How to Work Abroad – Everything You Need to Know
Working and living abroad can be a totally life-changing experience. It’s an immersive feeling that goes far beyond just backpacking and ticking cool things off your bucket list. Choosing to integrate into society via the daily grind means reincarnating yourself as a local. Besides adding another string to your bow and gaining new skills, there are endless benefits of diving deeper into the local culture. Interested in finding a job abroad? Here’s everything you need to know about working as an expat.
Why Work Abroad?
There are so many reasons to search for work abroad. Not only do you get to experience life in a new country, but you’ll have the opportunity to meet lots of interesting people. Whether you’re looking to expand your social circle with like-minded travellers or wanting to meet locals in the area, work is a great place to make friends.
Here are some of the other reasons to do it:
- Earn as you travel – fund your journey by working as you explore new places!
- Practice your language skills – working in abroad means having to learn a new language (something that will look fantastic on your CV).
- Live like a local – travellers are constantly in search of the most authentic experiences, and working in a different country allows you to encounter life just like the locals do.
- Expand your network – having contacts is important in a lot of professions, and working abroad means you can create global connections.
- A better quality of life – in some countries, you may be able to earn a bigger salary or enjoy lower living costs.
- For personal development – going out of your comfort zone will help you grow as a person, getting you new skills and an enhanced understanding of other cultures.
- Have more independence – working abroad without the companionship of your backpacking buddies means making it on your own and having a new-found confidence!
How to Find Jobs
Once you’ve made the decision to work abroad, there’s a still a long process ahead of finding, applying and interviewing for jobs. Some jobs are easier to obtain than others, with some industries specifically targeted at foreign travellers. The hospitality sector may have dedicated websites where you can find jobs around the world, with both short and long term contracts available.
For other jobs, some extra research may be required. Here are some ways you can find work overseas:
Attend networking events in person and use online networking sites such as LinkedIn to build connections with people across the globe. If you use LinkedIn, it’s important to be proactive on there. Don’t just let your profile sit dormant and hope for the best. Instead, contact HR managers and recruiters and enquire about positions overseas.
Find overseas job fairs by searching online. There could be one near you that’s worth going to. Not only will you get to speak to recruitment officers for multiple companies in one day, but there’s a chance that you can have an on-the-spot interview. At the very least, you’ll make some contacts and get your foot in the door. Remember that first impressions count – so dress appropriately, take care of your appearance, and be polite and enthusiastic to everyone you meet.
Perhaps you already work for a company with offices abroad? If this is the case, ask your manager if there are any international opportunities. Many people relocate for work and doing it with a company you already have experience with can make the transition go smoothly. It may even be the case that they can help with accommodation, visas and other logistics.
There are many job sites that feature global listings, including Monster.com, Indeed.com, Glassdoor.com, Neuvoo.com, and Careerbuilder.com. You will also come across country-specific job sites and industry-specific job sites. Plus, Google and LinkedIn both have a job listing feature to make searching easy.
Another great way to find your dream job is to take part in voluntary projects. If you take a special interest in animal welfare, conservation and environmental work, community volunteering, teaching or scientific research, working for free is the best way of gaining hands-on experience. You can also make contacts with people in the industry and hopefully land a job after your project is complete.
Jobs with Experience
If you’re looking to enter into an industry that you are already familiar with, you’ll have a much better chance of getting hired. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world – experience is key. The best way for someone with experience to land a job is by networking. Talk to colleagues or contact recruiters that you already know. Someone in your address book may already know of opportunities in other countries.
Use industry-specific websites to find the most up-to-date listings and make an effort to introduce yourself over the phone / Skype with overseas recruiters if possible. They’ll remember you better than if you just send them an email.
For highly experienced professionals, it’s also possible to freelance whilst living abroad. This gives you the option to move first, or even spend time in various destinations. Freelancing gigs can often lead to full-time work and with the growing gig economy across the globe, contract work is an option that everyone should seriously consider.
Freelancers may also be able to find long-term contracts ranging from six to twelve months (or longer). These jobs not only pay well compared to permanent roles, but they also give you some stability as you settle into a new place. You’ll have enough time to search for your next project or have the possibility of staying on after your contract is over.
Jobs with No Experience
Landing a job overseas without any experience can be trickier – but it’s not impossible. Voluntary work or low-paid work can be an excellent place to start if you’re still building your CV. For gap year students, volunteering abroad can be a lot of fun and can often result in a job offer.
If you want paid work, some industries to consider are:
- Hospitality – there are a number of hospitality job sites designed to help you find work abroad. It’s also useful to connect with hotel chain recruiters or apply directly on their websites.
