Young Americans: we are entering an age of unprecedented danger and opportunity.

The American workforce has been radically and permanently changed. Jobs that could have been taken by millions of Americans have been outsourced to China, India, the Philippines, and elsewhere. A lot of these positions being outsourced are being sent off because, somewhere out there, someone else is willing to do it cheaper, faster, and potentially better.

These jobs are never going to come back home.

Simultaneously, there are millions of unfilled domestic positions because the current workforce is not equipped with the right skill sets to perform these functions. You are not going to send an unemployed baker to go fill a Python developer position in Silicon Valley. An abundance of open positions does not necessarily mean that they can be filled with the jobseekers available in the market.

We have become commoditized. We are not valued or needed at home.

Don’t take it personally. It’s a matter of supply and demand.

This problem is structural and is not going to be fixed by politicians. This is a massive and unprecedented crisis. However, it is also an opportunity of the same scale and scope. We must understand that for every job we outsource to some other location, there is an opportunity available for one of us elsewhere.

Where are the opportunities? Let’s analyze the situation. 

These operations are being outsourced. Who will manage them?

If you have managerial experience, you have very strong prospects in your immediate future. With your skills, knowledge, and experience, you can pick and choose among opportunities in a wide range of places.

Are you a graduate without much experience? In 10 years, as American companies become increasingly reliant on their foreign operations and target markets, who will they rely on and trust to oversee their projects abroad? Someone who has never ventured into these countries? Or someone who has proven themselves competent in that target market by building work experience there from the start?

In 10 years, you will be thriving in your exotic outpost while companies frantically outbid each other to gain your knowledge, skills, and experience.

It’s already happening. The writing is on the wall. How will you position yourself to take advantage of this historic shift?

Instead of competing in a stagnant market where you can be easily replaced, seize opportunities in a dynamic market where you are unique and indispensable.

In every possible aspect, every country is becoming increasingly dependent upon the rest of the world. As such, the people who get a head start and familiarize themselves with one or several foreign lands will be at an immense advantage in both the short term and long term future.

“Career Hack, your ideas are absurd. There is no way that the world can accommodate millions of Americans going abroad to seek opportunities.”

You severely underestimate how big the world is. Americans comprise a mere 5% of the entire world’s population. Young Americans are not getting hired in the US because the skill sets they have to offer do not fill any demand that currently exists in the domestic market.

However, innate talents and abilities that we take for granted are desperately needed overseas. There is a ravenous and growing demand for English teachers globally. As incomes grow in emerging markets and parents fight for a better future for their children, the demand for educators in every conceivable subject will rise accordingly. We can be valuable there.

Silicon Valley is hyper-saturated with developers and designers looking to make the next “paradigm-shifting, photo-sharing, geo-tagging, mobile social network for hamsters, iguanas, and ninjas”, in the slim hopes that they will sell their project to Google for several billion dollars.

What is far less known is that there are angel investors scattered throughout Asia, frantically searching for worthwhile investment opportunities besides real estate and noodle franchises. Countries like Singapore and Chile are aggressively investing in government-financed startup incubators and expedited-visa programs for promising entrepreneurs. Jim Rogers suggests that you check out Myanmar and China.

There are endless amounts of entrepreneurial opportunities available abroad. You do not have to reinvent the wheel. Countless Americans are finding success by emulating proven business models from the US in foreign markets. Emerging market economies, by definition, are not as developed as developed nations. Thus, there is a demand for products and services that we take for granted in the US. We can be valuable there.

Only a negligible percentage of these opportunities are listed online. The vast majority of them are promoted and spread on a word-of-mouth basis by people who are already on the ground and in the know. You just have to book your ticket and show up.

Once you hit the ground, you can carve a niche for yourself. You will craft domain expertise in a geographic region, market, language, culture, industry, and opportunity abroad. You’ll be our eyes and ears.

With this unique domain expertise, you will become a Citizen Ambassador.

As a Citizen Ambassador in Kenya, you can share with us the significance of the rise of mobile payments in Africa as a primary means of transaction, as well as the opportunities that lie therein.

As a Citizen Ambassador in Beijing, you can be engaged within Chinese social media platforms such as Sina Weibo and be at the front lines of the development of China’s surging tech sector. Using this domain expertise, you can inform us about how we can best create e-commerce strategies for doing business in the Middle Kingdom.

