Why it matters and how to maximize it.
If you’re going abroad to travel, study, teach English, any or all of these things, networking abroad might not be the first thing on your mind. However, ignoring networking opportunities abroad or letting them pass you by could cost you tons of potential contacts and connections. You definitely want to emphasize networking abroad and make sure you make the most of it.
Networking abroad is an incredible opportunity to meet unique people that can help you while abroad, when(if) you return home, and in other ways that you can’t even imagine. Half of the joy of traveling is seeing a new place. But, in my experience, equally as rewarding is the people you meet while traveling. It’s easy enough to simply meet other foreigners. Cultivating relationships and sustaining them the into your network takes a bit more effort. But it’s so worth it. Follow my tips and you’ll be networking like a crazy. The only catch? You have to be willing to do some things alone! (This is actually my preferred way of traveling and networking, they say that life begins at the end of your comfort zone, right?)
Bring professional business cards.
Bringing business cards when traveling may seem random because you’re probably not, well, working at a business. But! Those little papers are excellent tools for networking abroad. You may be leaving your business cards with your old company’s name and your old job title behind, true. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have a lot of professional value to offer! While abroad, are you volunteering? Are you blogging? Are you publishing journalism pieces? Are you teaching yoga? Are you freelancing? The list goes on and on of important descriptions to include on your business card. I’ve also included some templates at the bottom of this post.
Business cards are better than simply exchanging Facebook names or WhatsApp numbers. Do you know how many other people they’ve already done that with on their trip? Likely countless. Relying on that method of networking will result in your name in their phone as “Stacy, pool” or “Ben, England”. Let’s get real for a second, you are not the only person they’ve met at the pool, or from England. You need to stand out. If you have business cards, it’s mathematically proven that people are 934059348 times more likely to put a face to that card than they will to a screen. And of course, the card will contain actual useful information about you. They’re just the way to go.
I have a range of templates for abroad business cards in my Travel Resource Library, for which you can sign up (for free!) below.
Search out Co-work Spaces.
Can I just say that I love co-work spaces? Abroad or home, they’re such an awesome way to meet like-minded, motivated people. Just being in them inspires me to hustle and work harder. Finding one abroad is a great way to return to that sense of identity. Not only do co-works spaces promise you’ll meet those hustling hard-workers, you’ll additionally meet other foreigners to connect with. Bonus! You’ll be networking in no time at these spaces and will be in awe of how these connections help your time abroad. These spaces also often have weekly happy hours or events, so you can network in more casual settings, too.
If you’re looking to go abroad to volunteer (as I’m currently doing), these spaces are especially great for nonprofit networking. You’ll find they often host small public interest companies that can’t afford an office yet. Those are excellent connections to make as their budding companies could grow with you, or you with it! If you can’t find a co-working space, this is an excellent article on how to start your own.
I have a thorough resource sheet of how to find co-working spaces abroad in my Travel Resource library, which you can sign up for below.
Keep your LinkedIn game strong.
Just because you don’t work at a company with an official logo anymore does not mean you’re not doing plenty to boost your career by traveling. Are you learning a new language? Contributing to a website while abroad? Collaborating with other businesses while abroad and marketing for them? All of these are valuable, LinkedIn-worthy skills. Keeping this updated will help you find people that are interested in what you’re learning as you’re going. People can find you both while abroad and when you return home on LinkedIn. I honestly didn’t start incorporating my LinkedIn into my abroad mix until more recently, and am realizing I should have sooner. The articles that cover LinkedIn on by Regina’s blog were very helpful for me in seeing what I was missing out on.
Find local companies owned by expats.
While abroad, you’ll likely find restaurants, bars, shops themed of a different culture, thrift stores, and specialty stores owned and run by expats. Even if the exact store doesn’t perk your interest, meeting the owners and hearing their stories are great ways to network. Plus, other expats are also likely to hang around these restaurants and bars, so your opportunity for meeting them too becomes much more accessible. These are stationed foreigners that you can foster relationships with while you’re staying in that location, seeing them over and over. This is much easier than fostering relationships with the traveling couple sitting across the aisle from you at dinner. Capitalize on the opportunity by scouting out stationed foreigners! Plus, they’ll be able to tell you what restaurants really are best :).
Don’t be afraid of networking abroad in “vacation” settings.
Traditionally, networking advice will advise you away from networking at bars, parties, pools, and other social scenes. Networking is for your career, so logically networking should be done in a professional way. Well, I don’t listen to that advice at home and I certainly don’t listen to it abroad.
Personally, I’ve found the best way to meet people to have been out and about, even if it means a drink or two is involved. People are more relaxed in these settings, and networking can come more naturally here than in a forced setting. I also think that what makes networking in social settings different abroad than at home is that when abroad, you’ve already got something in common with those you’re talking to. You’re both traveling abroad, are both interested in that part of the world, and you’re proving you’re pretty brave by traveling. In contrast, it’s harder to be taken seriously when networking at home in the sea of other happy hour-goers.
This one may be more advice for myself than anyone else reading this, but the truth is I’m just terrible with names. Always have been. Improving that skill has been on my to-do list for the longest time now, but somehow just keeps getting pushed down. That is UNTIL I came abroad. Remembering people’s names, and especially going the extra mile and (…wait for it…) call them by their name when conversing, goes a long way in networking abroad. When you meet people, make a point to remember their name and where they’re from. Stand out from the sea of travelers they’ve met and engage with them in a genuine way. Remember, learning about other people’s cultures and how they act as a product of those cultures is 50% of the benefit of traveling!
For more in-depth information on these tips and specific resources to make them happen, sign up below. You’ll get access my entire Travel Resoucre Library. This includes the networks I use to find co-working spaces, how to use social media to network abroad, and business card templates. See you in there!