Getting Started

7 things to do if you want to work abroad

Written by Michael Hoon

There are a number of ways to get a job overseas, but most of them require lots of planning. Before you hop a plane to Bali or Paris to scout local job opportunities on your own, there a few factors and opportunities to consider to help you get the most out of working abroad.

1. Start your job search before you go abroad

While it may seem adventurous or romantic to go exploring the world, there’s a lot of research that has to go into creating a financially feasible plan. Landing a job is different than bumming around Europe with a backpack. While it can have similar benefits like language and cultural immersion, finding short-term and long-term work is much different than your average vacation. It may be as simple as defining your search delimiters on the right job site, to much more targeted, like seeking out the job ads that are in local news websites from your desired location or networking among friends and alumni organizations. Depending on your financial situation and ultimate goals for working abroad, lining up the job beforehand is almost always better than going broke for a month while you try to find opportunities locally.

2. Nail down all paperwork well in advance

There’s one tricky thing you don’t worry about in your average job search in your home country: work permits. Technically, you can just show up and live for a few weeks in another country, but if you find a job, you’ll need to know how to get a work permit. In many countries the work permit application may need to be approved before you arrive. Oftentimes a company procures a work permit for you for a particular job. You may also need to have a residency permit. Thus, changing jobs while you’re overseas comes with an added complication: new work permit applications. There are also different types of visas, like a working holiday visa (for those between the ages of 18 to 35) and temporary work visas which are offered to American citizens by some countries like Canada and the UK for several months. Whether you’re considering long-term or short-term work, it’s best to set up your work permits before you pack up and move – even before you buy a plane ticket (because your plane ticket can be revoked without the proper documents set in place.)

3. Know you might have to deal with low-paid work

The tradeoff, for most overseas opportunities, is of course money. There are countless opportunities for volunteering and internships world-wide with various reputable organizations. Students can often take advantage of internships during study abroad programs. Joining the Peace Corps, an another example, will take you places and use your skills to serve an impoverished community abroad. This is good experience to broaden your horizons and for your resume, but this type of opportunity is one you have to weigh against your current financial stressors. The Peace Corps provides language training, cultural immersion by living with a host family, a monthly living allowance and paid airfare. There is also no age limit to joining the Peace Corps, but you must be over 18.

4. Brush up on your teaching skills

You may have hated high school English but being able to teach English is one of those “needed skills” for many countries when you’re applying for a work visa. If you don’t want to teach long-term but do want to remain in a foreign country, you can consider a teaching job as your foot in the door to find other local job opportunities. There are many teaching placement programs that can get you started, though some require prior experience.

5. Consider global company opportunities

Even applying for a position at a global company could get you to the place you want to be eventually. This is perhaps the lengthiest way to find a job overseas, but also one of the most financially stable. Search for travel opportunities within your current organization. Business trips are a short-term way to get you to feed the travel bug, get paid to do it, and not worry about establishing residency in a foreign country. But you never know when your organization may be opening new positions overseas. Keep an eye out for these internal hiring opportunities.

6. Find a job that will always go abroad

If you’re just starting in your career or looking to change careers to one that brings you more travel opportunities, there are a number of fields that offer the travel-driven a regular influx of travel opportunities. Jobs in tourism and leisure, travel writing, and working for an international airline are perhaps the most obvious. But there are other less-obvious choices that require you to work globally like a job in geophysics, archeology, and many government jobs in foreign affairs.

7. Study up on your potential new city

Diving into a new culture can be exciting, but you should definitely try to learn a bit before you go. Brush up on local politics, read cultural histories, try to learn from a phrasebook, and get a sense of the local customs. If you’re looking for a particular metro area, research what potential companies you could work for in the area. Any new job will have its own new “culture,” but working abroad may bring new facets you haven’t anticipated. If you’re primarily motivated to work abroad by a spirit of learning and adventure, then you’re already in the right spirit.

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About the author

Michael Hoon

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