How to Get a Job Abroad and Take Your Career to the Next Level
Here’s a step-by-step guide to landing your dream job in a new country.
1. Decide if a job abroad is for you.
Already flirting with the idea of an international move but not convinced it’s the right thing for you?
It’s time to get inspired.
Or Rob Pappas from the Bay Area, who joined the HR team at Yousician in Finland.
Or Thiago Pappacena, a Brazilian back-end engineer who joined a company in Italy and ended up becoming their CTO.
Or Julie Duthey, whose career journey took her from France to the lush jungles of Costa Rica (via a bunch of other countries).
- A sense of adventure: When you get a job abroad, almost everything is an adventure.
- Patience and adaptability: You’re going to have to learn to be unfazed by setbacks.
- Collaborative skills: Each country has its own bureaucracy, work cultures and traditions, and you will need help from others to navigate them.
- Ability to cope with loneliness: You may find yourself needing to cope with feelings of loneliness and isolation more than before.
- Independence: You’ll need to spend lots of time organizing and making travel arrangements.
- Boldness: You’ll be removing yourself from your comfort zone in every aspect of your life.
If you can check these traits off the list, you’re golden—now it’s time to find a job worth moving for.
2. Don’t panic. Set priorities and manage expectations.
No sugarcoating needed here: An international job search can get overwhelming. So be ready to do a lot of research and make a lot of lists to keep track of and narrow down your options.
Do you already have a dream city in mind or does it all start with the right job, wherever it may be? For a good place to start figuring this out, Insider Monkey lists 15 of the easiest countries to immigrate to in 2018 and HuffPost has a handy list of the best cities for expats. If you want to start with the right career opportunity, get to exploring jobs on Jobbatical.
Along the way, start making a list of things you’re absolutely not willing to compromise on. This will help you focus when/if you find yourself overwhelmed by the many variables.
From standards of living and climate to cultural norms and socially acceptable amounts of office small talk, you can be sure something in your potential new home country will surprise you.
To keep the (unpleasant) surprises to a minimum, make sure you know what to expect in the following five categories (to begin with):
- Visa requirements: Look into visa requirements for countries you’re interested in, and find out which companies are ready to sponsor all of the permits and visas you need. (Depending on where you’re from and where you want to go, this step can reach varying levels of complexity. Jobbatical mainly works with companies who offer at least some amount of relocation and immigration help.)
- Finances: Smaller salary numbers don’t necessarily equal lower quality of life! Job listings on Jobbatical come with a built-in cost of living breakdown to give you an idea of what to expect when moving between countries with different standards of living.
- Accommodation: Many companies hiring internationally will help you find accommodation and some will even make the arrangements and cover the cost for your first month to give you time to find your bearings.
- Climate: For some people, weather can be a deal breaker. If you know you absolutely wouldn’t be able to survive a Nordic winter or make it through the hot season in Southeast Asia, be honest with yourself about it.
- Cultural differences: Wherever you’re moving to and from, you’re bound to experience some degree of culture shock. It can range from mild (such as an Estonian discovering that Finns go to the sauna even more religiously than they do) to extreme (such as an entirely different belief system and/or set of social norms) and keeping an open mind is vital.
International career mover pro tip: The list of things you’re not willing to compromise on should be a lot shorter than the list of things you are willing to compromise on.
For a detailed list of practical arrangements to make before moving, also check out this handy checklist by Expat Info Desk.
3. Keep applying and keep the faith.
There’s no way around the most mind-numbing part of the job hunt: sending out a giant pile of applications.
And let’s face it: it’s a reality of the job market that you probably won’t be offered most jobs you apply for. Even more annoyingly, you might not hear back at all from many employers.
And that really, really sucks.
(You heard it here first, folks!)
Don’t let it get to you.
You have no control over whether or not you get a call back from a potential employer. But you can polish your application to the point where you can safely say:
I’ve done everything in my power.
There are many little things to keep track of when putting your application together, but start with the Big Three:
- Write good: Good spelling and grammar will make you look better. Fact.
- Stay on topic: List everything that actually shows why you’d be a good fit for the job. Cut the fluff.
- Make them feel special: Employers want to know you care about what they do. Show them you’re not just ready but eager to join them.
4. Nail your interviews.
One of the big challenges of looking for a job abroad is the lack of in-person interviews. Some companies might be able and willing to fly you in for final interview rounds, but this is fairly rare.
With nothing but a video call to count on for a lasting impression, you have your work cut out for you.
In addition to all the usual interviewing tricks to keep in mind, you need to prepare for…
1. Odd hours: Your interviewer might be several time zones away. Whenever you can, be flexible. No one in their right mind will expect you to be available for an interview at 2AM, but everyone appreciates a little bit of leeway when it comes to scheduling calls from half a world away.
2. Bad connections: Yes, we live in an age of super-fast internet connections and everyone is pretty much expected to be always online. But every now and again, a connection will drop, a call will suffer from anxiety-inducing lag, or you’ll simply sound like a drowning robot.
Do everything in your power to keep lines open: avoid places likely to have choppy connections (that includes Uber rides, by the way—who knew people actually did that?) and test all your tech in advance.
3. Strange accents: You could find yourself speaking to someone whose accent you find difficult to understand (or vice versa, or both ways). This post by travel blogger Hailey Sexton lists some helpful tips for English speakers being interviewed by non-native speakers, but her advice also applies in the opposite situation:
- Speak slowly and clearly;
- Listen carefully;
- Have go-to questions ready;
- Make a personal connection.
4. Big questions: A “regular” job interview wants you to answer “Why should we hire you,” but an interviewer in another country wants to know:
Why should we invest in relocating you?
That’s a whole other ballgame. It’s a big decision for you, but it’s a big one for the employer too. Be prepared to show them why you’re worth it. In addition to your skills and experience, now’s the time to demonstrate the six personality traits listed under point 1.
5. Just go for it.
Congrats—you got the job! And if you’ve come this far, there’s really nothing for it but to take the leap.
There’s still plenty to do in preparation (expanding on the categories listed in point 2), but now’s the time to take a step back and breathe.
Because when we asked them what they’d say to someone considering finding a job abroad, every single jobbaticler we’ve spoken to has answered with some variation of: