Well, I can answer that question with two simple words: perseverance and Google.
Although, is there such a thing as a perfect job?
I’m not sure about that but I do know I haven’t found it yet and I doubt you are likely to find it while you’re not even in the country where you want to find that job. But, you have to start somewhere if you want to move abroad and for that I use Google.
I have applied for dozens of jobs abroad.
Most of them I found by simply spending an evening typing in phrases such as ‘marketing job Asia’ or ‘summer job Caribbean’, etc.
Some of my applications proved to be completely useless, not even giving me a reply, others gave me a polite rejection but quite a few companies seemed happy enough to employ me.
And that’s where it starts. Rather than only applying for that one job that sounds absolutely perfect (you don’t come across that one too often) I apply for any job that could be interesting, or is slightly less interesting but in a country I would love to live in for a while. Then, after the company shows interest in me, I will start thinking more seriously about how good the job sounds, how easy (and how affordable) it would be to move to the country the job is located in, how the person I’m in contact with comes across, etc.
That moment to me is when the real decision making starts. Here I believe four things are important:
1. The country
What do you know about the country? Could you see yourself living here? Of course you will never really know what it’s like to live in a particular country until you have actually lived there yourself but you can do some research.
Read about the current economic and political situation in the country and try to find stories from other expats living in the country (check out my Ask an Expat Series for interviews with expats in a large number of countries all over the world). But, especially if you are only planning on staying in a country for a shorter period of time (less than a year) and are not moving with kids and not planning on buying property I would say: every new country is interesting and will be an experience you will remember for the rest of your life!
I moved to two countries just after they had a coup and although you might say that’s not ideal, I never planned to permanently move to either one of these countries and for the time I was there it was definitely a fascinating experience and interesting times for the country and the local population…
2. The Job
Does the job sound like something you can see yourself doing for the time of the contract? And maybe even more important: does the company sound reliable? I don’t want to put anyone off accepting a job abroad but you are often dealing with completely different cultures and therefore with people with different mentalities and different values. I have contacted my embassy in the country before just to make sure the company is legitimate and does what it says it does. Embassies in general are quite helpful and can give you that bit of extra security if you are planning to move to the other side of the world…
But, even after making sure the company exists and asking as many questions as you can to your person of contact, things will, so I’ve learnt, very often turn out not to be exactly what you expected. Again the cultural differences and different mentalities will play a big role in this. Business owners in a country with a completely different culture than your own will often look at business and look at your role in the business differently than you would.
And no matter how many questions you ask and how many promises your new boss makes, you won’t really find out what the job is like until you have actually started it. So my advice is to be flexible and to be prepared to look for a different job if you do decide you like the country but not the job.
3. The Reward
Does the job come with a good salary? In my experience, especially when you are looking at jobs in developing countries, the salary offered will often be a lot lower than what you are used to back home. But then the cost of living will often be much lower as well. Don’t automatically assume that to be the case though. Where food often is cheap in developing countries, rent in big overcrowded cities can be surprisingly high. Some countries might not offer sufficient public transport to live comfortably, requiring you to buy or rent a car/bike for the time you are there. This way the costs of living can turn out to be quite a bit higher than what you first expected.
Do ask your employer about this but also try to find someone who is not linked to the company to give you some additional advice. I find Couch Surfing (www.couchsurfing.org) a good place to find locals and expats in most countries who are normally more than happy to give you some advice.
Although some expats are lucky enough to be offered a good job with a comfortable salary, I have also met many foreigners accepting jobs with minimal or no salary and have often done the same myself. To me moving abroad is an amazing and very valuable experience. If I find the country interesting enough to move to I’d often settle for a smaller financial reward than I would expect back home. I have worked for free food and accommodation, minimal pocket money and volunteered in several countries. Of course you do need some savings (or some other source of income such as in my case my online marketing company) but often life is cheap enough not to need too much.
I find accommodation the most important thing: as long as the company takes care of that, you can keep the rest quite low budget. But of course this is up to you: are you willing to volunteer or work for a minimum compensation? In my opinion this should largely depend on the job and the country: if I believe the experience itself is rewarding enough I will accept a minimal financial reward. And, some of my best work experiences abroad were while volunteering!
4. The way out
I quite easily accept a new challenge abroad but I’m not naive about it. Things very often don’t work out the way you expected them to. The job can turn out to be a disaster or the country a place where you really don’t feel comfortable staying. That’s ok, as long as you came prepared.
From the first time I traveled alone when I was 17 years old I have always had three simple rules to feel safe and comfortable being abroad in an unknown country:
- At all times I need to know how I can get to the airport. It might sound silly but I’ve lived in quite remote places and to know I can make my way back to the airport and wouldn’t have to rely on my boss or anyone else to make my way out of the country has always been important to me.
- I need to be able to afford traveling back to the airport. Where in developed countries a credit card is good enough, in developing countries I’ll always make sure I have enough cash.
- I need to be able to afford a ticket home. Flying back home from a remote location on the other side of the world can be expensive and the last thing I’d want is to feel stuck in a country because “I ran out of money”. Unfortunately I’ve heard stories from quite a few young travelers who did run out of money and I’m absolutely sure that my parents would have helped me out exactly the same way their parents had to help them out but I would prefer to never end up in a situation like that.
So yes, you can try to find a good job and prepare yourself to make it into the best possible experience but I can guarantee that your move abroad won’t turn out exactly as you expected. So, my advice: be flexible, open to new experiences and enjoy the ride!
Check our my Useful Travel Stuff page for some interesting links for when you are thinking about working abroad.
Useful books if you are thinking about moving abroad: