How to get a job and move abroad
With each passing decade, the world gets smaller and smaller. The distances that divide us have shrunk through leaps in transportation technology, to the point where around the world in 80 days is a leisurely jaunt, not a feat of mankind.
Because of that, our ideas for what’s possible have changed too. Now, you don’t need a large, international moving company to transfer you across the globe in order to work in another country – although it helps. There are more and more people who are specifically making the choice to work abroad.
It’s still difficult to do, but it is absolutely possible. Once you decide that is what you want, all that’s left is the where and how. Now, we can’t help you out with the ‘where’ of it, but we definitely can with the ‘how.’
Narrow down your search
The first thing you need to do is focus on a section of the globe, or a specific job field you’d like to work in. Once you have that, you can narrow down based on different immigration and work laws, common jobs for expats in the area, as well as certain companies hiring in the area.
While it may seem like it’s easier to be open to a lot of job opportunities in different areas, it can sometimes make it harder to land an opportunity that is a good fit for you. By focusing, you can direct all of your efforts into a dedicated search.
Employers abroad don’t want to hire someone who is only looking for a convenient job to move abroad – they want to hire someone who will also be contributing to the workplace meaningfully. No matter where you are, you still have to work in whatever environment you land in. That means you’ll be spending a significant amount of time at that job, and it can have a big influence over your international experience.
Make an educated and thoughtful choice, even if it takes a little longer to make it happen.
Research, then research again
Research doesn't just mean skimming through a travel guide for the country you're planning to work in.
Once you have focused on a specific country (or countries), do your due diligence when it comes to that country’s immigration, tax, and healthcare policies before making any commitments.
There are some countries that make it easier for foreigners to work than others, and you may decide that the opportunity isn’t worth the hassle and financial cost to you.
According to HSBC Expat, the top countries to work include Singapore, New Zealand, Germany, Canada, and Bahrain. Switzerland is the best country to live abroad if you want to make more money — the average expat salary is $202,865.
On the other hand, it can be difficult to get through the immigration process in countries like Greece, Australia and Sweden.
You need to strike some balance of where you want to work, where there are opportunities for you, the pay you’re willing to accept and the ease of entry into the job market. It can be tricky, but it’s absolutely possible.
Tap into your network
If you studied abroad in the past, or even previously worked abroad, be sure to use any resources that your school or former employer has to offer. Even if you didn’t study abroad, see if your alma mater has a global alumni network that can aid in your job search. Reach out to your LinkedIn or Facebook network and see if anyone can be a good resource – either in securing a position with a foreign company, or in giving you helpful information to aid your search.
You can also utilize Facebook's job-finding feature to hone in on job openings in your desired destination.
Connect with a community of ex-pats
This is an area of life where your friends and family (and even friends of friends) may not be able to guide and help you. You should try to reach out and connect with people who know the path you’re about to travel and can give you helpful hints and tips. There are websites to help people who want to live a more nomadic lifestyle, like InterNations or Expat.com. You should even look into websites for travelers that can be helpful as well – including The Matador Network.
By speaking with people who have experienced this transition, you’ll have a knowledgeable source for any questions you may have. It will also open your eyes to aspects you may not have considered in your search.
Globalize your resume
Make sure your keywords match with local language. The best practice for any job search is to utilize key words that are going to be used in job descriptions for positions you want – the same thing applies for overseas positions.
Computers won’t find words that are misspelled, so for example, if you’re applying to jobs in the U.K., or a country that utilizes that vernacular, change words like ‘humor’ to ‘humour.’” If you’re fluent, you need to translate your resume to the language of the country where you’re applying.
Flex your language skills
Even if you’re not applying for a position that will require you to be fluent, there will be situations in which knowing the local language will come in handy – both professionally and personally.
Employers know this, so if you list on your resume (or mention in your interview) the ways in which you are proactively learning the language, it will help you to stand out. It will also show your dedication and commitment to the experience, which will help employers know to take you seriously.
This can mean anything from downloading a language app on your phone, to taking a class at a local college, or joining a group of people locally who want to practice the same language – you’ll have more luck with languages like French or Italian than ones like Turkish, for instance, where you may have to find a private tutor or paid class.
Remember that this is business
You’re not planning a vacation. Enthusiasm is almost always a plus when it comes to the job search. But if you're looking for a gig abroad, you've got to make sure you articulate that gusto in an appropriate way.
Remember that when you’re in an interview, the location should be a nice perk, but not the main reason you want to join the team. Focus on the same answers you would give if you were applying for a job in the United States – real ways that you can contribute to the team, and maybe try to spin your international perspective as a positive.
Even though many other countries don’t spend as much time in the office as we do – Americans spend around 47 hours a week working, whereas that number tops off around 35 for most – people still want their team members to be as excited and focused on the job as they are. No one wants to work with someone who just sees the job as the means to an end.
Perfect your Skype skills
Since you probably won’t be jetting around the globe for interviews, you’re going to need to learn how to nail a Skype interview. Be sure to test your camera, use a neutral background and look just as polished as you would in person.
