Living abroad is something many of us dream of, but we don’t necessarily want to sacrifice our careers to do it. Conventional travel roles, like nannying, bar work and teaching English, might seem appealing, but they won’t necessarily improve one’s resume. Don’t believe the naysayers who say travel will adversely affect your career – with some nous, research and a lot of determination, it is actually possible to climb the career ladder and travel the world at the same time.
Here are 12 ways to find professional work while you travel:
- Location, location, location
Sure, we’d all love to live in Fiji, but for those of us who aren’t scuba instructors or digital nomads, the reality is probably impossible. Picking a location with jobs in your field is the most important step of all.
Powerful cities like New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, London, Dubai, Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Sydney and Paris, are favourable places for many professional roles. But just because you’ve found a powerful city – it doesn’t mean you’ll find a job. Whether you’re in engineering or acrobatics there are cities where you’re needed and cities where you’re not. You need to figure out a destination that’s hiring people like you now, not five years ago.
And how do you discover the perfect place?
- Get serious about research
And I mean serious. If your plan is to find an advertising role in Shanghai, then you need to know everything there is to know about advertising in Shanghai.
Find out what visas are available to foreigners, which advertising agencies have offices in Shanghai, whether companies are actively seeking international talent and what benefits they offer. It saves surprises down the road and helps you pick the right destination.
If only I’d known that Canadian companies are cautious about hiring, that in Hong Kong freelancing is rare and in London recruiters are essential, before I moved.
- Write an engaging intro
As a foreigner you need to set yourself apart from local competition. The question you should ask yourself is: why will they hire me over a local? If you don’t know, they certainly won’t!
Are you bringing international experience, a new perspective or an interesting cultural background? Use your engaging, two-sentence introduction in all emails, phone-calls and in-person meetings to differentiate yourself from the crowd.
I found a marketing job in New York with no relevant work experience, partly because I was a Kiwi, had a law degree and pilot’s license and wasn’t afraid to brag about it.
- Stalk all relevant companies
Do you know all of the relevant companies in your new destination – the start-ups, the medium sized and global? You need to. Once you’ve found them, go deeper than company websites. Find articles, forums, profiles and reviews.
Importantly, find out who makes the decisions and how you might be able to contact them. Sending a resume to a generic human resources email address is most ineffective. However, sending a resume, along with your “engaging intro”, to the head of a relevant department might just land you a coffee date. Remember a coffee date is always an interview… always.
- Make friends with friends of friends and their friends too.
Sure, networking at home is simple enough, but in countries abroad you need to be savvy.
Perhaps your best friend’s Uncle works in Singapore and has a contact in Shanghai – Mr Lee. Mr Lee has a daughter, Mary, who works in advertising. Because of your “engaging intro” and connection to Mr Lee, Mary asks around at her company – they aren’t hiring, but her boss, Andrew, knows that their sister agency in Pudong is, he passes on your resume, with a personal recommendation.
One thing leads to another and you have a coffee date, and quite possibly, a job.
- Join expat & networking groups
Networking events can be awkward at best and disastrous at worst, but they sometimes provide opportunities for introductions to both companies and relevant contacts.
Expat groups and events are the perfect way to socialise with people from your home country who’ve been in the same boat and are more likely to reach out the hand of friendship.
I’ve found roles overseas due, almost entirely, to mutual country of origin.
- Join job forums
Without an impressive resume, sending applications for advertised jobs is a sure fire way to drive yourself crazy… crazy with the lack of response. Job forums, however, give a good indication of who is hiring and they normally have an option to create a profile and upload your resume – it’s a long shot, but you never know who might be flicking through profiles.
Make sure you join the most popular forums in your chosen location.
- Become a LinkedIn ninja
LinkedIn is one of the most powerful job resources we have today. Sure, it’s a great opportunity to promote yourself, give people a flavour for who you are and apply for advertised roles, but it’s benefits extend beyond the obvious.
I found work in Hong Kong by searching (stalking… I was stalking) relevant contacts and approaching them through InMail. I’ve set up countless networking meetings and the occasional interview with the same method. More often than not, I’m passed on to another person if they can’t help me.
- Find people with “Open Profiles” to avoid paying LinkedIn’s hefty InMail fees.
- Take advantage of LinkedIn’s 30-day Premium trial for free emails and other benefits.
- Make daily targets
People who find professional roles in foreign countries are persistent and committed – there are no two ways about this. Think you can apply for a few roles and get something? Think again. This is a tough sport and only the fittest survive.
To stay on track, I make daily targets, (think ten or more actions a day) and compile every single action in a spreadsheet detailing whom I’ve contacted and when. Actions include approaching companies, people and recruiters.
- Don’t be afraid of recruiters
When I started out in the work force I assumed all recruiters were money-hungry, soul-sapping demons. Now I know that only some of them are – the rest know a thing or two about finding roles, both temporary and permanent.
Remember, recruiter’s only work when chased. They will forget about you if you don’t pester them and ask to be put forward for roles. It’s your job to follow up, not theirs.
- Interview like a pro
There are only two ways to get better at interviews. Practice and prayer.
Interviews are intimidating, no one will argue with that, but whether at home or abroad, they’re unavoidable. From someone who used to be panicked by the mere thought (we’re talking sleeplessness, sweaty palms and major anxiety), but now takes them as they come, I can tell you, each and every interview gets a little easier.
If you can, organise more interviews than you need, this gives you a chance to perfect you’re technique, or get friends to role-play with you. Recruiter interviews are normally more relaxed, since both parties have the same objectives; therefore they’re good practice for the real thing.
And if that doesn’t work – pray.
- Be awesome
You might have an amazing reputation at home, but overseas no one knows you and, quite frankly, no one cares about you. You need to be awesome to get people to care about you, recommend you for roles, make introductions and hire you!
What do I mean by awesome? Be nice, kind and interesting. Say “thank-you”, follow-up and pay-it-forward. People remember and people appreciate it.
When you’re ready to move again, you’ll have plenty of references.