Why You Should Consider Working Abroad After Graduation


toryGuest post: My name is Troy Erstling, founder of BrainGain. Throughout my life I’ve visited over 20 countries and I’ve lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Seoul South Korea, and now Bangalore, India. These last five years of traveling have changed my life in countless ways, and I can confidently say that seeking out international opportunities has enabled me to carve out a unique path in life. I believe that traveling is the greatest form of education, and it is my passion to help others do the same. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to live and work abroad. The idea of traveling the world and getting paid to do it has always appealed to me and making a career out of it seemed even more appealing. After graduating from high school in Manalapan, NJ I moved across the country to The University of Arizona in Tucson to obtain a degree in International Studies.

My junior year of college I had the opportunity to study abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was my first time out of the country and it was a reckless adventure filled with steak, yerba mate tea, wine, paragliding, a pathetic attempt to learn Spanish, and some of the greatest nightlife on earth. I made lifelong friends that I travel with to this day. It was the greatest study abroad experience I could've ever asked for.

During my time there a friend told me about Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Turns out, if you are looking to get international experience and work abroad, this is usually the best way to get your foot in the door. I was sold.

After graduating from University I made it my sole mission to get a teaching job abroad. I stayed in Tucson for an extra 2 months to get my TEFL certification and I began researching the best destinations to teach English.

I eventually came across South Korea; paid round trip airfare, housing, medical insurance, attractive salary, and $2000 severance pay. Compared to the other options it was a no-brainer. I searched for jobs on websites like Dave’s ESL café, and within a few short months and a long visa process, I had my job and a one-way ticket to Seoul.

I spent the next year in Seoul, South Korea teaching English to 7-year-old kindergarten students. It was amazing. I got paid to act like a child all day and teach my kids about Michael Jackson and The Beatles. I was able to save around $10,000USD (roughly about $1000/month in savings), and had three amazing trips to Thailand, Taiwan, and the Philippines for my vacations. It was an unforgettable experience, but I knew I didn't want to be a teacher for the rest of my life...

Around the time my contract in Korea was winding up, I reached out to a friend of mine whom I met while studying in Argentina. He had also been teaching English, but in Spain instead. Turns out, he was no longer in Spain and had been living in India for the past ten months on a fellowship in Social Enterprise.

I looked up the fellowship and it seemed like a great way to transition my career while continuing my pursuit of creating a career abroad. It was a win-win. There were 20 days left to apply, so I submit my application and hoped for the best.

At that point my options were to take the fellowship, and if I didn’t get in go backpack the world. Win-win, but one seemed better for the overall career.

I was accepted to the fellowship and placed in Bangalore, India. My friend from Argentina also successfully applied for the position of Field Coordinator and was placed in Bangalore as well!

For the next year I lived in Bangalore, India studying entrepreneurial ecosystems in Southeast Asia with The National Entrpreneurship Network and worked for one of India's most promising startups, Zoomcar.

Throughout that time I had a lot of people reaching out to me about working abroad. I had friends from the US reaching out to me saying, “I’m 3-4 years out of school, I still do 200 cold calls a day, my job doesn’t give me responsibility, I would love to work abroad…what are my options?” Then I also had friends from South Korea who would say to me “I want to continue working abroad but I don’t want to teach English anymore…what are my options?”

One day it dawned on me that if you want to work abroad after graduation, your options are limited to teaching English and volunteer work. Trustworthy career relevant opportunities are few and far between. But here I was, living and working abroad with one of India’s most promising startups. I felt that other people would want something similar.

With that in mind I quit my job and made helping people find jobs abroad my full time job. I approached startups and social enterprises in Bangalore asking, “Would you be interested in hiring talent from abroad?”, “What positions are you currently having a hard time hiring for that you feel someone from abroad might be able to fill?”, “What are you willing to pay these candidates?”, etc.

Six months later I started my first company, BrainGain. I have lined up 15 companies in Bangalore, India that are looking to hire everything from sales and marketing, to design, to tech. Early stage startups that are Seed or Series A funded and are willing to provide fresh graduates with more responsibility than they are able to handle.

