Though it may not feel like it under the current political climate, the world continues to rapidly globalize. Every year, underdeveloped countries join the ranks of developing and developed ones, and as they do, they enter and become intertwined in the world economy.
For entrepreneurs and companies, these developing countries are fertile grounds to start businesses or extend their international presence.
And as they do, they are creating international job opportunities across the globe for savvy and internationally-minded millennials. Disappointed by the job market and cost of living back home, these millennials are passing up on their parents basements and instead using these international opportunities to allow themselves to travel, progress their careers and make money simultaneously.
I am of these millennials. After graduating from college in 2014, I have lived abroad in Asia, culminating in my current role as the Head of Global Training at Pixelz, an international technology company in Da Nang, Vietnam.
Though it was an incredible experience to navigate the international job market on my own, there are a few things I wish I had known when I started my global job search. To make your international job search as successful as possible, below are a few international job search tips that I learned the hard way that may help you achieve your dream life abroad.
Online Personal Branding is Critical
If I could go back and tell my college-self one thing it would be this: start building a professional personal brand online.
Your personal brand can include an online portfolio, an industry blog, or professional social media accounts that showcase a skill or industry knowledge. However you chose to present your brand, it should reflect the value you can bring to a company in a specific industry and be focused around industry topics, ideally with an international slant.
Your personal brand is critical because you can leverage your brand to find international opportunities. Whether you use it to network with professional expats at companies you yourself would like to work for or use it to provide more information to potential employers about your interests and skills, it can be a great way to get your foot in the door of opportunities.
If you aren’t convinced, put yourself in an employers shoes for a second. How impressed would you be if, when you put a job candidate’s name into Google, the results that pop up include a professional website, a professional Twitter account where they are interacting with industry leaders, and links to other websites where they have online projects or industry related posts or articles published? You would probably be pretty impressed.
Be Explicit About Wanting to Work Abroad
This year I interviewed a leader at IBM who was working abroad in Singapore, and she made one thing very clear: if you want to work abroad, you need to let people know.
This means stating that you are interested in international opportunities explicitly on your resume and Linkedin, saying it on your website or online portfolio, and making it part of your Twitter bio. Anywhere that you can, in any way that you can, let people know you want the opportunity to work abroad. Employers are not mind-readers, and you never want to miss opportunities just because people didn’t know you were interested.
Remember too that increasingly companies are using their networks as a means of filling vacant positions. All it takes is someone in your network knowing a hiring manager needing to fill an international position for your dream of working abroad to come true. But if your direct contact doesn’t know that they have someone in their network that fits the bill (you), they will never know to pass on your name to that hiring manager.
The hard truth about working abroad is can’t always start in your dream situation. Though there are great resources online for finding international work in specific locations like BrainGain or Neuvoo, it often takes a bit of flexibility and patience to create your perfect life abroad.
The solution to this for many expats is to find a position abroad you can use as a stepping stone to your dream situation. Once you are there and settled, you can begin to get a feel for the local scene, start networking, and work towards your dream situation.
International career paths are an emerging phenomenon, but those who are riding the wave early are learning quickly just how rewarding, personally and professionally, living and working abroad can be. Your advantage is the chance to learned from the early adopters like myself who are sharing their experience to help make your international job search a little bit easier.
My first job in Vietnam was far from perfect, but I accepted it and used it as a way to get on the ground in Vietnam, and then began networking for better opportunities once I was there and had money coming in
This is the type of powerful impression having a personal brand online can make. It shows employers that you are engaged in your industry of interest, demonstrates the skills you can bring to a company, and let employers know more about you, all at the same time. Just by taking the time to create a nice online persona and sharing your thoughts with the world you gain a big advantage over the competition.
There Are Many Avenues to “Working Abroad”
People take all kinds of avenues to work abroad. Some use the industry knowledge they learned in their first few years working domestically and leverage that knowledge as freelancers abroad. Others find remote work with the flexibility to live anywhere. Others, like myself, find work with startups or mature companies and work a more traditional 9-5 situation. All of these different routes have their advantages and disadvantages, but it is important not to have too narrow of an idea of what “working abroad” means.
Keep in mind as well that you are free to switch between these three. What begins as freelancing can result in getting swooped up by a client for more full-time work,and vice versa. One of the great things about working internationally is once you are out there in the world, you begin to see how you can customize your life to be exactly as you want it. You just have to be willing to flexible enough to take advantage of it.