How career breaks are winning the job game for international graduates

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Published on 2024-06-10 at 10:00 by Asaël Häzaq
Long considered a significant drawback, gaps in a CV are gradually becoming more accepted in the international job market. Championed by young foreign talents and increasingly accepted by employers, career breaks have become a new trend. Young professionals are taking time off to find a better position, whether locally or abroad. How do international job seekers justify their choices, and how do employers react?

Career breaks but with conditions

Are young workers becoming more relaxed about their careers? According to sociologists, they have a different relationship with work than their predecessors. For them, the company is not a “second home” for which they would sacrifice their well-being. Instead, they see it as a structure they can use to shape their dream job. To build their ideal work environment, young people no longer hesitate to leave their company, stay unemployed for a while, take a career break to move abroad, seek a job in another country, train, learn a new language, or explore new activities.

However, this “uncomplicated unemployment” only applies to graduates and young professionals, relying on two essential factors: a good degree and financial security. Governments have understood the new expectations of foreign talents. This phenomenon has gained momentum since the health crisis. Some countries, such as Germany, Belgium, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Austria, offer job-seeking visas targeted at graduates.

Justifying career breaks with foreign employers

Is there no risk in voluntarily staying unemployed to find work abroad? How can one justify a gap on the CV to employers? It's believed that a CV with gaps isn't appealing, and this idea persists in the international job market. However, young graduates are increasingly questioning linear career paths, especially. They no longer hesitate to defend their vision of a professional career, different from that of their predecessors.

These young professionals, ready to give up a good job to secure a better one abroad, do not act impulsively. They understand the international job market situation and the value of their degrees. They are aware of immigration reforms in several countries and the competition among states to attract foreign talent. Reforms tend to facilitate the immigration of graduates and highly qualified foreigners. Fields like finance, IT, marketing, new technologies, robotics, construction, and the environment are in high demand for qualified professionals. Certain specialized professions, particularly in environmental sectors and artificial intelligence, are highly sought after internationally. This is an opportunity for job-seeking graduates in these fields.

Their confidence is understandable. They do not operate in sectors heavily subjected to competition but are sought after by companies. These young people also have another advantage: they often use their unemployment period to gain skills in other areas. Young expats know how to highlight their pause time to foreign recruiters even when not engaged in an activity.

Foreign talents highlighting the "CV gaps"

“After five years of study, I took a six-month professional break to analyze my career path better and take the time to develop my next professional project. This break is beneficial not only for me but also for you. The health crisis showed how much mental health preservation should be defended by companies…”

This is the type of statement young people no longer hesitate to make to justify their career breaks. They are aware of the potential of their CV and their degree. A six-month or one-year gap will not make them less appealing. But what about new graduates entering the international job market each year? Don't young professionals who have been job-seeking for six months or a year fear being overtaken by others with more recent degrees?

Again, the answer is no. Young professionals emphasize the quality of their degrees and highlight their professional experiences. Having worked for a recognized company in the host country and/or having carried out assignments sought by the employer increases the CV's value. Young professionals also rely on their network: former classmates, contacts made during an internship, a trip abroad, or a volunteer mission. Some job opportunities are not found in the primary job market (visible job offers on the Internet, for example) but in the secondary job market (internal offers).

How do employers perceive this new approach to work?

In their race for foreign talents, employers are willing to make sacrifices to retain the best candidates: higher salaries, remote work, corporate health insurance, end-of-year bonuses, etc. They know that foreign talents have their expectations and will not hesitate to join a company offering better benefits. They do not necessarily seek a higher salary; they also consider the quality of the work environment and atmosphere, the balance between professional and personal life, and the well-being within the company.

However, some companies note that these young professionals “who do not have any complex about unemployment” sometimes seem unsure of their choices. They want “everything right away,” which can be a challenging equation. Nonetheless, employers know that returning to the old ways is unlikely. Advances like remote work are now part of the work organization. To attract foreign talents, companies have no choice but to try to adapt.

Useful links:

Germany: Jobseeker Visa

Belgium: Extend your stay after studies to find a job

UAE: Jobseeker Visa

Austria: Jobseeker Visa