Working abroad is not only a great experience, but it can also launch your international career and open doors for new opportunities around the world. Your language skills will skyrocket, and your cross-cultural competencies will go through the roof while bringing all of those other soft skills along. In short: If you have the opportunity to go work abroad – do it! To help you prepare, we put together some things to consider, facts to research, and questions to ask (yourself).
1. Learn all about visas and work permits
No matter how much you plan and organize, your dream of working abroad will ultimately hinge on your visa or work permit. Therefore, finding out what papers you’ll need to be able to legally work in another country – and what you need to do to get these papers – will be the first step. Make sure you factor in that obtaining a visa or permit could take some time and money. You’ll also need to know how long you can stay with said documents – are they connected to employment or can you stay there for a certain amount of time, no matter what?
2. Research the cost of living vs. your salary
Next up on the list of important things to consider: money. You might not know exactly how much money you will make each month, but you need to know what the industry average is and how it compares to the cost of living. You will basically need to figure out how much money you will have left once all the monthly costs (rent, bills, taxes, etc.) are paid. (Few things can be as depressing as living in an amazing place and not being able to afford anything.)
3. Find out how to find a job and a place to live
If you have set your heart on a specific city, research how easy it will be to find a job and a place to live. Check how people commute and how that factors into your budget and expectations. (Things might be easier if you just want to move to a certain country and are more flexible where you’ll work, but you will still need to be able to find a job and have a roof over your head.)
4. Consider how much time off you will have
One reason why you move abroad is probably because you want to explore a new culture – and you will need time to do that. It might not sound super important at the beginning, but find out how much vacation time (and sick days) you’ll get, as this can vary greatly between countries. All work and no travel can dampen the best adventure plans, so make sure that you will have time (and money) to explore and/or visit your family back home every now and then.
5. Start building a network
Having a network in another country is crucial – luckily, you don’t even have to travel there to small talk and schmooze: Use social media to find and connect with people in your industry. Asking someone for help, advice, and their proverbial “two cents” are always good ways to get a foot in the door, so become active on Twitter and LinkedIn, join groups or forums, and talk to expats and locals.
6. Learn about your country and its culture
When you’re on vacation, everything is a little bit more awesome. We don’t want to rain on your parade, but living in a country will be a little different: There will be bills, taxes, and delayed buses. You might also live a bit farther from the beach than you imagined. Now, we’re not saying that everything will be worse, we just want you to be realistic and not judge your future home while wearing vacation goggles. A good idea is to visit the future home before you move and really ask yourself if you could live there. This is also a good time to meet with possible employers (even if it’s just for networking), look at neighborhoods, and talk to locals about the current job market and living arrangements.
7. Get the hang of how locals find jobs
Different cultures have different approaches to finding a job – some like a more formal approach with lots of paperwork while others prefer face-to-face interaction. Research how the locals find their jobs and figure out if you will be able to find something on your own (and from far away) or if you will have to go through a recruiter or agency.
8. Study up on how to write CVs and cover letters
Now that you know how to find a job, you need to get everything ready to get the process started: Learn all about the layout, content, and formalities of writing a CV and cover letter for your country and industry. Make sure you know how many personal details you’ll need to share and what documents/references you’ll need to include.
9. Read about possible diplomas & certifications
Depending on your education, skills, and work experience, your new home country might ask for an additional (language) diploma or certificate. Research the job requirements and learn how, where, and when you can get the necessary documents. (This might mean that you have to spend some more time and money to get where you want to go.) If you need to find out what language you are currently at, take EF’s free placement test here.
10. Prepare yourself for things to be different
Exploring something new, starting a new chapter in your life, and broadening your horizons are hopefully some of the reasons why you want to work abroad – but we just want to throw it out there anyway: Make sure that you’re prepared for the possibility of a little bit of culture shock, homesickness, and some “but why”-questions that come hand in hand with “that’s just how it is”-answers. It happens to the best of us, so see it as a sign that you’re growing, becoming more awesome, and are about to make memories that will last a lifetime.
11. Have a plan B. (Just in case.)
Now, we don’t want to discourage any of your endeavors, but as a world traveler, you know that it’s always good to have an alternative strategy in case things don’t go according to plan. For example, it’s good to know how long you can afford to and are allowed to live in the country without having a job. Having said that, it will be important to figure out how much money you want to save up to accumulate an emergency fund for rainy (and stormy) days.
12. Go for it.
If not now, when?