As a Citizen Ambassador in South Asia, you can set up web-based platforms to provide microloans to single mothers in Bangladesh and India. You will build us the means to radically transform another human being’s life with a click of a button on our smartphones.

Thus, like our common pioneer ancestors, we must prepare to launch ourselves into the unknown. We will seek shelter from the storm. We will pursue that hope, that opportunity, that chance for a better life – over that horizon, beyond the frontier, where we can craft an extraordinary life for ourselves and leave a legacy for our grandchildren. 

Through the unique and legendary experiences we craft abroad, we will set the stage for an American Renaissance. We will inject fresh new ideas into our economy. We will learn new languages and forge strong relationships. We will realize that these “foreign devils” have much more in common with us than the media allows us to believe.

Case by case, we will start to collaborate with our new connections abroad. We will see how we can work together as individuals to implement change, rather than waiting for politicians to do it for us.

The frontier is out there. It’s just over the horizon and waiting for you to blaze a trail and seize opportunities for yourself.

Then, as a Citizen Ambassador, you will show the rest of us how you did it. You can share your pictures through social media. You can blog about your experiences. You can set up companies that take on young Americans as virtual employees and interns, helping them pay off their student loans and gain meaningful work experience.

You will build the road that the rest of us will someday use to follow you in your footsteps.

Those that follow you will be confident in putting their best foot forward. You built the road for them. You erected the bridges. You’ve marked where the bears might attack us. You’ve designated where we can find food, water, and shelter. The next wave of Americans venturing out there will know that they can do it too. You will become a role model for the rest of us. We will rally around your story and your cause.

Citizen Ambassador, this is your call to arms. Will you blaze the trail that the rest of us will follow?


  • Pingback: Manifesto – The Case for an American DiasporaCareer Hack | Career Hack()

  • This sounds great and after I studied abroad in China, I also bought into this idea. However, I would caution new grads from rushing off to China, Burma, or Argentina. The US is a great place because we have the rule of law. Without it, most entrepreneurs would get screwed. China is extremely corrupt. I know a few people that have “made it” from nothing, but there are a lot of great entrepreneurs who also have been swallowed up by the local power brokers (http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/politics/mark-kitto-youll-never-be-chinese-leaving-china/)

    How corrupt will you become to grow your business? Sure, you can start a small English school in Beijing or Shenzhen, but after a while, if you get too big, someone will start asking for cash….there’s value in being the local “trusted” guy or starting Burmaconnection.com, but as to whether that is better than waiting in line at Google, I don’t know. At least in the US, you don’t get food poisoning…I am not a bitter, cynical has-been entrepreneur-rather, I am trying to show that “that international road” has a lot of hidden landmines…..

    • Michael Park

      Thanks for the insights Trey, we always appreciate veteran expat entrepreneurs dropping in. We’ve been hearing increased reports and articles about expat entrepreneurs being disillusioned by China lately. There is no truly golden path and there are indeed hidden obstacles waiting for all of us abroad. Our next article in the Manifesto series will focus on this particular aspect of crafting a life/business/career abroad – the dark side.

  • I’ve been thinking about this article all day. I do fit your description of citizen ambassador: I’m an American who has worked overseas for five years (4 years in China, one year in Chile.) I’m incredibly grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had. I’ve explored lots of different places and industries and met lots of interesting people.

    My main doubt with the idea of citizen ambassador is whether the “locals” see you in that way. If you’re an English teacher, especially in a place with few foreigners, you’re definitely a citizen ambassador. But in other roles, you’ll definitely be negotiating with other cultures on a day-to-day basis, but I’m not sure how much this ambassadorship is valued.

    In my experience as an expat, both in China and in Chile, people get burned out within 5 years and professionally frustrated at approximately two levels above intern level. As (my good friend) Trey mentioned in the previous comment, colleagues and partners, especially in more corrupt places, will get suspicious of you if you get too powerful. An extreme example of this is Neil Heywood, the Brit poisoned by Gu Kailai in China. But very regular people inspire suspicion in the course of working in other countries.

    I think there are a few ways to get around this as a long-term expat.

    1) Marry a local. This way locals can trust you more, and you are more connected with local culture (and learn any number of cultural details that might be hard to learn any other way.) A friend of mine, who happens to be a highly qualified environmental engineer from Australia, got super frustrated at the lack of respect she got in her Chinese office, especially as she got to the middle-management level. Her boss was a Canadian guy married to a Chinese woman who had the unspoken cultural connections to maintain the respect of the team.

