Latest Issue

Menu
:
Unsplash CC0

International Job Hunting Strategies That Work

By Janet Ngo

Advice from recruiters and expats to help you land that job abroad.

It's easy to dream of working surrounded by ancient castles, speaking a foreign language, or having midday siestas as part of your workplace culture.

But how do you find work abroad? As much as we’d love to leap into a job in an enriching new environment, the reality is that it can take weeks, months or even years to find the right job overseas. It can be difficult to find a fulfilling position without physically being in the country and navigating work visas only complicates matters further. 

Still, these challenges are surmountable and with some foresight and tenacity, you can fulfil your dreams of living and working abroad. We spoke with expats, international job hunters and recruiters to learn 12 proven strategies to help you land your dream job abroad.

1. Use online job banks to apply online 

Probably the quickest and most accessible method of applying for jobs halfway around the world, online posting boards—such as Indeed, Glassdoor, Monster, SimplyHired and LinkedIn—are a convenient way to search for jobs in specific industries and locations. Other possibilities include:

Job boards for international applicants

• Overseas Jobs
• Jobs Abroad Bulletin
• Search Jobs Abroad
• Next Station: Matches professionals with companies who want to hire expats.

Job sites that are location-specific

These include:

• Germany: expatjobseeker.de
• Russia: Expatriant.com 
• Africa: CareersinAfrica.com
• Czech Republic: JobSpin.cz

Job sites based on industry or sector

These include:

• Au pair, hospitality, farm or seasonal jobs: AnyworkAnywhere.com, SeasonWorkers.com, Expat.com
• International development/humanitarian: CareersForGlobetrotters.com, DevNetJOBS.orgDevEx.com, Idealist.orgReliefWeb.int
• Tech industry: Stackraft.com, Uncubed.com
• Teaching jobs: TeachAway.com, International Schools Service, Times Educational Supplement

2. Employ the services of a recruitment or employment agency

If you’re a skilled professional or have specific career goals, working with a global recruitment or employment agency such as ManPower, Adecco or Hays is a great option. Not only are they typically free—they also allow you to tap into jobs that might not be advertised elsewhere. You also can also register with a recruiter before you move countries or quit your current job.

Once abroad, check in with the recruitment company’s local office to reaffirm your interest. Use their expertise to tailor your resume and hone your interview techniques to the local culture.

Frank Principe, senior recruitment consultant for Montreal-based Cowan International, suggests being in regular contact with your recruiter any time you have updates, such as changes to your employment status or job interests. He recommends a two-fold approach when partnering with recruiters: Allow a selection of recruiters to do their work in finding matches, but also “be your own agent” by monitoring agency job postings and emailing the agency anytime a posting piques your interest.

Principe also recommends choosing an agency that specializes in your sector. “See what job postings they advertise—that’s the clue you’re dealing with the right agency,” he says.

For example, these sectors are represented by specific recruiters in the EU:

• Secretarial/administrative jobs: Tiger Recruitment
• Engineering, IT, data analytics, life sciences: Volt
• Pharmaceutical and biotechnology: Suess Recruitment

3. Attend an expat job fair

Meeting face-to-face with prospective employers and getting immediate answers to your questions about a job, company or industry is one of the biggest benefits of attending a job fair—you may even get an interview on the spot. They’re also useful for networking with fellow job searchers.

If you live in Canada, Verge Magazine's annual Go Global Expo is a good place to start, with its mix of study, work and volunteer abroad booths. If you’re already abroad, expat job fairs take place worldwide, including Tech Jobs Fair or the Work in Denmark Fair.

Some industries such as education (one of the most common sectors of employment for North American expats) do a lot of international recruitment via job fairs. These include:

Queen’s University Teachers’ Overseas Recruiting Fair (TORF)
International Schools Services' Job Fairs
Search Associates Job Fairs
ICEF 

4. Build your international networks and ask for referrals

The adage “it’s who you know” applies abroad just as it does in North America. A significant number of available job positions are not actually advertised, so networking is key. You can tap into these unpublicized jobs by establishing contact with employees at your target companies.

To start, you’ll need to build contacts as soon as you know where you’re headed and the type of job you’re looking for—the more specifics you can provide to contacts, the better. Talk with family, friends, colleagues, instructors, and alumni associations to find contacts in the industry you want to work in. Ultimately, you’ll want to establish a connection with a company employee or hiring manager abroad, with whom you can chat about the industry, get job leads, or request an informational interview. If you can get a referral from one of your new contacts; even better.

Expat groups (such as Expat.com, Expatica.com and InterNations.org), meetup groups, professional organizations and other communities in your destination country will be important networks for meeting peers and getting job leads. If you’re already in your destination country, make connections at conferences, professional meetings and workshops, which also help you to remain up to speed with new developments in the industry.

