More and more executives are thinking of searching for jobs overseas. The chance to travel, broaden their experience, and to challenge themselves is very attractive. As a Global Executive Career Coach and an eMBA Career Coach, I’m asked how to prepare for an international job search and for working and living overseas. Here are 10 steps to prepare to interview and work internationally.
In addition to having a great resume, hiring influencers for any position want to know that you’ll be a good fit. When you’re going to do business in a different culture, that alignment of cultural and corporate fit becomes even more important. What will you have to demonstrate to an interviewer to be a great candidate for an overseas position?
- Show that you are a leader and an expert in your field. One of the best ways to accomplish this is through social media. From blogging, to posting, to tweeting, you can demonstrate that you have a great deal of wisdom and skills to offer employers in your industry. Show that you have experience solving common issues in your field, and that you’re thinking about the long game, not just the here-and-now. For example, Dubai has native executives with the same skill set in your industry, so you have to stand out as an expat candidate worthy of pursuing an international appointment.
- If you have any experience in the country in which you’d like to work, now is the time to demonstrate it. If Japan holds your dream job, then every business interaction you’ve had in Japan or with Japanese companies is a demonstration that you can interact well with this particular culture and language. Even vacations can be valuable if you had significant language or cultural exchanges.
- Even if you haven’t done business internationally, you can prove your level of interest and adaptability by taking classes to learn the language and culture of the country in which you’d like to work. Volunteer to be a conversation partner in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes for immigrants to your home country. Reach out to cultural organizations in your area to develop new opportunities for those from both cultures to meet and learn about each other. Showing that you are willing and eager to learn and adapt to foreign language, culture, and expectations is crucial to hiring influencers looking for a candidate who is willing to assimilate and grow in a new environment.
- During interviews, make sure you emphasize STAR stories where you were successful at bridging understanding between diverse points of view, met challenges and resolved them by thinking outside the box, and where you inspired trust and confidence in others to engender productive teamwork. Working as an expat is challenging on both the personal and professional fronts, and requires a great deal of flexibility to overcome significant challenges.
So what if you get the offer for the overseas job you’ve dreamed about? Are you ready to be an expatriate? There are things you should consider before you apply for the job, to make sure your overseas work experience is a positive one.
- As much as you’ve dreamed about the travel, the experience, and the personal and professional growth, are you really ready to move overseas? Do you have the personal and professional ability to learn and change in real time to meet the needs of your organization and colleagues? Do you have an adventure mindset and a proactive style, or are you simply interested in the advancement opportunities? You CAN advance without overseas jobs, but you CAN’T survive a cross-cultural job without meeting an endless series of challenges which force rapid growth and change. If the thought of that makes you uncomfortable, now is the time to change your focus. If it piques your interest…read on!
- Cost analysis. Consider your potential compensation package within the frame of cost-of-living in your new country or city. Do your research on housing, transportation, and security costs (if applicable). Many companies and governments offer a Foreign Service Premium, or FSP, which is designed to adjust your salary temporarily to accommodate the difference in cost-of-living in your new area. Those moving from Toronto to Beijing might receive a 15% FSP. Moving to Caracas, Venezuela right now, you could expect a 60% or higher FSP and a security allowance, due to current political instability. One of your best resources is the expat community already in place. Reach out and ask them about the cost of housing, transportation, etc.
- Family. Are there education options near your new position that fit your children’s needs? In English-speaking countries that’s not likely to be an issue, but in a city such as Portovelo, Ecuador or Surabaya, Indonesia, you’ll need to do some research. In large or capital cities like Beijing, there are often schools for children of embassy or consulate staff which may be open to expats. Also research to see if there are jobs or an expat community for your spouse, to keep them from feeling isolated.
- Special needs. If you or someone in your family has educational or medical special needs, make sure that any location you are considering has the infrastructure, personnel, and ability to meet those needs. Make certain you can find the right kind of heart specialist or autism classes where you’re going. Special needs do not always preclude overseas work, but they do require extra planning and preparation to ensure a good, safe, fit for everyone.
- Engage a tax lawyer and/or accountant who are familiar with expatriate needs. I strongly recommend this step to every one of my clients thinking of working overseas. You’ll be living, working, and earning in another country, while maintaining your original citizenship. The taxes and money management can get complicated quickly. At the end of your time overseas, you want to be left with comfortable savings and great souvenirs, not an enormous tax bill.
- Exit strategy. You need to plan for coming back home as well as planning for leaving. You and your family will adjust and thrive in a different culture, language, and become comfortable in your new home. At the end of the typical 3-year placement, how will you readjust to returning? And adjust to the compensation package without the FSP? Plan ahead to maintain your finances and your personal connections to accommodate that re-entry into your country of origin. If you’re interested in a single placement and then a re-entry into your home country, it’s worth the effort to maintain active ties to your old community and business network.