    2) Get sent from headquarters on an expat package. To do this you need to work for many years in the headquarters of a big company that is making a big investment in a certain country. This option is out of reach for most twenty-somethings, especially since multinationals are sending fewer expats on such packages than perhaps 10 years ago,

    3) Become an entrepreneur. This is an option that many long-term expats go for. If you have an import/export business (I know a girl who imports larger-size bras to Chile…) or a service business (translation, design, etc.) or a local shop or restaurant, it can definitely be viable. But, as Trey said, there are definitely hidden landmines in this route (bureaucracy, corruption, difficulty in finding partners, etc. etc. etc.)

    All in all, I think working abroad is a fabulous opportunity to get ground-level experience in emerging industries and markets. It’s a fabulous way to make friends from all over the world, and I have so many great stories from my experiences.

    But I don’t think it’s the answer to the US’ unemployment problem. I can’t think of any American who is financially better off from working abroad than from getting a job at home.

    Whew, this comment has gotten super long! I look forward to continuing this conversation 🙂

    • Michael Park

      Thanks for dropping in again Leslie. Thank you also for bringing up your points. These are things that needed to be addressed or clarified upon.

      My main doubt with the idea of citizen ambassador is whether the “locals” see you in that way. If you’re an English teacher, especially in a place with few foreigners, you’re definitely a citizen ambassador. But in other roles, you’ll definitely be negotiating with other cultures on a day-to-day basis, but I’m not sure how much this ambassadorship is valued.

      When we use the term “Citizen Ambassador” we use it mainly in the context of Americans going abroad and then contributing the experiences that they have back to other Americans. We weren’t using it in the context of representing the US while we are abroad but more in that sense that we contribute valuable insights to people back home who can use the information in some meaningful way. Hence the analogy to building bridges, finding food/water/shelter, etc. We also use this term as an ambassadorship in the unique and narrow niche that we have carved for ourselves in our new locale.

      A former client of mine is working directly in both the social media and the mobile technology landscape of China, a juggernaut market that is very different from our own. He is building unique insights and information that will be useful to us. His colleagues and clients consider him a foreigner with solid domain expertise in this field. The unique experiences that he is building will be mutually beneficial to both China and Americans, but especially Americans. As this market grows in importance to us, we will need people who can provide us with reliable, timely, and trustworthy information and strategies about using these platforms. It’s not important (in our eyes) that Chinese society at large finds him valuable. He is valuable within his unique niche that he has carved for himself, and the community therein. He is a Citizen Ambassador for Chinese social media and mobile technology.

      An connection of mine is immersed in several startup ventures in Singapore that are funded by local venture capitalists. He has first hand knowledge of how the tech scene is developing in South East Asia and has spoken at several conferences, despite his relatively young age. He has built a strong network among the VCs and powerful government/academic institutions. The chicken rice vendors at the hawker stands probably consider him some random foreigner. Yet, he is valuable and an ambassador within his unique niche that he has carved for himself. He can tell us about how raising capital works in Singapore. He can introduce us to the right people. He is a Citizen Ambassador for the niche of SE Asian Startups.

      It’s possible that there could have been a better term than “Ambassador” which admittedly implies a two-way exchange of information. But hey, “Citizen Ambassador” sounded cool in my head 🙂

      I briefly contemplated the term “Citizen Informant” but that sounded much more sinister.

      But I don’t think it’s the answer to the US’ unemployment problem.

      In regards to the US’ unemployment problem – we are not framing international careers/entrepreneurship as a definite/absolute “one-stop” solution to the employment problem in the US. You are correct – it is not and never will be the answer to this behemoth challenge. That problem is structural and won’t be solved by a mass exodus of Americans. Rather, we are addressing this as a solution to a wide range of individuals who have the ability/will to make such a move.

      Both of us know scores of twenty/thirty-somethings who came to Asia/LatAm/MidEast as English teachers or interns, and are now thriving in roles with companies in a range of industries. Many of them have also carved out a niche in entrepreneurship abroad. While internationalization won’t provide a one-stop solution to the employment problem, it can help out thousands of people at a minimum.

      I firmly believe that at least 1 million Americans could find opportunities abroad in the following areas:

      EDUCATION

      -English Teaching – demand is ravenous and will only grow, friends of mine teaching in Thailand/Taiwan/Korea/China confirm that the demand far outstrips the supply.

