not currently advertising any opportunities. Think outside the box.
3. Approach global businesses
Find companies with a UK office and a branch in your year abroad destination, speak to them here first - get an interview if you can - and enquire about min. 3-month placements abroad. This shows focus and determination, especially if you would like to work for them after you graduate.
4. Ask your home university
Your uni will have already have contacts with particular companies who recruit year abroad students. Take time to apply to some of their opportunities, as the process will be a lot easier if they're already familiar with the Learning/Training Agreement they will have to sign.
5. Consider working for a startup!
There are all sorts of new businesses out there which need your help, and many have significant funding too. Check out local or national Startup Awards, and see if you can offer something to the business - perhaps you represent one of their target audience, or you have excellent social media skills, or you speak fluent English! These are valuable skills for startups!
6. Do something different with your CV*
*Warning: this would only apply to creative industries. It is unlikely to be appreciated by a European Institution, bank or insurance firm.
7. Try au pairing or tutoring jobs
If you find a job opportunity with a low salary (or an unpaid internship) which you would REALLY like to do, then consider accepting the job on a part-time basis and supporting yourself through other means, like au pairing (€100+ per week, with FREE accommodation!) or tutoring (research local rates, but you could get €20+ per hour). Your new employer will understand if you need to make money elsewhere, but you will still be learning the relevant practical skills, while getting invaluable practical work experience abroad.
8. Try a publicity stunt!
Why not?! It's worth a shot!
9. Exploit your network of contacts
This means so much more than friends of your parents. We're thinking friends of friends of friends, friends of your school friends' parents, old teachers of your old teachers, etc. Really get the word out that you're looking for a job in a particular country or city, write to your old school - perhaps they could include it in a newsletter? Post "I'm looking for a job in..." as your Twitter or LinkedIn profile, and then follow interesting businesses. Get creative!
10. Go abroad and job hunt on the scene
If you want to be a bit more hands-on, then why not go on a job-hunt mini-break to your year abroad destination this summer? Arrange interviews in advance, and then spend 3 or 4 days meeting people, handing out your CV, setting up your billboard (...). It will help you get to know the city before your placement starts, people will help you and point you in the right direction, and it will push you to be proactive - and if you go with a friend and treat it like a competition, then it could actually be quite fun!
Last, but not least, remember to start searching as early as possible so there are still lots of jobs available! (In many cases, you will be replacing current work placement students whose jobs end this summer). Good luck!
For more information about job requirements, check out the Erasmus Work Placements Guide.