Tips for finding a job overseas

When I decided to take the plunge and move abroad, I did not know that it would be one of the best decisions in my life. But at that very moment, I stood on the crossroads of uncertainty, wondering over such mundane things as ‘What am I going to do when money runs out?’, ‘Who will hire an immigrant like me?’, ‘What are the job perspectives for a non-native English speaker?’

Looking back at those doubts, I want to say to my past self: hey, chill! Even if you fail to find your dream job, moving to live abroad will be a rewarding and possibly life-changing experience anyway.

It’s necessary to admit to yourself that miracles happen as soon as you leave your comfort zone.

When my boyfriend and I made that radical decision to move overseas and both quit our well paid jobs, I was preparing myself to accept lower pay, entry-level job, fewer responsibilities and less stability once I’m in a foreign country. However, luck was on our side, as he got a call about a month before we were supposed to leave, and got an offer in Australia, which came a little bit out of the blue and very convenient for both of us.

This is what I learned while looking for a job overseas.

Before moving abroad

Research the geography — Not all cities have opportunities in all markets and industries. You need to know the SME and large companies that recruit and what they do. For example, Australia has federal jobs (mostly reserved to citizens), mining companies (coal, iron extraction) in Brisbane and a few Tech jobs and FMCG in Sydney. Arts is stuff of Melbourne, while Gold Coast hires people who work in wildlife conservation and research. Singapore has almost everything! In US, Dallas is all about aviation, Austin and SF is Tech, NY is banking and design, LA in entertainment, Cincinnati is Manufacturing, Florida focus on aviation and exports to South America, DC has government jobs etc. It’s a bit of a stereotype, I know, but it definitely helps to maximize your chances to find a job as you usually don’t know the market and big company names of your host country, especially if you haven’t studied there!

Go Global — If you are working in an international organization in your home country, you can ask for a transfer position (safe but very long process!) Note: you need to be in the company in your home country for at least 12 month to apply for a L1 (transfer visa) to the US. If you are willing to join a small company from the European Union, you can always suggest them to develop their business in the host country (eg. public-private partnerships, Business France).

Online Networking — Never underestimate networking. One of the scariest parts of moving to a foreign country is that you have to start from scratch with all the network you’ve built back home, all those people that would help you get into places, score job interviews, find new openings. So be ready: have a Linkedin profile (Pay for Linkedin Premium to contact people at least 6 months before). Do not ask them for jobs. Participate in groups discussions, congratulate people when they change jobs, propose to help finding potential new hire etc, discuss each other’s life projects and professional and personal accomplishments. It’s not an interview, it is friendly and enjoyable communication through professional (social) network. It should be as pleasant (or more) as surfing on Facebook.

Ask your friends — Before moving abroad, ask around. Share your desire to live overseas with other people. Chances are they know someone who knows someone who has been living in this country… Note: do not share too much information about your plans as the conversation may end up in endless arguments about what it’s like to quit a stable job and move overseas. You don’t need that.

Get certified — Education systems vary a lot among countries and you will probably have to get additional trainings or certifications (eg. translation of diplomas, TOEIC or TOEFL). Also, don’t dismiss teaching jobs. Teaching your own language can be a quick revenue stream before finding a suitable job, but is becoming more and more competitive, although the market is still inexhaustible.

Cultures & Languages — Avoid nationality cliché (at least when speaking in public). Sense of humour, narrative and rhetoric are generally acceptable among native people. So be very cautious but still genuine and sincere. Don’t hurry to be understood and accepted. Always give the benefit of the doubt (not once but twice). Language is worth investing or at least investigating into. Most jobs prefer to hire someone with the knowledge of local language or ability to learn fast. If you do not know the local language, do not waste time applying to small businesses which operate in their local language and target large corporations. While working in large corporations, get to know local specifics and management style.

Tools & Figureoutable mindset — Find out how locals get hired around here. Global job seeking websites may not bring you satisfying results, online recruitment practices may not be as mainstream as it is in the US. Some countries in South Asia use more Viadeo than Linkedin. Do your research. Google local job seeking groups on social networks, find out the country’s websites for job listings. Finally, in some places nothing works better than the word of mouth, and you might just get hired after you’ve arrived and made some local connections.

Visas — Work visas are not your problem if you’ve already been hired and your legal status has been taken care of by the company. But if you are moving to work abroad in a freelance capacity, or planning to look for a job on the spot, have a look at the local immigration laws. This can be one of the most stressful parts of your journey. For countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, UK, that offer working holiday visas, you have to apply from your home country. Be aware of the underlying requirements of each visa. In the US, you can always find an intern / trainee position (J1 visa), ask for free legal advice online or ask questions to consulate. Be aware of scams!

Once in your host country

Networking, networking and networking — Go to as many events as possible in your city. Get some tips from Matador Network and subscribe to Internations (Albatros membership is cheap) and Meetup social network. Check the Chambers of Commerce website. Be willing to go out and talk about yourself and repeat the same personal story over and over again. Have a “catch-up lunch” with people you are in touch on Linkedin. Learn about local sports. (I hate that too, but well…). Bear in mind that some companies might look for your language abilities. (hint: google your dream job description followed by “Italian speaking”). Your language is a competitive advantage for some multinational companies.

Contact a Recruitment agency — in order to prepare for interviews. Do as many interviews as possible even if you are not enthusiastic about the job! Some companies publish “fake” jobs to find out what types of candidates are available. Candidates should be able to sound out the types of companies and interviews available as well. Who knows, it can actually turn out to be a great opportunity after all! And they also will proofread your CV as job titles differ from one place to another and you might need to modify something along the way.

Learn the language — obviously. Not only the standard email sentence “looking forward to talking to you soon” or “I shall get back to you ASAP”, but you will need to learn to understand and speak “slang in a loud Irish Pub”. Good luck.

Learn about exciting topics such as: immigration law, tax, retirement plan and personal finance. Are you resident for tax purposes? Are you allowed to leave the country while changing visa? Did you register for Social Security within 30 day? Exciting! When it comes to personal finance, be curious!

Example: most credit cards in France are considered debit cards in the US as you spend the money you own. While in the US, a credit card allows you to spend money you “borrow” from the bank. Yep. This is capitalism.

Know your worth — Know your selling points: you are smart, you’ve got a degree, you’ve got a certificate, you speak this and that language, you’ve traveled on several continents, you adapt easily to new surroundings and cultural differences do not scare you, you have recommendations from your former employer, your CV printed out and on a USB, maybe even a bunch of business cards. You will be a valuable addition to their international team. And repeat this again.

Most importantly

Remind yourself as often as possible why you started this journey. Totally worth it.

Useful links

Originally published at on July 5, 2015.