It’s easy to get caught up in the exciting parts of pursuing a job abroad, like where you will live, who you will meet, and all of the fun you can have. I remember spending a fair share of time daydreaming about the little things like walking to work, taking the bus and buying groceries – all of the things that would be completely new and different to me. But what can often get lost in the shuffle is the job itself, and not necessarily the day-to-day things associated with working overseas, but all of the goals that you have for the the job, and that the jobs has for you.
Work abroad jobs generally require much more planning and legwork than jobs in your home country. Between visas, living arrangements and airfare, the logistics can be time consuming. But the best time to put a significant amount of time into planning for your job abroad is before you even know what the job is! Just as you would if you were looking for a position right out of college, your skills, areas of improvement and objective should be the driving force behind your job decisions. This can not only position you for success at your job abroad, but can help you find a job that is the best fit for you.
The best way to approach the work abroad job search is to start organizing your thoughts, and to determine what you really want to get out of your job. Transitions Abroad magazine has a great template worksheet for working abroad that can help you to get started with outlining your job search strategy. It begins with the basic questions (Where do I want to work? In what industry?), and then slowly encourages you to go into more detail about your skills, and what areas in which you’d like to gain more skill.
You might find that you’ve designed your perfect job just by filling in some boxes on a spreadsheet. But what next?
The next step in finding a job abroad is the most fun, to me anyway. Using the information that you just organized, start to explore different organizations that might meet your needs, whether or not they currently have job openings. You should also browse the "About Us" section to see what types of position they have, and what kinds of people they hire. Have they been with the organization long, and worked their way up? This could give you some insight into how the organization works, and what kind of culture it promotes.
Once you have an idea of what kind of organizations occupy space in your chosen industry and country, you should start making connections. You might find out that someone you know works for, or has worked with, someone at the organization or has some other connection. If that doesn’t happen, start writing emails and asking for informational interviews. You can have these over Skype or on the phone, as a way to learn more about the organization, as well as get your name and face out there as someone who is looking for work abroad.
All of this legwork is helpful because it can keep you "in-the-know" about organizations of interest, and you can continue to check job postings and open positions. Also look for volunteer opportunities within the organization. There might be something that is a good fit for your needs, and could grow into a larger position. Some people travel abroad and take on both a paying job and a volunteer job to meet their needs – working for environmental conservation by day and waiting tables by night can help you do something you love, while exposing you to local culture.
The secret to work abroad is planning, and the planning starts at home. The Internet is a powerful tool, and gives us exposure to many types of organizations and jobs that many people probably didn’t know existed a few years ago. It can give you (along with your own initiative) all of the tools you need to find a great job abroad.
If you’d like to learn more about jobs abroad in general, please visit the Work Abroad section of JobMonkey.com.