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International corporate volunteering: export adventures

Catherine Chavrier - French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Paris, France - 19 February 2016

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In my eyes, international corporate volunteering is a crucial step in a career in exports. This experience will be valued by future employers and will reassure the candidate of their ability to adapt to environments very different from French society.

International corporate volunteer is now widely known amongst businesses, including the smallest ones. There are, moreover, variations of international corporate volunteering with time sharing, whereby the volunteer can work for two or three businesses of a similar size. This is a fairly common approach in regions where the economic fabric contains many SMEs.

From the point of view of candidates, the announced goal of 10,000 volunteers in 2017 across all sectors should meet the expectations of many young people who fail to find an international corporate volunteering position.

For businesses, volunteers are real recruitments!

There are certain obstacles that can reduce the number of potential candidates for a position, such as the language or requirements of the host country (China, for example, requires that the volunteer work at least two years in France before seeking to work in the country). Indeed, countries are very selective of these new arrivals who, at the end of the day, take the place of their own job seekers! They therefore have to demonstrate real “added value” for the development of the host country’s economy, and not merely for the French company.

I believe that it is important to remember that small, medium and intermediate-sized enterprises seek such profiles to “sound out” a market, before “creating” a business once they have properly identified potential for their activities. Experience as an international corporate volunteer can thus sometimes be frustrating and littered with pitfalls, but also a real “emancipation” – we need genuine “adventurers” to support our exports!

A rare experience for candidates, and a foot in the door for an international career

Above all, this experience of expatriation is very enriching for volunteers and is, in my view, crucial for a career in exports: adaptation to a foreign culture and way of life is the basis for a very special personality capable of negotiating and doing business with cultures around the world.

And let us not forget that many volunteers, following their 24 months of placement, choose to settle down in the country they have discovered, either to work for a local company or a French subsidiary, or even to set up their own business!

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