I Landed My Dream Job Abroad—and Here's How You Can, Too
Have you ever thought, “My commute would look so much nicer from the top of an English double-decker bus?” Yes? While that might not be the reality if you get a job in London, if you’re having those types of thoughts more frequently, it might be time to consider finding a job abroad—if only for a few years.
While it’s not the right move for everybody, for the right person it’s an awesome adventure—especially if you’re restless in your city and feel your career stagnating. If you’re the type who loves new challenges, navigating cross-cultural challenges can be invigorating. Not to mention, global experience looks lovely on a resume. It’s a win all around.
Now, the only thing standing between you and your international dream job are three steps.
1. Do the Research
Just like a regular American job search, you should compile a list of your target companies. This time around though, you’ll want to check out whether a foreign company will realistically hire you—or if an American company typically hires people for international positions.
Start by looking online for companies and organizations that are likely to send you abroad. It’s as simple as searching [your desired location] for the terms “secondment,” “externship,” and “company exchange program.” The larger and more corporate a company, the more likely you are to find these types of programs within them. Additionally, under a “Careers” section, you can usually find a contact email for HR. Feel free to get in touch directly to ask questions about exchange opportunities and if an open position fits in with your goals. (Bonus: You now have an in at the company.)
You can also find opportunities by outsourcing the search. Really. Many recruitment firms will focus on visa-sponsoring processes and jobs. For example, the company VFS takes you through the visa process for several different countries and can offer you advice on international job hunting. Country-specific tools and agencies, like Hays in the UK for example, will give you individual counsel on jobs based on your nationality and desired sector.
Yes, it’ll take some digging, but will surely save you money on Advil for all the headaches you’re avoiding, and time that would otherwise be spent confusedly squinting at fine print.
2. Prepare to Do Virtual Interviews
Flying over to a country for an introductory interview is pricey. Instead, you’re going to want to send lots of emails to hiring managers to set up video conversations.
However, a Skype or Hangout interview doesn’t mean you should go light on preparation. Treat it just like an in-person meeting, and prepare as such. Look into the company’s mission statement, write down insightful questions, and rehearse your answers.
And, in addition to that, you’re going to want to make sure you have a solid internet connection to avoid awkward lapses. Muse Career Coach and remote work expert Erica Breuer advises, “Use a headset or ear buds to avoid an annoying echo for everyone involved. And defy your natural instincts; look at your camera and not the person on screen.”
Keep in mind the way that you express your opinions, emotions, and experiences will be subject to interpretation, based upon the country you’re communicating with. Speaking a different language isn’t always the only obstacle. Words and intonations that come across as enthusiastic in a New York office might be construed as overbearingly aggressive in a London office (look up the nuances of the word “quite” if you don’t believe me).
As this guide to negotiating in different countries explains, “In some cultures it’s common—and entirely appropriate— to raise your voice when excited, laugh passionately, touch your counterpart on the arm, or even put a friendly arm around him. In other cultures such self-expression not only feels intrusive or surprising but may even demonstrate a lack of professionalism.”
So it’s important to make sure that you’re not only doing the regular prep work, but also researching what could be interpreted differently in the country you’re interviewing in.
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3. Prepare to Take a Trip
While meeting people via video’s a good way to get started, there may come a point when it makes sense for you to spend time doing in-person interviews, setting up coffee dates, and attending any relevant networking events. For obvious reasons this is expensive; not to mention, it will require taking time off from your current position.
But, if you’re committed to making this happen, you'll have enough reasons to visit your country of choice and take your preliminary efforts to the next level. Optimize your time there by sorting tasks into stuff you can do before going and stuff that must wait until you arrive. The former category includes setting up interviews, asking for connections through your network, researching industry events, and studying corporate culture specifics. The latter includes meeting people face-to-face, going to more traditional interviews, and attending industry events.
No matter how it goes, make sure to follow up with any individuals you meet and emphasize your desire to relocate abroad. Most people are willing to help, and even if they’re not going to hire you directly, they very well may end up introducing you to the person who will.
So, how did it work for me? While still living in the States, a London startup offered me a position. Yes, it took patience and persistence (my diplomatic words for annoyingly emailing someone every couple of months for a year, asking him or her to hire me), but it happened! After a few rounds of Skype interviews with the hiring manager, I was hired to work abroad. My dreams really did come true.