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Dublin: 14 °C Wednesday 1 October, 2014

Column: Emigration is not all a sob story – it also has major benefits

While emigration can be sad, living abroad also exposes a person to new cultural challenges that can benefit them both as a person and as an employee, writes Amy Bracken.

Amy Bracken

EMIGRATION HAS RECEIVED nothing short of horrendous press in recent years, with numerous reports focusing on the numbers of young Irish people leaving the country and the finger being pointed at the economy and the government for this. But the reality is that young Irish people have emigrated temporarily for years, and the benefits of being an emigrant, both in personal terms and in terms of employment, cannot be underestimated, whether you go for work, study, or merely to travel.

I moved to London just over a year ago and I have come to leaps and bounds in that time as a person, and as a member of the work force. I have learned valuable skills I never knew I could learn by living away from Ireland. Additionally, both at home and abroad, as someone who has lived in another country, you instantly become a more attractive candidate for work, as upping sticks and leaving your life to experience something new is held in extremely high regard by employers.

Long-term benefits

Living abroad exposes you to new cultural challenges, which in the long-run benefits you both as a person and as an employee. Moving to a new country and mixing with colleagues there, as well as being incentivised to make new friends, helps you expand your social skills, making you much better at connecting with people, despite your different backgrounds.

Additionally, by experiencing new methods and societies, and listening to different experiences, it leads you to reflect on your own background and compare the pros and cons of how things are done in Ireland, so that you become more efficient at your work overall. As an emigrant you become better at comparisons, questioning and analysis. A broader, global mind makes a better employee and a more attractive candidate for a job.

Living abroad also makes you more accustomed to overcoming hurdles, especially homesickness. A candidate with proven experiences of overcoming difficult hurdles is instantly a more attractive candidate for a job. I live in London, so something I don’t benefit from, but many young Irish emigrants do, is being exposed to a different language. Employers, especially those in business, love to see an applicant who can comfortably speak more than one language.

Home and abroad

The benefits of emigration, where employability is concerned, applies to getting work both at home and abroad. I once spoke with a recruitment agent from New Zealand, who said that Irish candidates are very attractive for him because he feels there is “something about a person who moves to the other side of the world that singles them out.” From a personal perspective, my employers were very impressed that I have moved to London to gain experience and I think it has definitely improved my job prospects here.

When emigrants return home, the same applies. Employers simply love to see a candidate who has experienced something different and doesn’t stick with the status quo. As well as the benefits mentioned above, if an employer in Ireland receives 100 CVs from graduates with the same degree, but just one of those CVs has international experience, then that candidate is going to stick out in the mind of the employer.

Personal Development

Of course, there are many other reasons why spending time abroad is a fantastic experience. I think the mere fun and adventure elements of it all stand out for me, but perhaps where the benefits are most recognised are in the field of employment. Employers recognise that work experience, especially when obtained in another country, teaches much more than a classroom or lecture theatre will. As an emigrant, you learn to re-assess where you come from and really learn to value things about it. You are also incentivised to keep up the ties and friendships with home, thereby improving your social circle.

In an increasingly multicultural and connected world, spending time in another country helps prepare you or a future of interconnecting cultures, thereby strongly increasing your employability. Perhaps more than anything, however, it is an extremely enjoyable and transitional experience that will change your life, but in a brilliant way.

For every sad emigration story, there are many positives, and given how easy it is to communicate with those back home, perhaps it’s time emigration (a reality in today’s Ireland) was portrayed in a positive light in the media.

Amy Bracken is originally from Co Meath and moved to London in 2012, where she works as a TV researcher and journalist.

Read: Canada could outstrip Australia as top destination for Irish emigrants
Read: Social Protection dept sends letters to Irish unemployed about jobs… in the UK
Tánaiste: Taxation is not the reason for emigration ‘brain drain’

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