The Survivor’s Guide to Working Abroad
For most people, living in a foreign country is merely a pipe dream. Sipping after-work cocktails in New York City, breaking bread with colleagues in Paris or savoring an espresso in Milan all sound like scenes from a vacation—but could they be part of your daily life?
Making any of this happen is easier than you think. With some careful planning, damage control and this handy guide, you’ll be an expat in no time.
Pick a place
Yes, you may want to be sipping pina coladas on a beach in Costa Rica, but is your dream employer hiring nearby? Consider your work opportunities when choosing your target location. If you’re not sure where you might want to live and work, ask yourself these questions to ignite inspiration:
- What is your ideal place to work?
- Is there a specific city where your industry is thriving?
- Where is your dream company based?
If this will be your first venture away from home, choose a country that’s a comfortable commute back. This proximity means you can easily hop on a train or plane and see familiar faces when the homesickness sets in—and it will.
Get yourself hired
Do you work for a company that has offices abroad? Applying for a transfer could take the sting out of the job search. To further reduce risk, you could ask for a sabbatical role to test the waters before taking the full plunge.
Most businesses do not look for new employees from foreign countries. If you’re applying to a new company, be prepared to sell yourself more than usual when you’re asked, “why should we hire you?”
Remember, the kind of job you want may not necessarily be advertised. Networking is a proven method to landing that new gig. Go on, don’t be shy!
Yikes! You’re hired! Now, where on earth are you going to live? How will you move your things? How will you break the news to your ‘rents?
These are all exciting, and potentially terrifying, questions. Since your new business knows you’re moving from another country, they are likely to help you with the move or build it into the financial package (hint: discuss this with them before accepting the offer).
Plan to live in temporary accommodation such as a hotel or short-term rental when you first arrive. You will get a feel for your new city and be able to choose the best place to live, rather than being stuck somewhere you picked sight unseen.
As for telling the ‘rents, you’re on your own there.
Prepare to be scared
When the excitement of the new job has died down and you have no weekend visitors, you may end up feeling alone. Very alone. Anticipate this, plan for it and find ways of reducing the likelihood of it happening.
How would you solve this problem if you were at home? By exploring a new part of town? By taking up a new hobby? By joining a local Meetup? Exactly. The same theory applies here: try something new.
Ask everyone you know at home if they have any friends in your new city. You can also speak to HR about any other expats who have joined your company. Get to know them and ask them for tips on how they adjusted.
Have an exit strategy
Give yourself a grace period for the transition abroad and have a plan to move back if you need to. Don’t cut all your ties to home just yet. Put things on hold as much as possible. Instead of selling your possessions, you can put them into storage. Your doctor doesn’t need to know that you’ve moved right away. Does your house need to be rented immediately?
Most companies know you’re taking a risk by moving to a new country, and often they can build a “test” phase of three to six months into your contract. If you do decide to move back home, it’s still a victory. You made a go of it, when many would have simply made excuses not to.
Your decision to move to a new country is bold, but it is possible. Just keep these tips in mind and you’ll be enjoying your new life abroad before you know it.
Have you found a job in a new country? Did your transition abroad go smoothly?
Razwana Wahid is the founder of Your Work Is Your Life, a movement created around finding wildly wonderful work and a courageous career path you’re truly passionate about. Read more at http://www.yourworkisyourlife.com or follow her on Twitter @razwanawahid.
Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.