In our university, we are constantly encouraged to go on international trips, take a semester abroad or just broaden our horizon in general. Why are these things important in our journey to a prospective career and what else does a company expect of you? We had an interview with Simon Doedens, Manager M&A at KPMG Corporate Finance, to get an idea about international experience.
Recruiting new employees
What do you look for?
Regularly, Simon has interviews with applicants for an internship or permanent position. During these interviews, he is looking for the two most important things: is someone knowledgeable and/or is someone willing to learn. He mentions that sometimes at KPMG they have candidates who do not have a financial background, but if they are eager to learn, KPMG is happy to employ them. On top of that, it is obviously important that someone should be a nice person to work with and fits within the team.
According to Simon, international experience is not a prerequisite, but it is definitely a plus. He believes that international experience can really add to your personality, as you are outside your comfort zone where you have to adapt to a different environment and arrange a lot by yourself, such as finding accommodation and making new friends. He says that these things add to your ability to work independently.
We asked Simon about the relevance of certain things you can do abroad: is traveling experience enough, what if you go abroad to learn a language? He answers that nowadays almost everybody has been traveling abroad at some point. It is the new way of having a vacation. However, if you learn a language, do volunteer work or study abroad, you do more than just go on holiday, you aim to develop yourself. We asked him about the distance of the international experience, to which he replied that distance does not really matter, every country is different and has elements from which you can learn.
What if you are unable to go abroad?
As mentioned before, going abroad is not necessary for getting a job. However, it is important to develop yourself. A year in the board of your study association, or joining other study-related initiatives are thought of as very relevant and valuable experiences.
If you do want to go abroad, but you do not have the resources, there are a couple of things you can do. Simon suggests you could work abroad, which allows you to make money while you are in a different environment. He also mentions that many large companies offer international internships and pay enough for you to have housing and food.
Simon’s experience in Paris
Simon has recently been to Paris to join the KPMG M&A department for six months. This experience allowed for a stronger relationship with the Paris office.
During his stay, Simon was able to learn French and see how French people do their business. He noticed that even though France is rather close to the Netherlands, business-wise some things are done very differently compared to the Netherlands. This broadens your horizon and your view on the world.
Did you feel like an outsider or did you blend in?
Simon says that the team over there was really great, but he also experienced some differences in how the Dutch and French interact socially: ‘The Dutch are very open from the start, whereas the French are more to themselves and reserved, giving you a more difficult time in making new connections. But I have also experienced that when you do have a friend, they’re very inclusive and they trust you regardless.’
Now that you look back on it, what do you think about your time abroad?
Simon looks back at the experience in Paris as very valuable, where he learned a lot: ‘Definitely a time I will never forget.’