Finally, be sure to research social and cultural customs in your destination country. What may seem like normal communication and networking activity to you could be perceived, at best, as a little strange or worse, highly offensive to the people you are aiming to connect with.

5. Get job savvy on social media

By following prospective employers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, you can keep up with their events, hiring, and even inquire about job openings. You can also follow influencers or leaders in your industry abroad. (Keep in mind that different countries have their own social media platforms. XING is Germany’s equivalent of LinkedIn, for example, while China’s WeChat is an all-in-one messaging app.)

Elena Perreira, a Canadian expat working in Japan as a visual effects artist, solidified her decision to move abroad based on insights she gained via social media. She researched expat experiences by following foreigners in Japan, using YouTube and Twitter. She then joined a Reddit forum of foreigners living in Japan.

“One of the most important things you should do before moving to any country is to see if they have a Reddit community. You can find so much information,” she says.

It was on Reddit that Perreira met an expat couple working in Japan in her industry. Through their online discussions, Perreira learned about their employer. She decided to apply—and landed the job abroad.

As for your own social profiles, tweak them to conform to the business culture of your destination country. Don’t forget to adjust your DM settings so that people can contact you.

6. Connect with others on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a must-have tool for your international job hunt and you should be actively connecting with people and companies abroad in your industry. As the biggest business-oriented online network worldwide, LinkedIn has an enormous number of users in almost every country.

Recruitment consultant, Principe, teaches recruiters how to use LinkedIn effectively and suggests paying for a LinkedIn Premium subscription. This allows you to send direct messages to people you are not already connected with.

“Send messages to people who have careers that resonate with you, have the same passions, skillset and are already international,” he advises, pointing out that they could provide you with job leads or recommendations on specific recruiters to work with. “They’re you five to ten years from now. Connect with them and start getting advice.”

You can also use LinkedIn to request a connection with the hiring manager at your target company, stating your intention to move and your interest in working there. Principe also recommends combing through profiles of local residents in your destination country to get insight on how to present yourself in that context.

Joining LinkedIn groups relevant to the labour market you are intending to enter (North East China Expats & Returnees or Canadian Expat Careers, for example) may also help with networking, job leads, or getting industry tips.

Finally, keep in mind that recruiters are also active on LinkedIn, so familiarize yourself with ways to optimize your visibility so that you come up in profile searches.

7. Volunteer or intern abroad 

Even if you’re not performing your dream tasks or getting paid, a volunteer or internship stint abroad can help with getting an international job down the road. Principe says that volunteering, especially in an emerging economy, shows you’re serious and committed to working in a different culture.

Taking the initiative to find a volunteer or intern placement abroad is an opportunity to explore your options and discover where your interests and passions truly lie. It's also a chance to develop a wide range of personal and professional skills that will help you succeed in a global job market.

Check job boards like LinkedIn or Indeed, or sites specifically listing volunteer or intern placements, such as Global Affairs Canada (for Canadians). The US Department of State posts links to a range of international organizations (the UN and the IMF, for example) where internship programs are available.

A second option is to enlist the services of a placement company—and there are many of them out there. For a fee, they will assist with things that might include visa application paperwork, finding accommodation, matching your interests with an appropriate host organization or employer, or helping you get oriented in your new location. A good place to start your research is by checking out Verge Magazine's Online Program Search. Be sure you are satisfied that the company is credible and that you know exactly what you're paying for—fees and services vary widely.

8. Look for short-term or entry-level employment

Like volunteering or interning, a temporary or short-term job can get your foot in the door for further work in the country. The work could be anything from being a camp counsellor to picking fruit, and sometimes room and board are provided as payment. People who go this route typically apply for a working holiday visa for their intended destination. These visas are, in most cases, valid for a year, are available to people 18-30 or sometimes 35 years old and allow travellers to pick up part-time or temporary work, with some restrictions.

There are more than 30 countries where Canadians can apply for a working holiday visa and U.S. citizens can apply in six countries: Canada, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea and Ireland.

Temporary work allows you to build an international network and resume, which helps with job searching. Ella Dagnall is Sales and Customer Service Manager at BUNAC, a UK-based company that helps its customers arrange internship and volunteer placements. Dagnall started out working in the service industry in Australia, but through networking ended up working in a boarding school. “It was exactly what I wanted,” she says.

If you're already in-country, you can also go old-school and drop off an application in person. Dagnall—who secured her first job in Australia using this method—says that applying in person is “overlooked,” especially if you’re open to the type of work you’ll do. While face-to-face inquiries don’t work for all jobs, they can be particularly effective for service or hospitality jobs or in sectors where there’s high turnover.

