Some people move abroad for a job – others will face the difficult task of trying to find a job abroad. Whether you are moving abroad to follow your partner, or your own dream of living in another country, one of the first priorities is usually to find work. Depending on what country you come from and what country you’ve moved to, you will face a unique set of challenges. Don’t let anyone fool you, finding work in a different country is no easy task! However, there are some general areas in which most people encounter problems, and there are ways of dealing with them. These are my tips:
Legal challenges usually come in the form of visas. Many types of visa, such as some spousal visas, don’t allow people to work. Make sure you find out in advance what your visa options are and choose one that allows you to work if possible. Even if you don’t intend to find a job to begin with, you might change your mind later on. Usually you are at least allowed to volunteer, and this can be a great way to network and in the case of some countries, might even speed up the process of acquiring a working visa.
Many professional qualifications or even degrees do not translate. The harsh truth is: No matter how qualified you are in your home country, your destination country might simply not accept your qualifications. This can range from school leaving certificates to degrees or professional qualifications. In most cases, you have four options.
Option 1: you can get your qualifications officially translated and accredited in the system of your home country. Most schools and universities offer this, as well as many professional boards and associations.
Option 2: You can take a test to assure your destination country that your home country qualification meets their standards. This applies more often to apprenticeships and applied work than to university degrees, but find out if doing there is an association in your field that can test you and officially accept your ‘foreign’ degree.
Option 3: ‘Top up’ your qualification. This might mean going back to university for a year, taking some evening classes or going through a few months of training. It might seem like a bad deal at first, but if a little bit of extra time allows you to use years of education and lets you work in your chosen field, I’d say it’s worth it!
Option 4: Start from scratch. Sadly, some fields are so strict that they will not allow anything but their own complete qualifications. This means that if you are committed to your dream career, you have to start qualifying for it from scratch: Get that degree, again. Complete that apprenticeship, again. It’s a considerable investment of time and money, so be sure to think this through.
The working cultures in different countries can be, quite frankly, a shock. Culture shock does not just apply to everyday life, but to the office, too. Your new country might not offer the regular holidays, free weekends, 9-5 days, pension schemes and sick leave that you’re used to. On the plus side, they might offer benefits that you hadn’t expected. If it is normal to work late in your destination country and you demand to leave at five, you will run into trouble. Respect their working culture, and find out how to make it work for you!
This one goes hand in hand with the above. You will have certain expectations or experiences of your field, career or job based on your home country. However, in another country, your profession might have a very different career path or a different social standing. Teachers are highly respected in Scandinavia – in Britain, they are underpaid and undervalued. Some jobs simply don’t exist in some countries. It can be disheartening to find out the way forward looks longer and more gruelling than you expected, but there might also be different exciting options related to your field out there that were not available in your home country!
- Finding Job Opportunities
If you’ve gone through all of the above, your next hurdle is to actually find how jobs are advertised in your destination country. Surprisingly, it can often be easier to start making connections and find out about openings from your home country. Enquire with companies that have offices in both countries about your options, or again, contact your profession’s international organisation and ask them for your destination country’s organisation. There are also many international job searching websites, such as www.jobs.ac.uk.
A good network can help you find a job, secure it and seize further career opportunities along the way. If you are stuck on a non-working visa for now, volunteer to get to know other people working in your area. If your profession has an active online community, try to make some contacts online before you move! If your native language is English, many will be happy to get to know you simply to have an English speaking professional contact who might be able to help them out with their language skills at some point.
- The Foreigner Bias
This is a hard one. Each country is different, but many cultures treat migrants or expats as unreliable. These are some of the things you might hear: We don’t know if you are going to around for long, this makes you a risk to the company. Your language skills are not good enough (even if you are fluent). Our customers would not be comfortable with a foreigner. You don’t know about our clients expectations/don’t know the field well enough (in this country). The list goes on. Have some answers prepared to these objections, but accept that some people will simply not be comfortable hiring a foreigner, and move on.
- You Need to Find a New Career
Some professions just don’t exist in other countries, or are impossible to get into, or you have decided getting your qualifications recognised would take more time and effort than it’s worth. Maybe you have discovered a new side of yourself living abroad, or become excited about a field that did not exist back home or that you did not previously know about. In any of these situations, you’ll find be looking at an entirely new career. While it can seem scary to start over, in many cases it will actually be easier to start from scratch in your new country. That way you will get to know the profession as it is in your new country and not have to face problems which come with trying to translate an already existing career to a new country. Be brave, if something interests you, give it a try!
Be prepared that your income might not at all be what you expected. Government legislation such as support and taxes that apply to different professions differ greatly between countries and you could be facing special taxing as a foreigner. Furthermore, your job search might take you longer than it would have back home, so plan with a safety cushion.
- Keeping your head up
Job hunting abroad is rarely smooth sailing. Let’s be honest, it can be frustrating, worrying or outright depressing at times. Try to keep your head up! Make time to get to know and enjoy your new country, look after your relationship and friendships, look after yourself. It might take longer than you expected, you might have to climb hurdles you never would have thought of back at home, but you will have made a new life abroad for yourself at the end.