It is my first serious entrepreneurial plunge and I couldn’t be more excited to do it. There is nothing in life that I am more passionate about, and nothing that excites me more than to help others find ways of exploring an international career. When I get on a phone call with someone and tell him or her about the ways that they can live and work abroad I feel like I drank a double espresso. It’s invigorating!

As I write this I am on a train to Boston to speak at Harvard University. To think that 5 years after my travels have began I would be back in the states speaking at universities inspiring students to travel and work abroad absolutely blows my mind. I couldn’t be happier with where my life has come throughout that time.

This is a field I foresee myself spending the rest of my career. It is something that I will dedicate myself to for years to come, and I couldn’t be more excited to watch my life unfold in this sector. It is my niche.

Guest post by Troy Erstling @troyerstling


The Power of Perspective: How Shopping for a Mattress Changed Me


Image from Flickr Creative Commons - JD Hanncock - Little Dudes  

I learned something the other day.

I didn’t learn an interesting fact about another country or how to work some new software program. I learned something about myself, about my job, about my future; it wasn’t life changing but it was important…and that’s what matters. I learned about the power of perspective.

You see, I spent the larger portion of one afternoon at work, not answering phones or responding to inquiries or managing a guest list like usual, but doing research on a mattress. Where was it cheapest? Who had it in stock? What was a comparable mattress to the one we wanted? Do they offer free delivery? Pillowtop or firm?

It was exhausting, annoying and tedious. Not to mention, it wasn’t exactly a cheap mattress and since my employer was supplying this mattress to a white collar employee, it was frustrating, given my current pay grade…

I digress.

After hours of searching and contacting random salespeople at mattress factories and outlets in my state – a surprising amount, actually – we finally made the purchase (got it on the cheap, too!) and scheduled the delivery.

“This is not what I went to college for!” I thought, angrily. It was task work – monotonous and lacked autonomy – and I wanted nothing to do with it. I was unhappy. Dissatisfied. Done. But I did what was asked of me with a smile on my face while I died a little inside with every phone call and “View the Collection!” click. I was ready to go home and complain about how irritated I was with this chore.

Upon leaving, though, I felt no sense of anger, no frustration. Sure, I didn’t go to college to end up purchasing mattresses for my boss’s boss’s whoever. Sure it was a pain in the ass and sure it wasn’t exactly in my job description. There’s the “other duties as assigned.” Thanks, HR. But I got the job done and after I was able to look at it from a different perspective, I realized that from this task alone, I gained a lot of hands-on work experience and helped many people in the process. I learned some skills that could be applied in many other ways at work and in my personal life. Who knew?

The power of perspective allowed me to understand that this task wasn’t about ordering a mattress, it was about learning key life lessons:

The Early Bird Gets the Worm

I contacted tons of salespeople regarding this mattress. In some cases, I got representatives from the company who directed me to another representative, in some cases I got directed to another store, and in some cases, I heard no response. In one case, however, I received an immediate email response from an actual representative. Throughout the afternoon, as I asked question after question, she responded promptly and in full. Ultimately, we purchased the mattress from her. She provided answers, fast…and that was just what we needed.

Lesson Learned: If you have the time, take the time. If you don’t have the time, make the time.  You’ll see results. This doesn’t mean that rushing is the answer. Crafting the perfect cover letter takes time but missing a deadline eliminates your chance at getting noticed. Also, stay connected in your field, network with thought leaders and people in important roles. Sometime down the road they may launch a new project and request your help as a reliable, prompt colleague.

Customer Service is Key

When I called one company, the phone directory prompted me to press 7 for the bed and bath department. The representative who answered, however, was not in this department and forwarded my call to what he thought would be the mattress department. I was greeted by a woman whose accent was hardly understandable and ultimately asked me to “check online.” This was a complete turn off as a customer. The woman from whom we purchased the mattress never once sent me a copied/pasted email. She was prompt, friendly, and informative. The originality was refreshing.

