We all have a list of dream destinations we hope to visit someday. Imagine the thrill of experiencing new cultures, touring sites you’ve only seen in pictures or trying the unique cuisines. Life in another country is intriguing to many young professionals but often seems unattainable due to what appears to be a lack of job opportunities or concerns with an international lifestyle. What many young professionals don’t realize is that international opportunities all over the globe are available and can accommodate their career ambitions, all while fulfilling their aspiration to travel and see the world.
Many of the communication skills developed in public relations are vital to international business, government affairs and nonprofits abroad. What may have seemed like a pipe dream is now more accessible, thanks to a variety of opportunities in different international fields. Organizations worldwide are looking for aspiring professionals who can make a difference on a global scale.
Students can open their eyes to PR careers abroad by understanding the opportunities available and skills required to work in their dream destination.
“With a little bit of practice under their belt and knowledge of the new world of communicating, aspiring professionals can be called upon for their talents to work for international organizations,” said Jim McQueeny, a board member for the International Public Relations Association and liaison for organizations to the United Nations.
Experience isn’t everything.
Some professionals assume they need to know another language or have lived in a foreign country in order to do PR work abroad. However, English is the best asset for international PR professionals. Many employers seek professionals who are fluent in English to be able to connect with other countries and global organizations, as English has become the most widely utilized language among professionals and companies. For those looking to add a foreign language, there is no better time to start learning than now, and it could lead to more opportunities down the line.
“PR is changing from the traditional world of press releases, and is morphing into a world of targeted communications,” said McQueeny. “PR professionals must be able to manage and fulfill more complicated tasks than have been expected in the past.”
A large part of International PR is the ability to adjust campaign goals, publics, and relevant messaging based on the culture and location of your campaign. Research and monitoring are key skills in understanding the culture where you work and developing cultural competence as a professional. If you already have experience with some part of the world — whether it be through your ancestry, studies or travels — use that to your advantage. As we all know, PR is about people, and understanding the people around you is key to becoming successful when doing work abroad.
Scale up your skills.
Staying up to date on new communication methods, current events and the cultures of different countries is essential to work abroad. You can never be educated enough.
Writing and content creation are also incredibly important. You can get practice now by preparing content on relevant international topics and world events.
As McQueeny stated on the topic, “Read, read, read. Read about technical communications, world and political topics, innovations in the PR field and how to better communicate in the modern world.”
International public relations work relies upon the same skills you develop in your program and internship opportunities in the states, but only with global goals and objectives in mind. For those who haven’t completed internships and jobs outside of the US, it might require an adjustment, but by staying on the forefront of the industry and understanding your company’s mission, it shouldn’t be difficult to develop the skills for this kind of PR work.
Find your fit.
Government organizations are a common path for many PR professionals to work abroad. As national leaders strive to improve their relationships with citizens and other countries, there is a great opportunity for skilled individuals who know how to build bridges through communication.
For example, the United States Department of State has a large internship program and many opportunities in communications and PR. Other communications opportunities in government can be found at usajobs.gov, and can lead to future opportunities in public affairs and diplomacy. Becoming a diplomat is a great option for those who wish to apply PR skills in managing relationships with government officials and world leaders.
Global businesses and international PR firms provide another path abroad, offering positions in PR, government relations, international affairs or corporate communications which are located in offices all over the world. Typical job databases such as LinkedIn, Indeed, Handshake and Glassdoor have options to select a location for your job search. The default location is often set to where you currently live, but there are many opportunities in other countries to be found by allowing international or remote options to show up in your search. The PRSA Jobcenter also has international listings from time to time.
Non-government organizations have also become an incredible option for global PR. International organizations such as the United Nations, UNICEF and other global entities have internships and jobs in communications for those who wish to build bridges between the nations of the world. The United Nations is associated with over 5,000 NGOs located all over the world that hire PR professionals. If you are thinking that you want to get involved with these organizations, do your research and apply now. Starting off with a summer internship could lead to an international career, which can take you to places you never could have imagined.
“Don’t wait to get involved in these organizations even if you have school. Volunteer, as it helps you know if this is the right path for you. Act now,” said McQueeny. “NGOs are expanding exponentially, and PR professionals can be used to fill the gaps and assist government organizations.”
The world is your workplace.
Imagine finishing a day of work preparing content for an upcoming global campaign, and then grabbing a bite to eat in downtown Barcelona, making a stop at the Eiffel Tower on the way home, visiting a neighboring country for a weekend trip or creating friendships with people from all over the world. These are all possibilities that come with international work. While it is a unique path for PR professionals, if it suits your interests, there are plenty of opportunities to spend some time abroad and hone your skills as a PR professional on an international scale.
Clark Stuart is a Senior at Brigham Young University, currently serving as Chapter President of BYU PRSSA and double majoring in public relations and russian. Originally from Las Vegas, Clark loves anything to do with sports, trying new sushi restaurants and traveling abroad. He is passionate about writing and making an impact through communications and hopes to work in international relations. You can connect with him on LinkedIn for further discussion.