Ensure there will be no disruptions, and your internet will be working as flawlessly as possible. Also, because of time differences, be flexible to when the interview is conducted, as it will likely be outside of typical work hours for your time zone.
If you’re fluent in a particular language, be prepared to prove it. Not only might they speak with you in that language during the interview – so brush up on industry terms in that language beforehand – but they may have you take a language test.
Be prepared to revise old working habits
Living in another country, you’ll prepare yourself for how certain things will be different, like the food and conveniences that are available to you. However, you might find yourself less prepared for some of the unspoken office rituals and ways of doing things.
For example, many European offices do not consider working long hours to be the admirable trait that many American offices do – in fact, they see it as an inefficient waste of time. If you’re working 45 hours a week, you might be perceived as doing something wrong.
Similarly, a 2015 survey found that only one in five Americans actually spends their lunch break away from their desks, with most eating their midday meal while they continue to work. Adding to that statistic, millions of Americans find themselves skipping lunch altogether to continue working.
Meanwhile, in countries like France, Spain and Greece, among many others, lunch breaks can last an hour or more — and almost never take place somewhere you’ll be in danger of getting food between your computer keys.
You’ll also find that workers are encouraged to, and casually take their promised breaks during the day, unlike Americans. In Sweden, for example, many office workers take a daily extended coffee break called a fika. Typically, employees gather and socialize for their daily fika twice a day – once in the morning and again in the afternoon.
One of the worst American work practice faux pas, in the eyes of foreigners, is the tendency to send and answer emails after work hours have ended.
Other cultures have a more defined line between work and personal life, and don’t mix the two easily. In fact, France recently made that distinction official, with a 2018 measure that allowed employees to ignore work-related emails sent after working hours without any fear of consequence.
If you’re thinking right now, “so far these all sound like wonderful work habit changes…” – fantastic! Use this as fuel to your fire and motivation to work abroad.
Create a detailed timeline
Getting a new job in a foreign country isn’t something that will happen quickly. It might, but more likely than not it could take you many months – use that time to prepare, plan, save up money and get your affairs in order at home.
Plan out all the different steps you’ll need to take and know when you should have them done by. For example, when you need to get your resume updated, how many jobs you want to apply to and by when and set some interviewing goals.
Don’t stick too closely to this plan though – build in some flexibility. Depending on your field of work, and a thousand other small factors, getting a job internationally will probably come with some trade-offs. If you can’t find a good fit, or aren’t getting much traction by a certain point, you may want to consider different paths or options to what you want.
For example, taking a temporary job just to get yourself somewhere you want to be, counting on finding a more permanent position once you’re there. Or going for a certain amount of time on a tourism visa and attempting to find a job once over there in person.
Remember, there is no ‘easy transition’
Keep in mind that no matter what, it will be a difficult adjustment – there will be times where you will feel lonely or stupid for having made a cultural faux pas, stressed because things have gone wrong, but that is why you are there.
Focus on stretching and growing yourself internally with those difficulties until one day, you’re navigating the ex-pat life as easily as you did your American one. But hopefully with a little (or a lot) more joy and adventure.
The more you lean into new experiences, the faster your transition will be.
Always say “si!” (or oui, da, shì, evet…)
This advice counts for not only your job search, but for once you’re settled abroad as well – this time in your life is not only about growing professionally, but personally too. This means saying yes and broadening your horizons even if it takes you out of your comfort zone. Remember, you’re a person who took a job abroad, and are creating a new life in another country – you’re brave and resourceful! There’s a whole world out there waiting. Enjoy every second of it.
Final advice: Find a reliable international moving company
There are a lot of things during an international move that you should prepare for. But the actual process of an international move should not be one of them. Aside from requiring a level of expertise, it is difficult and annoying to navigate the immigration practices and laws of different countries.
Find a reliable international moving company that will provide you with the content you need to help you through the process of moving overseas (like this “What to Expect” international moving infographic), but take care of and hold your hand through all of the details.
When hiring an international moving company, you should look for four things:
- A free quote: no reputable moving company will ever charge you for a quote – even an international one.
- Technology: moving companies, even international ones, are notoriously behind the times. Find a moving company that uses technology that brings transparency into the quote/pricing process.
- Experience: there are a lot of moving companies out there who will say that they do international moves, when what they actually mean is, “Sure, we CAN do international moves” meaning 99.9% of their business happens domestically. So not only will you pay a lot more, but you’ll also be paying for their mistakes.
- Storage options: you may not want to bring literally everything you own with you. If you have a moving company that offers quality long-term storage, especially for any antiques, you will make the transition and logistics a lot easier by only using one company.
Because most international movers prepay ocean freight and services at destination, it is standard practice to ask for payment before services rendered, so please make a note that the practice of requesting payment up front is common when moving abroad.
Trust your instincts, but back them up with the knowledge that you have hired an insured, accredited (there are a lot of international moving memberships and networks – find a company that has a good sampling) and well-reviewed company. You’re trusting a moving company to bring your earthly possessions across an ocean – make sure they’re legitimate.
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