How to land your international dream job
If you want to work internationally stop and ask yourself a few questions.
The most important is, ‘Am I a flexible individual?’ Living abroad means your diet, schedule, work environment and social circle all change.
Although you may get to explore new mountains or beaches international workers need to expect a different day-to-day lifestyle. Cars will break down, power outages will alter you work day; you need to adjust and keep going.
The second question is ‘Am I independent?’ International living most often means being far away from family and friends while also encountering new obstacles. Talking to foreign police officers looking for bribes, and a flat tire in a remote village are examples that will require quick thinking and problem solving.
Once you have decided to work overseas you need to decide whether you are looking to advance your career, or are looking to simply see a new country and put food on the table.
This decision will drastically alter your job search, because location-specific individuals will need to be more open to different jobs. Choosing a country or job position will allow you to narrow your search.
For individuals under 30 years old there are young worker exchange programs depending on agreements between your country and other nations. Seasonal occupations have been the staple for world travelers for decades, but globalization has led to many international opportunities for young professionals.
Career-minded individuals can now find work around the world and continue to grow in their profession. International job-hunting can be complicated combining the search for a new position, a new company and a new city.
The Internet has made the searching process much easier, since you can now find a position at your nearby City Hall or a biologist position in Rwanda with a few clicks. If you haven’t traveled abroad before, a two to three-week trip is a good test to see if you can adjust to the overseas environment, try to immerse yourself in the culture rather than hiding behind the windows of chartered buses going from hotel to tourist attraction to hotel.
Getting the job abroad
Start your job search by finding the international companies that operate in your field; the easiest route into international employment is by finding companies in your own country that either have overseas positions or require international travel.
Successful job applicants know how to highlight their international experience and reduce the risk for the employer. But landing a position with a foreign employer is more complex. International employers incur significant expenses when relocating a new worker, and they need to complete a lot of paperwork for work visas.
Unless you have prior international work experience in a similar country, you might not be able to adapt both professionally and socially. This risk is amplified when you visit a culture that is extremely different from your home country. For example, finding professionals to work in Sub-Saharan Africa requires not only that the individual is competent enough to handle the position but also adapt to different business practices, cultural norms, language barriers and be able to live in a third world environment.
If an employee decides to return home after a few months the long recruitment process will need to start afresh detracting from the organizations main goals. In Tanzania annual foreign worker visas cost over $2,000 USD, which gives the employer an incentive to search domestically.
These hurdles require international candidates to have work experience and skills that are not available locally. However, there are a few steps to becoming a successful candidate.
Skype no substitute for face-to-face
E-mail and Skype have opened up the world but face-to-face meetings are still the best way to reassure an employer. Meeting in the employer’s town gives you the opportunity to see the city, display your level of interest and show that you are comfortable with the surroundings all of which lower the employer’s risks.
If you plan a two-week vacation to your country of interest for a job, start emailing potential employers weeks before and set up few meetings; this is a great way to ease your way into a new market.
If you cannot fly around the world to test the waters nothing beats a strong personal network. An employer in Jakarta receiving several resumes will have a hard time differentiating between a candidate from Baltimore or Toronto if their skills are identical.
An introduction from a reliable source that says you are professional, hard working and responsible can make a big difference. Tools like Linkedin provide a path to your network’s network, allowing for new introductions. When you begin looking for overseas work tell friends, family and other contacts they may be able to refer you to people in the field.
The longer you have been working towards international employment, the larger your network will become and you’ll only be a few e-mails away from the right person.
The easiest path to building international employment experience is volunteering or interning. This allows you to avoid the hassles of work visas, test a new market and be more selective when looking for an opportunity. While overseas you will meet people at social events building your network gradually working towards employment. You will learn the employers in the industry and add experience to your resume, which will help when applying for positions.
There are two main advantages to international work experience: Firstly, you are not hindered by a sluggish domestic economy. If your home country is in a recession hop on a plane and find work in some of the booming emerging markets.
Secondly, almost all professional positions are becoming international with manufacturing overseas, outsourced programmers and consultants from distant countries. People need to learn to speak this international language in order to succeed in the modern business environment.
International employment in becoming increasingly accessible but it requires initiative. Candidates must build an international resume with language skills, relevant education and a wiliness to adapt to a new country.
It can take months or even years to reposition yourself for international employment and weeks to become adjusted on arrival. But walking to a nearby waterfall, learning a new language or brewing up coffee grown nearby are experiences you won’t experience sitting at home!
This article is part two of two on the international employment landscape for young professionals.