Career Development

Guide to Working Internationally: Strategies, Skills and Tips

October 6, 2021

An international job can be a great way to develop your professional and personal skills. Professionals interested in finding employment in a foreign country can search for jobs on their own or collaborate with a program or agency. With so many ways to find positions abroad, it's important to understand the method that best fits your interests and experiences. In this article, we discuss strategies for working internationally, explore different industries where you can work abroad and explain skills that may be beneficial for you to develop before leaving the country.

Strategies for working internationally

There are many methods that can help you find international employment opportunities. While some of these require you to find roles on your own, others involve working with an agency that can help you with job placement. Here are some strategies for finding jobs before or when you travel abroad:

Program providers

A program provider or agency can help you find a job in a range of industries. Some program providers specialize in certain types of jobs or partner with specific organizations, while others may offer more of a variety. You might also be able to find an agency that can help you with travel arrangements, such as what type of visa or health insurance you need.

Freelance

Many professionals like to work internationally as freelancers, sometimes referred to as digital nomads. Freelance businesses you can do as a digital nomad include travel writing, photography, marketing and web design. Your income may not be as consistent if you decide to become a digital nomad rather than having steady employment. However, having a freelance business while you travel abroad can give you more flexibility in the hours you work and the places you travel.

Related: How To Become a Digital Nomad

Internship

If you're a current student, recently graduated or interested in entering a different field, an internship abroad may be the ideal opportunity for you. You can work with either a program provider or your university to find international internships. Depending on the country you go to, it might be easier to receive a visa for an internship than for other employment opportunities. If you're a current student, some countries offer visas that allow you to work part-time while in school and stay in the country for up to a year after your graduation.

Volunteer

If you decide to travel internationally through a volunteer program, you rarely receive payment. However, a volunteer experience abroad can be a great opportunity to develop your professional experience and skills, such as communication, teamwork, adaptability and empathy. A volunteer experience in another country might also help distinguish you where potential employers or professional organizations are concerned. Some volunteer programs may even help with a portion of your travel, meal or lodging costs.

International recruitment agencies

Larger companies with establishments in multiple countries often have dedicated recruitment teams for each branch or headquarters. Finding a position through an international recruitment agency can help speed up your job search. Some international recruitment agencies may charge a fee or receive a percentage from your future paychecks, so make sure that you understand your legal obligations prior to signing an employment contract.

Seasonal

If you're looking for a temporary job abroad, consider seasonal opportunities. Seasonal positions may vary depending on the region but might include camps, hotels, resorts or tour guide agencies. You can find seasonal jobs either through a program provider or on your own.

Related: How To Get a Job in Another Country

Work exchange

A work exchange program can help you travel abroad when you're on a budget. When you sign up for a work exchange program, you agree to work for a company for a set amount of time in exchange for room and board in a foreign country. Room and board typically includes your living accommodations plus meals. Some work exchange programs may even help with part of your travel costs.

Research

If you work in a field that involves research, such as academia or biotech, you could look for international research opportunities. An international research position often provides you with a stipend and lodging so that you have the resources to focus primarily on conducting your research. As this type of program often covers more of your expenses, the application process may be more extensive.

Foreign transfer

If you already work for a company with an international presence, talk to your HR department about transferring on either a temporary or permanent basis to an international location. Some companies may encourage their employees to work in their other locations through an internal program. Even if your current company doesn't have an international presence, you might consider speaking with your supervisor about extended business travel opportunities that could help your business reach new markets.

Related: 10 International Sales Jobs To Consider (With Tips)

Industries for working internationally

A wide range of industries accept or even encourage international professionals to apply. Here are just a few of the international industries you can work in:

Education

Many people who want to work internationally apply for jobs in the education sector. These professionals typically work through a program provider that can help match them with a school and country that fits their abilities, experience and interest. The most common abroad teaching job is that of teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL). These jobs often require little to no prior teaching experience. If you have more experience as an educator, you can look for other more advanced education jobs, such as teaching a specialized subject like mathematics or being a school administrator or principal.

Travel

There are many jobs abroad related to the travel industry. Travel companies often appreciate having employees from other countries who can offer their clients details about the countries they might be interested in visiting. Travel companies that might hire employees from other countries include vacation rentals, tour groups, hotels and travel agencies.

