Careers Abroad

By Catherine Copley

Get a Foot on the Career Ladder Abroad

For many the memories of that fantastic Gap Year volunteering in an orphanage or summer spent teaching English in Peru linger on, although it may be several years since you returned to the UK, graduated and got a job. But who’s saying that working abroad should be limited to a season on the slopes or a stint behind a bar in Ibiza? Why not further your future career beyond the boundaries of the UK? Not only may the remunerative benefits and work-life balance be appealing, but a period of work in a foreign country will bring with it new challenges and look brilliant on your CV. This article will give you the low-down on what long-term opportunities are out there for you in the professional sector.

The hunt for that job abroad should begin in the UK. One of the easiest ways of working abroad is by transferring to an international office of a company you already work for. Ask around and you may be surprised to learn that there already are branches or affiliate companies operating in a country you are interested in. If this is not the case with your current employer, consider moving to a larger multinational firm where it is more common to send employees on placements abroad. This may mean that you may not be sent abroad immediately – in general you can expect to spend two to three years in a UK office building up experience before you are dispatched overseas – but if you follow this route, your employer will assist with any visa requirements, as well as offering support with relocation.

As with any job hunt, the openings available to you will be dependent upon qualifications, relevant work experience, language skills (these may be more of a requirement, if you plan to work in Paris, than say Cape Town) and sheer determination during the application stage.

Most jobs in the executive sector will require a degree or a minimum of three years experience in the specific sector. Don’t forget your CV and covering letter are important tools in and making it clear why that foreign firm should hire you instead of a local!


As a EU national working on the Continent has never been easier. The EU has made considerable steps to break down labour market boundaries from removing the need for a visa to creating qualification transparency, so that the value of degrees and vocational skills can be measured across Europe.


German salaries are the highest in the world, averaging £21 an hour. Added to that attractive employment packages such as company cars, holiday pay and Christmas bonuses plus 30 days holiday a year and any clued-up Job seeker will be saying Jawohl to the German Labour Market.

Germany’s largest companies include Daimler AG, Volkswagen AG, Siemens AG, E.on AG, Deutsche Telekom AG, Deutsche Post World Net, Metro AG, BMW AG and ThyssenKrupp AG and many job vacancies will be advertised on their websites.

At the moment job prospects in Germany are particularly buoyant in the shipping sector, which is looking for trained managerial staff. Equally there is a shortage of skilled mechanical and electrical engineers, as well as medical and IT specialists.

At present the working week varies between 38 and 40 hours, although over 28% of all employees currently work flexi-time and this is being increasingly common in large firms. Collective agreements stipulate 30 days of paid leave for every employee annually, however full entitlement to paid leave will only be granted after 6 months. Most contracts, unless otherwise stated, will be indefinite.

Personal income tax rates in 2008 are progressive, starting at 15% and increasing relatively steeply up to 45%. Everyone in employment is required to make a contribution towards social security around 19% which pays for a comprehensive social welfare system that covers social, health, unemployment and accident insurance as well as social aid. Your employer will deduct Income Tax, Church Tax (where appropriate) and all Social Security contributions from your pay cheque, which will be transferred monthly into your account.

Unlike other European countries the capital, Berlin, is not the economic centre and jobs in the financial, banking and legal sectors, tend to navigate around Frankfurt am Main. That said, Berlin has one of the most vibrant and upbeat cultural lives on the Continent and the cost of living is relatively low in comparison to other European capitals. Good online recruitment agencies, which provide information on jobs in Berlin, amongst them, Europe London Appointments (don’t be fooled by the name), allow you to search according to location, sector and even language (which is useful as many advertisements may only be in the native language of the country). During research some jobs available included a full time post as a Web Developer earning in the region of €50-60 000 as well as a temporary 2-month contract for a sales and product manager with a salary of €45-60,000.


French law stipulates a maximum 35hour working week, alongside an annual holiday allowance of 30 days (not including public holidays of which there are 10) meaning that the work-life balance is like a very fine French wine! Wages are paid on a monthly basis by bank transfer. Only social security contributions are deducted, instead employees must declare

Career Opportunities Abroad

Career Opportunities Abroad

their income in their annual tax return in May. Tax is calculated on sliding scale with five bands, the highest band being 40 % for those who earn over €66 679.

All sound good? Unfortunately the average Frenchman has a little excuse for a grumble. Social security (charges sociaux) kick in at relatively low levels of earnings and can be pretty hefty currently at 13.4%. If you work for a French company however, they should foot the bill, but there will be no way of escaping the mandatory health charges and pension payments amounting to around 20%.

There are two types of contract in France: CDI (indefinite contract) and CDD (fixed-term contract.) As the labour market is based around job security the CDI is the norm, however CDDs, lasting up to 18 months are creeping in to increase flexibility.

Finance, IT and Engineering sectors have a strong presence in France. International recruitment firms advertising vacancies in Paris include PSD group and Robert Walters PLC. From the homepage you can access different country web pages and search according to region (Paris is incorporated under Île de France). At the time of research vacancies were available amongst others as a Sales Engineer (Salary €50 -60,000) and a Logistics Assistant in Paris, with potential earnings of €40-50,000.


