Working abroad is a common dream — who doesn’t want to experience different cultures, meet new people, and live a life of adventure in some far-flung part of the globe? Even better, experience working abroad can be a powerful boost to your career, as employers value people with international experience.
Finding a position internationally can be a daunting experience, though. Let’s consider some simple ways you can increase your chances of getting a job abroad.
1. Intern Abroad
It can be tough to find an international internship, but they are an excellent way to position yourself for an international career. Landing the right internship means plunging head first into the internship search, so here’s what you should consider to get that international internship.
An internship is not just a low-salary position. An internship, international or domestic, is a way for you to exchange work for knowledge. The internship is setting you up to be in a good position when applying for an entry-level international position.
You can “do it yourself” when it comes to creating internships. If you find an attractive employer but they don’t offer internships, go ahead and propose doing one. You’ll be surprised at how many employers love this entrepreneurial spirit.
By all means, negotiate. No, nobody does internships for the money, but you can and should negotiate your stipend as well as your accommodation if an employer offers you an internship abroad. Remember, the cost of living in a foreign city may be much higher than you’re used to.
Be informed. While you may be looking to get some international experience, your employer will want you to already have something of a global perspective. Build up your international understanding in the months and years before you apply.
Always go the extra mile. Internships are invaluable learning experiences, and you should make the most of them. Go above and beyond even if you aren’t getting paid to do it — this will help you in the future.
2. Focus Your International Job Search – Avoid Getting Overwhelmed
Once you have an internship under your belt, you can start looking at job openings. You’ll find it’s easy to get overwhelmed here, as there are hundreds of thousands (or more!) job openings posted on the Web. The trick is to stay focused and effective as you conduct your search.
Remember, unlike looking for a position domestically, an international job search will be much more focused on what you can find on job boards. You should focus your job search by looking at particular industries, keywords, skill terminology, and position titles. As tempting as it can be to pick your destination country first (who doesn’t want to work in Tahiti?) you’ll do your career a favor by looking for positions in your industry.
Also, keep a schedule for visiting job sites. Try and hit 5-10 job sites per day, coming back to a given website once every three days. This means you’ll visit the top job sites in your area of interest 2-3 times per week, which is just enough to stay abreast of new openings. Make sure you stick to job sites which update listings daily — and be sure they offer international positions!
You’ll want to be ready to learn a lot about your industry, and do it fast. Unlike domestic employers, an international employer is not going to be willing to teach you about the field — you’ll have to become fluent in the industry yourself. If need be, you can start with an internationally focused “work at home” position (with a firm in your country that has operations abroad) and move on later.
3. Know How To Sell Your International Skills
Having identified some positions to which you’d like to apply, you’ll want to know how to sell your experience and skills. For example, if you’re applying to a position in a non-English speaking country, professionally translated documents (including your degree, resume and cover letter) from an online translation service will make a much better impression than expecting the hiring manager to speak your language. (Even if they do, reading your materials in their native language will always be a more pleasant experience.)
To start, go through and map out your professional skills. Look through your work history to uncover your talents, and then consider how best to “package” them for a potential employer. Ask your past employers as well as past colleagues for input as you develop your personal expertise.
If you recently graduated, remember to think of yourself as a professional. If you have just finished a master’s degree in economics, present yourself as a professional economist — which you are!
Lastly, remember that your skills and your experience are not the same. As you prepare your application, include your personal cross-cultural and international experiences in addition to your skills, work history, and academic achievements.
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