Importance of an international experience as a career booster

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Importance of an international experience as a career booster

Why international experience is considered relevant within the legal discipline?


Experience in international topics is not something that has evolved very recently but has developed steadily since countries started interacting with each other through bodies such as the UN or by way of commercial trade and investment. More recently international careers have started expanding in their scope through competition law, intellectual property, refugee law and climate change topics.

International experience in law is sought after not only by international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) but also multinational enterprises and international law firms which operate through different jurisdictions across the globe. It can also be considered as an essential criterion in academia whilst applying for teaching or research positions in topics that bear relevance in specialized topics within the fold of international law.


It therefore goes without saying that international experience that involves not just study or work but also a bit of travel can greatly help lawyers or students look for any valuable experience, give them a leg-up in their careers and obtain the appropriate exposure. Some may wish to seek international experience to expand on their existing practice and knowledge in a particular area of law while others may have the urge to explore new topics to chart out a career path for themselves. A third category would consist of people wanting to pursue further research and writing on an international topic.


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Let’s first look at the several pros that arise from having an international experience which could help you develop and build on your future career options. Then we will consider how you can utilize the experience to explore opportunities specifically within the EU.


How can international experience help?


1. CV booster


Several aspects of your international experience could be taken onboard when job applications are under consideration. Some of them could be:


  • Prior experience of working in an international environment
  • Language skills: knowledge of Spanish, French or German are preferred choices
  • Experience of research and analytical skills being demonstrated through past experience
  • Specific regional expertise in a particular area of law and policy
  • Relevant practical experience



2. Widening your network


An international experience can expose you to events within regional networks where you can find common ground to discuss international topics and identify your niche within a particular area of work. This could include field-activity through an NGO or as an intern at a regional bar association. This can also be done by going to seminars or attending events to participate in discussions relevant to your area of expertise. Such activities can enable you to widen your network and look for career options where possible.



3. Acquiring specialist knowledge


By working in an international law firm for instance, you are exposed to different kinds of practice areas and are able to absorb the varying degrees of expectations that arise from giving legal advice to multinational clients. You may take up the opportunity to intern at a law firm in a different country or work in an NGO. Such exposure can give you a taster on how such entities operate and help you decide on whether you would see yourself working with them.



4. Expanding on your research skills       


For those who are looking to pursue legal careers in research or the academia, international experience can be very useful in developing on your research skills and knowledge. By working in a different jurisdiction you can access the local research database and interact with legal scholars giving you the opportunity to improve on your own approaches to your research topic. By interacting with other research colleagues you can be updated on the latest trends in legal research that can supplement the skills section in your CV.



Relevance of international experience in pursuing a career within the EU


If you were keen on pursuing a legal career within the EU in law firms, EU institutions or NGOs, then having international experience can be a huge advantage given the following factors:


  • EU is a key participant in international affairs and has been in a position to lead on policy on issues including international trade, human rights, banking, environment, maritime affairs, etc. Its decision-making capabilities through its institutions have led to establishing soft law principles that have direct application at the international level.


  • If you hail from the EU and have some international experience, then you would also have knowledge of languages such as Spanish or French that could boost your chances in getting a job at the regional level.


  • If you possess knowledge in a certain area of international law owing to your international experience, then you are likely to have the ability to quickly grasp issues at the EU-level and are in a better position to counsel on policy and implementation.


  • Your network through civil society colleagues can give you the opportunity to reach out to common interest groups within the EU and develop further contacts.


  • Using your international experience, you can apply to EU institutions relevant to your area including roles within the European Commission – based in Brussels (Belgium) and Luxembourg, Court of Justice of the European Union – based in Luxembourg or several other places.


  • Depending upon the NGO you applied to within the EU, demonstrating expertise in a relevant area through international experience could show long-term commitment to the issue, making your profile more visible.


  • Public international law courses attract students from around the world each year. After students complete their degree in this discipline, they are encouraged to take-up short-term positions or internships in INGOs/NGOs or work as consultants. Some may end up applying for scholarships to fund their research work whilst others may choose to volunteer and gain some skills before applying to full-time role.