Many consider Spain to be a European backwater when it comes to professional careers, however since entry into the EU, the Iberian Peninsula has grown into the 8th largest economy in the world. That said wages might still be low compared to other European countries with admin roles starting at €1000 a month. However a lower cost of living, sunnier climate and more relaxed business lifestyle (does a daily 2-3 hour Siesta tempt you?) more than compensate for lower earnings. According to a 2006 population survey already 227 187 UK citizens have taken the plunge and are now working and living in Spain. The biggest percentage of jobs is in the service sector, in particular technical and commercial sales representatives. Skilled labourers are also in demand.

To get a job in the Spanish executive sector you must be able to speak Spanish. The Job market is reliant on networking and a reference from a Spanish friend would stand you in good stead. Other ways of pinning down a job include through the state employment agency (INEM) that allow anyone over the age of 16 to register with them. In addition you can take advantage of the many placement agencies (who may ask for an expenses fee for their services). All Spanish national, regional and provincial newspapers have a daily jobs section and Public TV even has a Jobs channel – ‘Aquí hay trabajo’ (job finder), thar is broadcast from Monday to Friday at 9 am on Channel 2 (RTVE).

Spain operates with a variety of indefinite and fixed term contracts. Fixed duration (temporary) contracts may be issued for those who are carrying out a task or performing a service where the duration is uncertain at the outset. As you can imagine this is pretty vague, so be wary of employers offering short term contracts to new graduates.

The average working week is around 40 hours and workers are allowed 30 days holiday alongside 14 public holidays annually. Income tax, dependent on the personal and family situation of the employee, and social security contributions (currently 6.34%) are deducted from the monthly pay slip.

Searching on online recruitment agencies, including Hays Global Recruitment Company, and Michael Page International, there are currently a good amount of vacancies in Madrid, particularly in the Finance and Banking, Engineering, IT, Controlling, Logistics and Supply, HR, Legal and Energy sectors. Pay depends on experience. Working in the HR department you may be looking at €23,000. On the other hand a senior electrical Engineer can expect between €37-42,000.


You can expect salaries in Canada to be slightly lower than those in Europe and the U.S although this will be offset by a lower cost of living. The Canadian Government provides a useful website functioning as a seach engine providing detailed labour market information including the average salaries for all sectors according to region. After a few simple clicks I was able to find out that the average wage in Toronto (according to a 2007 survey) for Sales, Advertising and Marketing Managers is 29.20 C$ (£14.29) per hour with high earners commanding however up to 50.55 C$ (£24.73). Equally other professional occupations in business services to management can expect an average hourly wage in Toronto of 31.60 C$ (£18.63) Engineers can expect a similar pay level of between 27-34 C$ (£13-£17) hourly and Information System Analysts and Consultants around 29 C$ (£14) Tax ranges from 0 – 47% Once you cross the pond, you will realise that the North Americans are workaholics, reflected in the standard holiday allowance of 14 days.

Working in North America has the added obstacle of obtaining a visa. In Canada you can only apply for one once you have secured an offer of employment. Your employer will then apply for a Labour Market Opinion (LMO). Once this is approved you can then apply for a work permit through Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). This may appear daunting, but around 90,000 foreign workers enter Canada every year to help address skill shortages. Moreover if you possess a skill that is in particular demand the Canadian Visa Bureau can even provide assistance with your job search. This currently applies to individuals in the Engineering and Health Service sectors.


Land of the free abounding with golden opportunities for every immigrant, that’s what the American Dream promises, but how true is this for the average worker in the executive employment sector?  First and Foremost you need to obtain a green card or visa, granting both residency and employment rights. If you’re only planning on working for short period of time you can apply for a HI, E class or K class visa as a skilled professional. More information can be found on The US Citizenship and Immigration Services Website.

Those with the right experience and go-get-it attitude will find big bucks awaiting them stateside. Michael Page International’s American web pages are a gold mine of high flying jobs in the Banking and Financial, Accounting, Human Resources, Legal, Procurement and Supply Chain and Sales and Marketing Sectors. A Demand Manager in New York can command a salary of $100,000 (£52,000) with that figure increasing the more experience you bring. Tax is a complex affair, not just payable to the State, Federal and Local Governments but also to the municipality, township, district and county. Depending on your personal situation, tax can account to up to 35%  of your income.

There are no federal rules forcing employers to provide vacation days, though on average you can expect nine a year, accumulating according to the length of service to 21 days after more than 15 years of service. This may sound bleak but your Employer may also offer ‘paid time off’ which can be taken at the employees discretion in the form of sick days, personal days and even holiday. The number of days generally starts at 15 and increases to 27 after 15 years.

Much of the initial research and application process can be organised from your base in the UK. Whatever country you decide to aim for there is a plethora of resources to help you along the way. For Jobs in Europe, start off by looking in the Job sections of the main Broadsheets and the International Herald Tribune. On the Internet the European Employment Services (EURES) has a database offering all kinds of jobs across Europe. Moreover the many International recruitment agencies let you browse for jobs in specific countries, according to sector, city and salary and upload your CV in the process.

Working abroad doesn’t have to mean a temporary break from the rat race before heading back to real life, but with the right attitude can become a successful part of your career.


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