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Get Ready to Work Abroad

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Tell people you plan to work abroad and you’ll get a lot envious glances.

Your American friends will start picturing you at sidewalk cafes or touring ancient ruins. Your European friends will see you eating fast food and working on Wall Street. Maybe those images are even motivating you to make the move.

Whether you want to go abroad for career opportunities, economic, family or other reasons, do a bit of a reality check before you start packing—yes, there will be serious packing involved!

Here are some things to consider before embarking on an international move.

  • Try to avoid showing up in a new country without a contract for a job. While a few good prospects might be enough, they may not be enough. I moved overseas having been promised, in writing, two jobs, only to have them both fall through. Getting settled in a foreign land is so much work that if you go without a contract, it may take a lot longer than is comfortable for you to find out what you need to know in order to find a job. If you’re emigrating for reasons other than work, you’re going to need to be your own headhunter. If you’re an American moving abroad, start with a Google search of expatriates and their jobs where you want to work
  • Compare the credentials you have with standards in the country. Find out how smoothly your professional qualifications will transfer. If they don’t transfer at all, you’ll want to know exactly what you will need to do once you arrive, or reconsider your choice. Evaluate what makes sense based not only on the amount of effort needed, but also on the length of time you’ll be abroad. If it’s a question of getting an additional license, taking a test, or even taking classes, do as much of the research and paperwork as you can before you get on a plane.
  • Need a Visa? Build a network. Visas thrive on connections. If you are looking for an employer who will sponsor you, it will benefit you to cultivate–ASAP–as many connections as you can to gain allies who will vouch for you as a valuable prospect and help persuade the right person to hire you.
  • You have an elevator pitch (if not, you need that, too).  Now create your visa pitch! Before you start the interview process, familiarize yourself with what you’ll need from employers as much as possible so you can pitch the idea to potential bosses in a way that makes the process sound as simple as possible. You should be ready to explain the steps they need to take and offer them as much help as you are can to complete the process. Be aware you might be asked to help with the cost, so be ready.
  • Globalize your network. This is the only way to begin really understanding a place and lifestyle if you haven’t been to the country where you’d like to work. You’ll need to learn all you can about the experience of people in the city and region, going beyond their professional lives. Talk to others who have worked abroad and find out the differences in culture, social attitudes and activities, expenses, and even the weather.

No matter where you are headed, perhaps the most important key to success is the ability to stay flexible. You can’t control everything, and should take it as a given that things won’t go completely according to plan. Once you have arrived in your new country, remember to stay open to embracing the new on a personal level as well as professionally.  Try new foods, listen and ask questions, learn the language as much as possible. You’ll get the most from your experience, no matter how long it lasts.

About the Author

Lilly-Marie Lamar is a career advisor for Ivy Exec. She provided career advice to college students and professionals in the U.S. and abroad, and was a Fulbright scholar. Lilly-Marie has a degree in education from Columbia University.