Lesson Learned: People want a personalized experience, not a computer-generated message. As it pertains to your job search, don’t copy and paste the same cover letter over and over again while simply swapping out a few words. When you’re pitching an idea at work or applying for a job, your audience – be it a recruiter, coworker, boss – are your customers. You are selling them something and they deserve a meaningful, efficient experience.

Research Leads to Success

If our office purchased the first mattress I found in the collection and style we wanted, it would have cost us nearly $1,500 more than what we spent for the same thing. After researching, though, I was able to find similar mattresses, similar brands, and lower prices.

Lesson Learned: The internet is a beautiful, beautiful thing! Research changes the game. You’ll never know what’s really out there unless you do the research. If you think you’re an expert, look harder. Limiting your job search to job boards and google searches is unacceptable with today’s technology. There are blogs, forums, all kinds of online communities and networks available as resources for your job search. Knock down some doors, find out who the real gatekeepers are for a job and company that gives your life purpose. Find a contact, find an email and get going.

Assistants are Assets

Ordering a mattress is something my bosses cannot be bothered with. They have so much on their plates…and then some! As their assistant, it is my duty to make their lives easier, even when it means typing “mattress companies in my town” into Google. At the end of the day, I am paid to assist in whatever they need and I know that by completing this task, they are able to check one thing off of their to-do lists and I know they appreciate that help.

Lesson Learned: Assistants make the world go round! Leaders: appreciate your assistants and show it. Assistants: reassure your leaders you are there for them, no matter what, by doing an excellent job. Remember, being an assistant isn’t something to be ashamed of. We all have to start somewhere. Assistants, because of their in-depth involvement with leaders, their schedules and their contacts, often have the upper hand when climbing the organizational ladder. If your search isn’t going as planned, consider taking on an assistant role for a company you respect, as it will be a foot in the door and a chance to network with key contacts.

By taking a different perspective on a menial task, I was able to shift my attitude from “screw this” to something that was a benefit for me: “my job is important.” That’s the power of perspective, ladies and gentlemen. Plenty of articles out there bash millennials, the economy, the job market. So it’s time to take matters into your own hands. Take on a different perspective than these articles; take on a perspective that enhances positivity, hope and determination.

Networking: Like a Boss!


Patty Rivas, a health/fitness blogger at Reach Your Peak, Social Media Strategist & Graduate Student at Rutgers University read the Social Media Week "Skip Your Career Fair" post and took the advice seriously. Now she's eager to tell you her experience, advice and how she networked like a boss while in NYC. This voicemail below is also a result of guidance, developing Patty's skills and finding her niche working with me. Enjoy the post! - Kevin O'Connell

Two weeks ago, I rode into New York City to attend some Social Media Week events. I had no idea what to expect, but I was really excited that a bunch of events were free. There are bigger events that do charge, or you need to purchase a pass for, but luckily, the events I attended were free of charge AND awesome!

I started my day at Likeable Media, which was my favorite event of the day. Their event was called “Social Media Strategy in 30 Minutes.” I actually got on the list for this event (it was full) because of one of The Niche Movement’s tips, which was if an event is closed out, simply email the creator of the event. I figured I wouldn’t get a response or if I did they would just say, “It’s full, sorry.” The Marketing Director of Likeable Media emailed me back within minutes saying she had put me on their list!

"I immediately thought of The Niche Movement, and what they preach: Go places other college students aren’t going."

Once I walked into their office, I immediately thought of The Niche Movement, and what they preach: Go places other college students aren’t going. This event was the perfect opportunity to network with Likeable Media employees (if you’re looking to get into marketing and social media marketing). Everyone was very friendly and open to questions. If I were a student looking for a job, I’d network, get some business cards, and follow-up for an informational interview.

The next session was a panel discussion with founders of companies like Tumblr and Buzzfeed. While this would have been a harder event to network at (since there were hundreds of attendees), the founders did stick around after the session to mingle with attendees. Also, think of who is going to these events…other like-minded people like you! Everyone is there to network and meet new people.

The last session was yet another great networking opportunity. While the session was based on building apps, there was great discussion revolving around social media as well. Two start-up founders led the event, which was capped at about 15 people for a smaller feel. This also meant you could mingle with the founders afterwards and ask them questions about apps, business, or how to create your own start-up company. I was able to get contact information for both people and have since followed up with them.

