Rome! Paris! Barcelona! Copenhagen! Europe holds an excitement and mystery that inspire many to pack their bags. Whether it’s the food, the accents, the centuries-old architecture, or the ease of jaunting between multiple countries, there’s something unmistakably alluring about the other side of the Atlantic.
Two years ago, that novelty got the best of me. I left a stable marketing job in Los Angeles to pursue a Master’s degree in Spain, and eventually, a career in the Netherlands, where I now live and work. Moving to Europe was a huge and scary transition at the time, but it’s a decision I would highly recommend to anyone toying with the idea.
Of course, dreaming and doing are two separate things, and if you’re serious about moving abroad, finding a job will have to be one of your first steps. Securing employment on another continent can be daunting and time-consuming, but it’s far from impossible—if you know where to start. Here are five tips to kick off your search.
1. Pick the Right Country
At the risk of stating the obvious, Europe is a vast continent comprised of many different languages, work cultures, and social traditions. Saying, “I want to move to Europe” is like announcing that you want to eat some food. You’re going to have to be a little more specific.
Do your research beforehand. What countries do you identify with? Which foreign languages do you speak (or want to speak)? Do you have any contacts abroad who could help you find a job?
I chose Spain because I had a (albeit rusty) grasp of Spanish, thanks to language classes in college. I also knew I loved the food, the colorful traditions, and the warm Mediterranean hospitality—moving to a country like Germany would have been an abrupt shock for me.
Once I’d identified Spain as my destination of choice, I was able to start tackling the logistics.
2. Work Your Network
Many American companies have branches based in European cities, and transferring to an international office within your company is a great way to make an easy transition. In many cases, your company may cover your relocation costs, such as airfare and the shipping of your possessions. Some ex-pat contracts will also pay for an annual plane ticket home so you can be back for holidays, special events, or those inevitable times of homesickness.
If your company doesn't have an international office, try to connect with others who have lived or worked abroad through your college alumni network, friends, previous colleagues, or mentors. Upon arriving in a city and country where you know next to no one, this valuable network will open the most doors for you.
3. Seek out Ex-pat Agencies
When I moved to the Netherlands, I discovered a number of international recruitment agencies that worked specifically with ex-pats. These agencies are common in many countries, often catering to specific industries, nationalities, or levels of experience.
If you’re arriving to a country with a small network and no real job leads, reach out to recruiters who specialize in your background. They’ll get you connected to job prospects much more quickly than websites or job boards will.
4. Appreciate Your Roots
Instead of allowing your Americanism to mark you as an awkward foreigner, think of ways you can position your experience in a way that’s appealing to employers. For me, highlighting my experiences in digital marketing in Los Angeles let me distinguish myself as having a broader background than most local applicants.
And it might seem counterintuitive, but your native English speaking skill can be a benefit in your European job search, especially within industries such as marketing and communications. English often serves as the working language in large organizations, even if the company culture remains in the native language.
So, highlight the fact that you’re a native speaker on your resume—and also make sure to mention any other languages you have a working knowledge of.
5. Update Your Resume
Don’t, however, expect your American resume to open doors for you on its own. In fact, a standard European CV looks very different than a U.S. resume. On your new CV, you’ll need to include your birthdate and nationality, plus a passport-sized photo in one of the top corners. While in the States, requesting such information (outside of the modeling industry) could be considered discrimination, it’s still common practice on the other side of the Atlantic.
I failed to include any of these additions when I first began applying abroad and didn't realize my mistake until an interview in which the hiring manager told me that my CV made it look like I was hiding something! What Americans would consider a typical resume didn’t translate well into the local culture.
If you want to work in Europe, don’t be intimidated by the ocean between you and your prospective employers. The job search can take a little more legwork than back home, but it can also lead to one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences of your life.