Whether you accidentally spent your last dollar or you’re fed up with your current boss and need a breath of fresh, foreign air, work abroad programs are a great way to earn more than just money. The list of advantages is practically endless: broadened horizons, new skills, improved independence, new friendships (and business relations), a new language added to your repertoire, and a boost to take your career dreams to the next level. You’ll be having so much fun overcoming new challenges and tasting bizarre gelato flavors that your job abroad won’t even feel like work; rather, it will be like one crazy (paid!) adventure.
STEP 1: CHOOSE A LOCATION
The world is a big place, and everything light touches is in your kingdom for potential jobs abroad. Yikes! That’s even more overwhelming than chasing away a pack of slimy hyenas. How do you begin to zoom in on the global map until you find a place that you would like to temporarily call home? Start out with filling out this little questionnaire:
Familiar or Exotic? England or Azerbaijan? What about Japan? Some people feel more comfortable sticking with places that remind them of their current country: a similar culture, a connection to friends/family, and a taste of home. Others are drawn to the wildness and mystique of exotic locations for the very opposite reasons. Neither is right or wrong, just keep in mind that you will be there for a while, so try to pick a place that functions decently bureaucratically and provides you with a friendly work environment. Learning how to drape a sari might be difficult enough, even without dealing with tropical diseases.
Voulez-vous parlez anglais avec moi? If the idea of picking up and moving to an entirely different universe seems daunting enough, it might be in your interest to at least keep conversations in a language that you understand. (This still leaves you with plenty of great options: Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, etc.). But, if you’re ready to rock in more than one language, focus in on a part of the world that speaks what you are learning (or would like to learn). German, Italian, Arabic, Swahili, Aymara, Archi? Take your pick, pack a multi-lingual dictionary, and hasta luego, baby!
To visa or not to visa? Most countries will not require a visa for short-term work, but if you plan to work or stay for more than a few months, a visa becomes essential. While a small, political slip of paper shouldn’t greatly affect your decision (where there’s a will, there’s a way), it’s not a bad idea to check out which countries you can stay in, for how long, doing what before setting your eyes on the prize.
STEP 2: SELECT A FIELD
Just as diverse as world locations are the types of jobs you can tackle abroad. Ultimately, you can do anything, so we recommend focusing on something you are genuinely interested in or that will prove beneficial for what you want to do later in life. Most of us still cannot answer the question that parents have been asking us since we were four (whatchya wanna do when you grow up, honeypie?), but that’s alright. Getting a job abroad doesn’t mean a lifelong commitment, and you don’t necessarily have to pave a way to your ultimate career. In fact, the global sphere makes for great experimental wiggle room.
If you aren’t sure what jobs are available abroad or you are just getting your career dreaming started, here are some of the most common jobs abroad for foreign workers:
English Teaching. The most common, sure-fire way to secure a job abroad is to teach English. Many teaching jobs abroad require teachers to have TEFL certification, but after the initial investment you’ll have a lifelong certificate and boundless opportunities.
Child Care. Au pairing has been used as the way to get out of the familiarities of home and into someone else’s way of life for centuries. Usually au pair placements are more short-term, but it remains an excellent way to get thrown head-first into a new culture, language, and location. While teaching the ABC’s to little kiddos, you can also network in the surrounding community and potentially find additional, future job opportunities.
Science & Healthcare. Whatever you are interested in doing back home is likely also possible abroad, so why not try it out? Does the mention of archaeology, chemistry, or nursing inspire warm and fuzzy feelings? If you studied a particular field, search for relevant jobs abroad in countries that interest you. Don’t underestimate yourself; even a high school degree is often more education than most people have in developing countries, so sell your skills.
Hospitality. From assisting front desks to creating culinary masterpieces, the hospitality sector provides a flexible option for those needing some quick cash. While common restaurant jobs (such as waitressing, hosting, cleaning) are easy to stumble upon in the streets, there are also several work abroad programs that can provide a secure seasonal or temporary job placement abroad. Bonuses of hospitality jobs abroad include working for a familiar (or American) company, while at the same time living abroad.
