Monday, June 21, 2010

7 Considerations for Taking a Job Overseas

As opportunities have become more limited in the U.S. -- especially for young professionals trying to gain workplace experience -- more people are looking overseas for job opportunities.

Here are some things to consider if you’re looking for a job abroad:

· Evaluate the risks. The U.S. State Department ( posts information on where it is safe to travel for Americans, and the danger zones. Still, no place — not even the U.S. — in 100 percent safe. You need to consider the level of risk you are willing to take, and for how long.

· Plot your career path. Companies and jobs often don’t operate the same overseas as in the U.S., even if you are working with an American company. Local cultures and customs often dictate how business is done, as well as the input from local workers who may be employed by an American business overseas. Will you be given the right kind of responsibility? Will your skills be given a chance to grow? Are there opportunities overseas that you might not be able to experience in the U.S.?

· Know the law. It’s not enough to decide you want to go overseas — you must acquaint yourself with the permission needed to gain a job in another country. Work visas are normally only offered through the company offering you the job, and the company must prove that the position cannot be filled by a local.

· Decide on the type of work. You may decide to gain work experience through volunteering (if you can afford to go without a paycheck), or by teaching English as a foreign language in another country, typically a one- or two-year gig (check out the Peace Corps, and Fulbright scholarships). Another option is an international internship for academic credit, but again, you probably won’t get paid. Still another idea is a short-term job, usually about six months, with employers such as restaurants or farms, or taking care of children.

· Use foreign language skills. Even if you’ve only got one or two years under your belt, that high school or college French may come in handy when considering a job. It’s also a chance to become truly fluent in a language, which may help your career later.

· Recharge your batteries. Believe it or not, helping a small village put in a well can give you more personal fulfillment than making a million dollar deal. If you’re finding yourself burned out with your life and your career, working abroad can be life-changing event that helps put your life back on track, while helping you gain skills by working with people of diverse backgrounds.

· Watch the deadlines. It’s not going to be possible to decide you want to work abroad and then leave two weeks later. There are applications and deadlines that must be followed, so it’s best to make your decision and then begin the process. It may take a year to get where you want to go, and remember to apply early to increase your chances of acceptance.

What are some other considerations before making such a move?



Jenn Pedde said...

This is a great post! I lived abroad teaching ESL for 2.5 years in South Korea for exactly some of the reasons you mentioned. Now I'm back and doing a job I love at Alliance Relocation Services, and being abroad really did make all the difference.

Lindsay Olson said...

Good post! I'd add that one should consider the currency exchange. Salaries are not the comparable in every market and you can't expect you will make the same wage for the same job in another country. Depending on the country, it could be significantly lower and the cost of living doesn't always compensate.

Anita said...

You're so fortunate to have had that experience, and I'm sure your comments will encourage others to consider it. Thanks!

Anita said...

That's an excellent point. I'll add that you probably want to check out the cost of living in other countries, to make sure you can afford the necessities.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is just a lack of opportunities in the US that may make people decide to go work abroad. Actually, if you look at most of the top CFOs, a very large portion of them had some sort of international work experience. From my perspective I can say that such an experience is really an eye opener and it changes you as a person (in a good way).

AIDC said...

Great post. There are risks involved with anything, so doing your homework is very important for working overseas. Also, working with an organization that is experienced with offering jobs overseas will help mitigate risk.