      -Teaching in other subjects – science, mathematics, languages, humanities – in public and private schools and universities – for people with domain expertise (English is not the only subject in demand out there). Friends and acquaintances of mine in my extended network in Seoul, China, Taipei, Bangkok, and Singapore are fully tenured teachers/professors in disciplines ranging from Sociology to Finance.

      NON PROFITS/NGOS

      -Non-profits
      -NGOs
      -US Chamber of Commerce abroad
      -Volunteer work

      NATIONAL SERVICE

      -Embassies/Consulates
      -Peace Corps
      -Military

      PRIVATE SECTOR

      Fortune 500, Corporate world
      Banking
      Management Consulting
      Marketing
      IT / Tech
      Research
      Retail / Consumer Products
      E-commerce
      Import/Export
      Engineering
      Law
      Energy
      Mining
      Agriculture

      ENTREPRENEURSHIP

      Possibly the best opportunity of all of these. Highest risk and highest reward. Unlimited upside potential. Again, huge risks. Nobody is denying the obstacles, challenges, and risks involved here. But there is no “quota” on entrepreneurship in the world or opportunities therein.

      With the advances in technology, it is easier than ever to build a business anywhere in the world with nothing but a laptop and very little capital:

      http://www.amazon.com/The-100-Startup-Reinvent-Living/dp/0307951529

      This can be as simple as becoming a freelance designer/developer or as complex and lucrative as creating a groupon clone in Korea.

      Humor me. Let’s say that 1 million Americans can go abroad and seize these opportunities.

      1 million Americans removed from unemployment isn’t the final answer or solution to this problem. But it certainly is a step in the right direction.

      I can’t think of any American who is financially better off from working abroad than from getting a job at home.

      We know scores of Americans who are better off financially from working abroad than staying at home. It’s our mission to connect with them and have them provide a blueprint for those back at home who are wondering how to expand their options.

      Here are some of them:

      http://careerhack.net/doing-business-in-colombia-nightlife/

      http://careerhack.net/startups-in-brazil/

      http://www.fightpassport.com (Canadian)

      http://careerhack.net/how-to-be-a-lifestyle-entrepreneur/

      http://www.thrillingheroics.com

      http://careerhack.net/jobs-in-beijing/

      http://www.postmasculine.com

      http://careerhack.net/jim-rogers-interview/

      • Thanks Michael for your response. My original comment sounds more bitter than I might have intended. The last few weeks have been super stressful: 3 jobs, school that’s become more demanding than expected, and visa trouble! The visa trouble, in particular, makes me question whether all this is worth it, on a half-year or yearly basis, depending on the length of the visa.

        The ideas of Americans going home with new ideas and experience from abroad makes a lot of sense to me. I am researching this in a Chilean context (Chileans studying abroad and then having better opportunities when they return to Chile) for my class. I blogged a bit about it here: http://www.leslieforman.com/2012/08/needfinding-for-the-global-citizen/

        I think an important point to make is that this is a desire that drives these global citizens, not a guarantee that better opportunities will appear upon returning home. Both you and I know that you’ve got to hustle for and build the best opportunities 😉

        Your friend who’s been working in social media in China might be able to advise American VCs on investments in China or the use of Weibo and Baidu and Renren and Taobao and all those other Chinese sites. That’s a perspective that could be incredibly valuable.

        One goal of mine is to figure out how to be better compensated for my unique familiarity with China-Chile trade and other niche fields. I’ll let you know when I find a better answer!

        I have been invited to speak at a bunch of events in Chile, and have on several occasions been treated to plane tickets, hotel rooms, and nice dinners, which is awesome. And on these trips the organizers emphasize my connections with Silicon Valley and China and how this perspective can help Chilean students think bigger.

        I’ve gotta run. Thanks for providing some more food for thought. I think it’s great that you’re sharing this information with the next generation of aspiring global citizens. It’s definitely not an easy path, but it’s one that can set you apart in so many ways.

  • Pingback: Interview with Parag KhannaCareer Hack | Career Hack()

  • Pingback: How to Capitalize on Outbound Chinese Tourism and Investment - Career Hack()

  • Pingback: 5 Reasons Why Americans Should Live Abroad - Career Hack()

  • Pingback: 5 Reasons Why You MUST Study Abroad - Career Hack()