Tragedy of Millennials? International opportunities can transform lives

In a thought-provoking piece for the FT, Sarah O’Connor described how Millennials are too insecure to push for a raise. She suggests, by way of example, that two decades of uncertainty in Japan has instilled fearfulness and risk-aversion in the nation’s youth. O’Connor adds that many young people have bent over backwards to persuade anyone to give them a foothold:

In the US, the proportion of college graduates working in non-graduate jobs rose to 44 per cent after the recession.

In the eurozone, about 40 per cent of workers aged 15 to 29 are in temporary jobs that typically provide little training or progression.

But can the same be said of workers with international experience? An excellent report by the British Council (disclosure: I used to work for them, but I had no involvement with the making of this report) called A World of Experience reveals, among other stats:

  • 85 percent of those studying or working abroad for 3 months or more, or travelling for more than 6 months, described themselves as confident in their ability to meet new challenges
  • 82 percent of individuals with international experience were confident in their ability to adapt to new and unfamiliar situations
  • Respondents with international experience were also slightly more likely to describe themselves as resilient
  • Over half of those with university-level experience abroad (53 percent) reported that it helped them to get a job that interested them

Others agree. Writing for The Guardian, Felix Marquardt recognises that “young people are hurting and they are hurting on a global scale”, and warns of a generational crisis. The answer? “We need people to move.” He even suggests a global youth work visa that allows young people to work for up to two years in the country of their choice.

Finally, I can attest that grabbing opportunities abroad can be beneficial, as an expat with several years overseas experience. I’ve heard of an English-language teacher in China (teaching English can be well-paid, and there is demand) learning Mandarin, making connections and becoming a project manager. Imagine their value in the global labour market now!

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