When you think of “job search” you may think of career fairs, or looking through Be creative with it! Find events like Social Media Week which often have free events or student discounts. Browse to find business or entrepreneurial related Meetups in your area. People go to those events with the intention to network, so don’t be afraid to go and get your name out there! If you follow the tips The Niche Movement provides, such as ditching career fairs, you will find the job of your dreams…one in which you’re happy and fulfilled.

Patty Rivas, @pattyrivas13 a health/fitness blogger at Reach Your Peak, Social Media Strategist & Graduate Student - Rutgers University

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I'm a student leader graduating soon.

If you are reading this and are a college student or a recent graduate within the last two years think about the type of company culture you want to be a part of. Apply to be part of the first Niche Movement Cohort where we will work with your niche and discover employers that have jobs that you want. Applications due March 10th.  

I work with student leaders.

If you are reading this and work with student leaders that you want to help land a job they love then share The Niche Movement with them.

I already found my niche and want to tell my story.

And if you happen to stumble upon The Niche Movement and you already found your niche then share your story. Or we can help you recruit top, talented college who by helping you create appealing job description, screen candidates and host internships or jobs on our website.

5 Must-Have Tips for the Modern Presentation


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Regardless if you are presenting at one of the upcoming national conferences, running a training for your students or holding a workshop at your institution these 5 tips are mandatory for the modern presentation. These quick tips will link you to all the resources, how-to’s and teach you how to take your presentation from good to great.

Tip #1 - Invest in a presentation remote. I can’t tell you how many times we have all sat through presentations where the presenter stands in the corner of the room using their pointer finger to advance to the next slide. Here is a list ranging from $15-$60+. I recommend the Targus for about $30 and if you want to spend a little more for features like scrolling and audio controls then invest in this Keyspan by Tripp Lite.

Tip #2 - If you are co-presenting here are a few suggestions. Split yourself on each side of the room and as you each have important points to make walk to the middle or back of the room to keep the audience engaged with you - “work the room.” Also, create a spreadsheet: 1st column number down for every slide you have. Then put a short title or subject of each slide in the second column and in the third column put the name of the person presenting that slide. Memorize it and color code it. Print it out and put it somewhere visible in case you get lost. Here’s an example from a recent workshop we did on Creating Engaging Social Media Content for the Maryland Student Affairs conference.

Tip #3 - In Apple Keynote you can add presenter notes and you can also set up a “current slide” and “next slide” that will display on your macbook so you don’t have to read off paper, notecards or the screen behind you. You can even choose to have time remaining - it’s a perfect way to set up a confidence monitor in your room. Here is a great short and detailed version of how to set it up. Also, bring your own laptop, get to the room at least 15-30 minutes early and set up your laptop to practice. Bring extra batteries, small speakers and your own macbook adapter if needed.

Tip #4 - DON’T USE BULLET POINTS! Now for those of you already getting away from bullets and powerpoint or keynote templates...thank you. For those of you who have not made the transition yet, it’s like removing a bandaid: you have to do it quick and it will be painless with a small learning curve. This summary from a one sheet I created for my “Rethink Your Next Presentation workshop” will quickly give you resources, books and 5 Apple Keynote tips.

Tip #5 - If you do have a handout, it should be no more than one page front and back and pass it out at the very end. The handout should not be your slides because if created & presented right, your slides are useless without you speaking to them. If you do want to share them upload them to Speakerdeck or Slideshare prior to your talk, create a customize link and add it to the one sheet or to your live presentation so the audience can go back to the office and view them, especially if you have specific examples on your slides you want to share.

These 5 tips are certainly in-depth and take courage to try but believe me it is worth it. If I can help now or in the future please do not hesitate to contact me and you can view a few of my recent slidedecks I uploaded to slideshare. Happy conference season!

Kevin O’Connell, Founder - The Niche Movement

Bring the Niche Movement to Campus to meet with students, staff or host your next workshop, keynote or training.

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Download The Niche Movement's Guide to Slide Design