- Restaurants and bars – the food and beverage industry is always looking for reliable workers. Generally speaking, this sector faces high staff turnover so job openings come up a lot.
- Retail – working in retail is a good way of practising your language skills, and shops are always looking for people who can work weekends, evenings or unsociable hours. This means that you could be at an advantage if you don’t mind the graveyard shift.
For native English speakers, it’s easy to get by in most countries. For non-English natives, brushing up on your English language skills is very important. To have the edge over other applicants, learning basic conversational phrases of the local language/dialect can also be useful.
While some employers will still consider you without experience, relevant certification may still be necessary. For instance, bar staff in Australia are required to have an RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) certification. This is a one-day course so it won’t take up too much of your time. Similarly, in Canada, Smart Serve certificates are mandatory for anyone serving alcohol.
Best Places to Go
Expat-friendly, great work-life balance, workplace equality, and excellent social scenes…..these are just some of the things that travellers want when they look for jobs abroad. Here are some of the top countries to start your search.
If mental health and wellbeing rank highly for you, Denmark is a great place to go full-time. The typical working week is 39.7 hours a week (the global average is 44.4 hours), and finishing on time is standard. Demark is also the birthplace to trendy life concepts such as “hygge” and “lykke”, where happiness is a bit of an art form. The happier you are, the more accomplished you are in life. So academic success and money are the least of their concerns. They’re unlikely to overwork their expats, and people are generally nice to be around.
An unlikely destination for expats, but a place with plenty of work-related benefits. Jobs are easy to find and employers are inclusive of workers from all over the world. The work-life balance is also decent, with many people having enough time to relax after their shift is over. Plus, salaries aren’t anything to complain about either. In some sectors, employees will be able to earn a much higher wage than back home.
The average working week is 42.9 hours per week, and Norway offers some of the best salaries in the world. You’ll probably have seen the nation make multiple headlines for women’s rights and equality in the workplace too. If you care about gender equality and want the same opportunities to progress as your male counterparts, Norway is the best country for building a career.
Other than being one of the most photogenic countries with breath-taking mountains and lakes, New Zealand also promises a better quality of life. Only 73% of expats actually work full-time, leaving plenty of time for sightseeing and travel. Yet, the pay seems to be enough to fund their social activities. The lifestyle is generally laid-back and expats seem to be very happy living here.
With a good economy, a good work-life balance and workplace culture, and quality working conditions, people are looked after here. Life is laid-back and the country attracts a lot of highly educated expats, giving young professionals plenty of like-minded expats to socialise with. The main mode of transport in cities like Amsterdam is cycling, which is a fantastic way of keeping fit too. Health-conscious travellers will definitely fit in here.
A very popular country for expat workers, Oman offers a ready-made community for new arrivals. Working hours are slightly less than the global average (44.3 hours vs. 43.5 hrs), but the work-life balance is still pretty good. While there may be a slight culture shock when you arrive, this destination is fantastic for sightseeing and adventures. You’ll never run out of things to do!
United Arab Emirates
Cities like Abu Dhabi and Dubai attract foreign workers from around the world due to the high standard of living. For those who enjoy cocktail bars, champagne brunches and yacht parties, working in the UAE can be a glamorous time. But remember that expat life in the UAE is very different from back home, with a lot of rules and regulations to bear in mind. Visa and employment laws can also be complicated so do your research before you fly.
Visas and Employment Laws
Before choosing to move to a new country for work, be sure to research the visa requirements and employment laws, as well as any taxes that need to be paid. For instance, different countries will have their own income thresholds. This means for the same job back home, you could be better or worse off.
Work visas also need to be arranged in advance, and some countries may prove more difficult than others. It may be necessary to visit the embassy for an interview in some cases. Some employers or volunteering programmes may be able to help you out with applications, but ultimately getting the visa sorted in time is your responsibility. Many people forget about visas, particularly the cost of them. So make sure you have the funds to pay for yours.
Another important thing to bear in mind when looking for jobs is the requirements for banking abroad. Opening a bank account can be complicated for expats. Be sure to research local bank account minimums, timing on transfers, transfer fees, and online banking capabilities. In some countries, you will also be asked for a reference letter from your bank at home.
In addition to your current account, you should also remember that getting credit can be difficult in a new country. It’s best to sort an international credit card before you move. Transferring your card will be much simpler than applying for credit once you’re there.
Remember that bad credit can still stay with you even if you move countries, so have your finances in order before planning your relocation.