Tech

If you work in the tech field, you may have the opportunity to work internationally. Some tech companies offer internal programs that allow their employees to work in another country for a set period. You could also apply to work at a tech company with branches in other countries.

Government jobs

There are many international positions available through various U.S. government agencies. International job fields available through the U.S. public sector include human resources, health care, project management and psychology. Getting a job through the government can make it easier to apply for visas and plan travel arrangements.

Childcare

Childcare positions are a popular option for professionals looking to work abroad. International childcare positions include nanny, tutor, daycare associate and au pair. If you work for a specific family full time, you may receive room and board with them. These jobs frequently provide professionals with flexible hours. They can be a great way to learn a new language, as the children you care for might be learning the language too.

Cruise ships

Many cruise ships travel internationally, so finding employment on one can be a great way to travel while working. Cruise ship jobs may include entertainers, bartenders, wait staff and concierge. Some cruise ship jobs may be temporary, while others might allow you to make longer-term plans.

Related: 10 Overseas Jobs That Require No Experience

Skills to develop before working internationally

If you want to get a job abroad, considered developing the following skills:

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to perceive and identify the emotions that you or those around you feel. People with emotional intelligence may consider a range of factors when determining what others feel, including their tone of voice and body language. Knowing how to evaluate these nonverbal cues can be especially useful if you don't speak or aren't fluent in the country's language where you plan to work.

Hone your emotional intelligence by paying attention to the nonverbal cues of people around you. Learn how to adapt your behavior, tone of voice or words based on how others might feel. You can also develop your emotional intelligence by interpreting your own emotions or the signals you give to others, such as your body language.

Related: How To Become an International Real Estate Agent in 6 Steps

Independence

If you want to work internationally, it may be a good idea to develop your independence skills, such as self-direction and motivation. Whether you decide to work with a program provider or on your own, you may have less direct supervision while working abroad than usual. Knowing how to prioritize and perform your various job responsibilities independently can help demonstrate a positive work ethic to your international employers.

Foreign languages

Working internationally gives you a great opportunity to immerse yourself in a foreign language. Some people may find it easier to learn or even become fluent in another language when surrounded by others who speak that language. However, it's typically a good idea to know a little of the language spoken in the country you're visiting prior to your stay.

Familiarity with common phrases can help you navigate when you're traveling and conduct tasks for your daily life, like getting groceries. It's also a good idea to learn words or phrases related to your line of work so that you can explain your job to others and perform your duties effectively. Knowing a foreign language can help your professional career both during your time abroad and beyond. Many employers appreciate having employees who can interact with a wide range of customers, including those most fluent in other languages.

Flexibility

When you travel or work abroad, unexpected issues or challenges may arrive. The ability to adapt can help you problem-solve and proactively respond to these challenges. You can develop your adaptability skills through methods such as having new experiences, developing new plans when circumstances change and learning to ask more questions.

Related: Working Abroad for the Summer: Tips and Common Jobs for College Students

Tips for working internationally

Here's some advice for finding and successfully performing in an international job position:

Understand types of visas and other logistics

Prior to beginning your international job, look into the travel logistics, such as your visa, health insurance and phone. These tools or policies often vary based on a range of factors, like the country you plan to visit, the type of work you plan to do and your age. For example, many professionals under the age of 35 might apply for a work holiday visa in some countries. However, you might need a regular work visa if you plan to stay abroad for a longer period.

Related: 5 Steps To Work Abroad as a Nurse

Plan your finances

Evaluate your current finances before you go abroad. Determine approximately how much money you can earn and spend while working internationally. Knowing your financial situation can help you determine what kind of job to get abroad, how long you can work there and how you can pay for related costs, such as housing or plane fare.

Research the country

Learn as much as you can about the region or country you plan to visit. Working in a different country can involve adapting to a range of new circumstances, including transportation systems, culture, healthcare protocols and customs. Conducting research before you travel can help you prepare for these differences ahead of time.

Related: FAQ: What Are the Highest-Paid International Business Careers?

Adapt your resume

Localize your resume and other professional documents that you might need, such as a cover letter. Whether you plan to work with a program provider or find a job on your own, it may be useful to have a resume and other professional documents customized for the region or country you're visiting. For example, some terminology in your field may vary based on location. As another example, while some countries prefer not to see photos attached to your resume, it's customary in other nations to include a photo in the corner of this document.

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