9. Participate in a training scheme

A graduate training scheme is a structured work placement, normally offered by a large company or organization, aimed at finding and developing new talent. The schemes tend to be highly competitive and placements can be very task- or department-specific, but landing a coveted trainee position can set you up to become a permanent employee. The sectors offering placements vary, but many are only open to new graduates. They are more common in the UK where trainees are fast-tracked into their careers.

Some programs recruit internationally, such as these UK-based hiring schemes.

Here are some others that allow for international work:

UN Young Professionals Programme recruits trainees aged 32 or younger, to gain experience and then become part of the UN Secretariat.
Nestle has traineeships, internships and graduate programs in offices across the world.
Dr. Oetker International Trainee Program recruits master’s graduates for a rotation through three EU offices.
Johnson & Johnson’s International Recruitment & Development Program is a two-year program for MBA or master’s graduates with linguistic ability in their country of interest.
Morgan Stanley has job training programs for new graduates with opportunities for stints abroad.

10. Check to see if your occupation is in-demand

If you practice a particular trade or your industry is booming, getting sponsored by an employer could ease the challenge of obtaining a visa. For example, Perreira—a visual effects artist for film and television—applied directly to the Japanese animation studio that hired her. They also supported her application for a work visa. 

Check to see if your profession is listed on a country's critical skills occupations list, which can also make obtaining a visa—and applying directly to companies—easier. Ireland, for example, has a critical skills gap for certain occupations such as IT workers, engineers, and health professionals, and there's a specific work permit for individuals who are on the critical skills occupations list. The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) actively recruits international health workers; offering reduced visa fees and fast-tracked processing for qualified health workers from abroad.

Software engineers and developers top the list of in-demand professions, according to data compiled by Robert Half, a global recruitment company. If you happen to work in the IT field, it's worth finding out whether there is a shortage of expertise in the locations you plan to look for work.

11. Get transferred abroad through your company 

Staying in your current job but moving to a company office abroad is a great way to keep your career on track while immersing yourself in another culture.

If you work for a company with offices around the globe, look into the possibility of a transfer or international work assignment. Of course, it’s not a quick strategy to go abroad; you’ll have to prove your worth and invest time into your home-country office first. But it’ll give you time to prepare and research tips on how to position yourself for and negotiate an international transfer.

Some companies are more open to their staff moving about than others. Deloitte, KPMG, Edelman, HP, Nestle, and SC Johnson, to name a few, have been noted for their global culture or opportunities to transfer abroad.

If you’re just starting out in your career and know you want to work in a business capital like London, Frankfurt or Hong Kong, research international companies that have a strong global culture and are amenable to staff transferring to their offices in other countries. Learn what skills and abilities you should develop in order to be a great candidate for a future position abroad.

12. Go remote

If you can conduct your work remotely, then why not telecommute while living abroad?

Digital nomads typically work in certain skilled occupations that can be performed outside a typical office setting—for example, freelance graphic designers, computer programmers, web developers, digital entrepreneurs or online English teachers.

That list of occupations is growing, as is the share of the workforce working remotely. Borne out of the COVID-19 pandemic and facilitated by technological advances, our work culture is undergoing a shift towards the acceptance, and even the expectation, of being able to work remotely. According to a survey by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2017-18, only 2.5 per cent of respondents worked from home full-time, but firms estimate that number will grow to 10 per cent of employees post-pandemic.

Telecommuting has become more widely accepted as employers realize the benefits of remote work. If you’re in a job tied to an office, consider approaching your manager to make the case for telecommuting from another country.

Besides needing a good Internet connection, you’ll have to consider a few factors, including whether you can legally live and work in a given country. Recognizing the trend toward people working remotely as digital nomads, there are currently more than 20 countries that offer some form of remote worker visa. Requirements and restrictions vary from country to country, but many are valid for a year, have a minimum income (or savings) requirement and require the visa-holder to have their own health insurance. Depending on the country, visa fees can range from free, to a thousand dollars or more.

How to land the job abroad

InterNations' 2021 Expat Insider survey found that, of more than 8,000 working expats who responded, 47 per cent had moved abroad for their careers; 17 per cent found a job on their own, 15 per cent were recruited internationally, 13 per cent were sent by their employer and 2 per cent moved abroad to start their own business.

Translation? There's no set way or road map to finding a job abroad—but by being persistent and putting some of these strategies to work, you will set yourself up for success.

Add this article to your reading list

About

Travel with purpose; travel for good. Articles, resources and events for ethical and meaningful travel, volunteering, working and studying abroad.

Verge believes in travel for change. International experience creates global citizens, who can change our planet for the better. This belief is at the core of everything we do.

Like what you see?

Follow us on social media