STEP 3: UNDERSTAND SALARIES & COSTS
A good thing to keep in mind since Step 1: the biggest potential cost of your working abroad is the price of transportation to get there. Make sure you calculate transport costs into your budget, especially if you are thinking of a shorter placement, and look into what employers will cover this expense.
Salaries differ greatly for jobs abroad, just as they do for jobs at home, depending on the field, company, your experience, and the location of your job. Most jobs abroad will provide a salary; although, some work abroad programs merely offer food, accommodation, and a symbolic weekly salary in exchange for work.
Also, keep global economics i mind when deciding where and why you want to take your career abroad. Consider the cost of living in your chosen location as well as the salaries offered. Regardless of where you work abroad, the monthly $1,500 you make back home will not be worth the same abroad. In Argentina, for example, you can live like a king with nightly steak-and-wine dinners at this salary, while in Norway, you might find that it doesn’t even cover your monthly rent. Pay attention to currencies and research average living costs in your country of interest. Decide whether you are seeking a job abroad to increase your savings account, a work placement that paints an idyllic temporary life, or if you are more interested in the experience of a new place and occupation than the semi-monthly check.
While you may not have access to scholarships to fund your career aspirations abroad, there are other options to help you work abroad. For example, FundMyTravel is an easy way to advertise your dreams and get money from both friends and strangers.
STEP 4: BECOME EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR
Jobs abroad typically pool applicants from all over the world; that’s a lot of competition. Whether you are interested in teaching children in Africa, building harps in Wales, or researching coral reefs off the coast of Australia, how do you stand out from the crowd?
Part I: The Hunt. You’ve found the perfect job; now, all you have to do is get it. Applying online is very different than personally dropping off an application or going in for an interview. Update your resume, get your qualifications globally recognized, write personalized cover letters, and fill the application with relevant allusions to the position and its relation to your life at home.
Part II: The Preparation. While finding and getting a job abroad might seem like more work than the actual position, don’t slack off with formalities and don’t celebrate too early. You’re in the adult world now! International jobs don’t usually offer the same walkthroughs and packing lists as your high school exchange program or that volunteer placement you were part of last summer. Time to step up to the plate! Start off by doing the following:
- Organize your travel documents. Remember that visa we mentioned? Now it’s time for all the logistics. While you’re at it, check on your passport as well. Might wanna make a few copies, just to be safe.
- Buy a pocket dictionary. If you are moving to a country where English is not the main language, brush up on the basic phrases and pick up a small dictionary. You might look dorky and touristy at times, but not everywhere offers wifi reception, and at times, asking for the ambulance is more important than keeping your cool.
- Health insurance? If it’s not offered through your employer, find out what options work best for you? It doesn’t hurt to have one last check-up at home either.
- Research. Good excuse to watch movies and read colorful blogs. Find out as much about your host country as possible. This will help you not only compile an effective packing list, but also get your mind to start thinking in a different way and ease the effects of culture shock.
Okay, now you can have that glass of bubbly to celebrate. A couple of drops of liquid courage aren’t a bad idea, especially when you get to…
Part III: Become a Superstar. You have a job abroad, you’ve crossed an international border, and you are ready to rock this new endeavor. So, now you have to:
- Show up on time. Make a good first impression…and maintain it.
- Come prepared. Do your homework, bring necessary supplies, and focus your mind.
- Say SI! Make the most of the experience. Accept invitations, try new things, get out there.
- Network like crazy. Talk to everyone, get involved with projects and volunteer opportunities, and make best friends. Hopefully, these new relationships will last past your visa expiration date.
Whether you are working on a TEFL certificate in Thailand or making use of a working holiday visa, a little bit of preparation and a lot of enthusiasm will reward you with an experience that will sparkle on your resume. Build your characters and establish international relationships while honing skills and adapting cultures you can bring back home with you…unless you get inspired to apply for permanent residence abroad!