Working abroad is a dream come true for all kinds of people – and you’re probably one of them. Especially in today’s job climate, finding work abroad can be easier than finding work at home. Even better, once you go abroad, you’re immersed in a foreign culture, often in an exotic country, with all the opportunities to broaden your horizons and experience some adventure along the way.
On the other hand, having grown up being taught how to get a job locally, looking abroad can be a daunting task. You have to find employers that may not know your city or town exists, instead of going with employers at your local job fair. You’ll probably have to deal with visa issues at some point in the applications process — when was the last time that dealing with immigration and customs officials wasn’t daunting? Last, you’ll often have to be sure you can provide your resume, cover letter, and any other paperwork in the appropriate language. Fortunately, nowadays, translation can be easily done online.
There are a few things, however, that you can do to make finding work abroad almost easy:
1. Know what employers abroad value
When an employer hires you for work abroad, they aren’t simply hiring you for the skills you have. This is true regardless of whether you’re working for a local company that has offices abroad, or a foreign company that’s hiring you to come over. Chances are, the company hiring you cares as much about your “intangible” qualities as they do about your work experience.
Obviously, being able to speak the local language is a big plus. There are positions where, provided you have the skills, also knowing the language is enough to get you hired. For many openings, though, you need more than language — and in some cases, when all your co-workers already speak excellent English, knowing the language may not matter much at all.
In fact, most employers care more about your ability to communicate across cultural boundaries than they do about your raw language skills. It’s one thing to “speak the language”, but another thing entirely to collaborate and communicate with a group of people who have completely different values. Here, your flexibility, tolerance, and instinct for what to do are put to the test.
If you come from a multicultural background, if you have volunteer or work experience that put you in a radically different culture than the one you grew up with, you’ll find yourself at an advantage. You can and should point to this experience and highlight its meaning to potential employers.
2. Be prepared to spend as much time communicating as you do working
In many cases, your position abroad, or in a particular office, will only be temporary. What your employer may really want is for you to bring in your expertise and convey it to your local colleagues when you arrive. Long term, this may make much more business sense than having to “import knowledge” every time they need it.
Therefore, if you can pass on knowledge while you’re living and working there, you’ll have a significant advantage over other candidates. Instead of being an employee who simply “does things”, you’re a resource that enables other employees to “do things”. From an employer’s point of view, you just went up several steps in importance.
3. Start working on your contacts and “job finding” infrastructure now
Since international positions are often not advertised locally, it’s your responsibility to go out and get them. Start looking around for job agencies and job boards that will have openings in your field. There are numerous specialized international job agencies that make it their business to network and find openings that may interest you; so, make contact with them and send them your CV.
As well as agencies, you can also do your own networking. Business networking sites like LinkedIn can be a powerful way to build up an international network, and do it fast. Reach out to people in your industry and in countries you may want to work in. Even if they don’t have any openings themselves, they may know someone who does.
Finding work abroad doesn’t have to be hard, as long as you take some simple precautions. Know how to present yourself and what elements of “you” to highlight, work on the skills that employers will value, and develop a network to find you job openings. With a little luck, you’ll find that getting that position in the location of your dreams is easier than you thought.
Alex Pejak is an economics graduate with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Finance and Banking, currently working on a few projects in Australia. She is interested in topics related to market research and career development.