Of course you want to change jobs! You’re not alone. A recent Gallup poll found that 34% of workers have switched jobs in the past three years to seek greener pastures. Among their reasons for finding work elsewhere are pursuit of a greater work-life balance and improved well-being. For some of us, this pursuit leads us to foreign shores.
Are you looking to join the 8.7 million Americans living abroad in 160 countries? Perhaps you’re one of the increasing number of Americans buying homes in New Zealand, anticipating economic collapse. Or maybe you’re looking to immerse yourself in a foreign culture, learn a language, or spend more time on the beach, where the pace of life is slower.
Whatever your reasons, there are a lot of concerns for the impending expatriate. You need to manage bank accounts, wrap up your job at home, ship your belongings, and so on. But most pressingly, how do you get a job in a completely different cultural and economic climate? Check out these tips for finding work in a foreign city.
Get Over There!
To start with, showing up signals to your mind that you have committed to the transition. When you have committed, you are more likely to succeed finding work. Don't be afraid to put yourself under pressure and use the pressure to your advantage! Naturalist, John Muir, said the best way to prepare for a trip is to “throw some tea and bread into an old sack and jump over the back fence.” You don't have to be that rash, but leaving is the hardest part, and stalling is the greatest obstacle. So buy the plane ticket first, and you'll make it work somehow!
Zero In for Efficiency
Look for companies to hire you, and take the Warren Buffet approach: focus, don't diversify! Find companies that you would love to work for, and zero in on them. It doesn't matter if they're hiring at that particular moment. You never know when a company will need to bring someone on board. Position yourself as the best next candidate. Focusing narrows your pool of employers, so the responses you get will be more exciting. There’s no reason to settle! Finding work in a foreign country can be hard, but it's definitely rewarding.
Make Face-to-Face Connections
Now you're there in person. You’ve found a few companies you’re eager to work for. It's time to introduce yourself to prospective employers face-to-face. This is not a job application, but a social introduction. Present yourself as an equal. Stay cool so you don’t appear desperate (even if your savings are rapidly dwindling!). They don’t even have to know yet that you’re looking for work! Let them know you admire their company. Express interest in their professional lives before mentioning finding work. If you set a good social tone, you’ve made a connection. Then when a need appears, they will think of you as someone they’re keen to work with.
Use Existing Networks
Most of these professionals already have networks in place. If they’re not hiring, perhaps they know another professional who is. Since you’re new in town, these few connections can serve as your networking shortcuts. Get introduced around, say yes to dinner invitations, and soon you’ll be meeting people. Take advantage of other existing networks, too. Check LinkedIn, join Facebook groups, and frequent events that professionals in your field might attend.
Stay Open to Unexpected Opportunities
Even as you focus, keep your feelers out. You never know what opportunity might come along. Opportunities have a slippery way of disappearing if you’re not alert. Your experience may be in design, but if the job that appears is running a cafe in your dream town, it might be worth the change. Remember that the perfect job might be in the cloud. Many companies don’t have a face-to-face option because employees telecommute. Recruiters use posting boards like Craigslist to look for remote talent in foreign cities. Always keep the job listings open in another tab!
Get Your Visa Early
It is possible to enter some countries without a visa (even the security-crazed United States). Most often, though, you will need to arrange a visa in advance. Furthermore, most countries require a special work visa or permit if you are planning to earn there. Every country has different regulations, so do your homework. Make sure you have all your ducks in a row before getting on the plane. The customs and immigration line at a foreign airport is not a welcome place for surprises! Give yourself plenty of months for this and plan for a few bureaucratic delays and headaches.
Learn the Language
Just do it. No excuses, no procrastination. Get on Duolingo and make it a game. Practice with meetup groups. Hang Post-It notes all over your house. Learn to read Hangul in an afternoon, or put those four years of high school Spanish to use. Integrate practice into your daily routine. You’ll thank yourself later. Of course, there is no substitute for immersion, but the more ground you cover learning vocab and grammar ahead of time, the easier your transition will be. You'll usually get a warmer welcome from the locals, too. Plus, it puts you in the right mindset and helps you get excited. When you’re over there, you’ll impress potential employers more with your skills.
Looking for work in a foreign city isn’t easy. Leaving may be the hardest part, but the second hardest is keeping your chin up. Be persistent and don't get discouraged. Control your emotions, keep your poise, and do the work. Keep it simple. Focus on the tasks at hand today, and don’t get overwhelmed with the scope of the transition. Make sure to do your due diligence by exploring all avenues. Then allow yourself to rest for a day and see what comes back to you. Be prepared for other stressing factors, such as culture shock and changes in diet. Try to take them with a sense of fun. Remind yourself that you’re doing something brave. No one likes job hunts, but at least looking for work in a foreign city is an adventure. Your greatest ally is a positive and persistent attitude. So go get that job in your dream town! Greener pastures await.