Looking For a Job Abroad? Expats Who Found Work Tell All

Looking for a job can be a stressful proposition, fraught with challenges and requiring a strategic approach and a healthy dose of self-confidence. The landscape shifts that much more when the search is conducted in a foreign country, or when you’re preparing to move. In these cases, the need for creativity increases.

“I graduated from college with a degree in marketing and then started working in a digital marketing company,” said Tom King, a digital marketing professional from Ireland. “Then my girlfriend was offered a job with Emirates, so I was tasked with the role of finding a job in Dubai.”

He turned to the place he knew would be the greatest source of information, the Internet.

“I registered for every website going,” he said. To increase the odds, he proceeded to target CEOs of large agencies in Dubai and connected with them on LinkedIn. He delved further into social media, a burgeoning platform for job seekers and hiring managers in the international realm of recruiting and job searches.

“I did have some meetings arranged for when I arrived,” said Mr. King. “However, I decided to take to Twitter to see how that would go.”

Mr. King found the Irish Biz Party, a live ‘tweet up’ session for Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) boasting 35,000 followers. “I tweeted them asking if anyone had any connections in Dubai,” he said. The organizers didn’t respond but the social media director for Digital Nexa did and asked him to send his CV.
“I was in Dubai three days and met with the Nexa team where I was offered a job immediately,” said Mr. King, who is now Digital Nexa’s business development manager. “Fourteen months on and I am still here and all through the power of social media.”

Although social media is proving an effective job search tool, many expats still use traditional methods.

Long-time expat Julee Allen, an international development worker, has lived in Japan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Haiti and Hong Kong. She recently moved to Kathmandu, Nepal.

“My first job in Japan happened in the early 1990s, so that job search was definitely pre-Internet,” said Ms. Allen. “My brother saw a job advertisement in The New York Times for the Japanese government’s massive English teaching program (JET) and I applied. My second job, a grad school internship, was found over the Internet.”

Ms. Allen recognizes the ease of using online resources but cautions seekers to vet anything found on the Internet carefully. “The organization wasn’t quite how it represented itself and I was glad that my time there was limited,” she said.
She recommends using job sites DevNetJobs.org, ReliefWeb and word of mouth.

In 2001, she wound up working for a large international non-governmental organization (NGO) in Bangladesh and has stayed in touch. “Right now I’m volunteering at that international NGO, which is most likely going to lead to a local consulting contract to do program development with their education team,” said Ms. Allen.

Her advice to fellow expats is to be creative and professional; try to learn as much of the local language as you can; and don’t despair when things don’t quite work out as planned.

“I network and always keep my eyes open for opportunities,” said Ms. Allen. “I’m flexible too. In Hong Kong, there simply wasn’t work in my field, so I applied for management jobs at local NGOs where English was the working language.”
Ed Dyer, an IT consultant and project manager currently working in Kosovo, agrees with Ms. Allen. He recommends expat job seekers “tap all your contacts using word of mouth, as well as online tools like LinkedIn and Facebook". He also suggests being patient. “You’re stepping out of your comfort zone in so many ways that starting out can be difficult. Be prepared for setbacks and relax.” Mr. Dyer has also lived and worked in Nepal and Zimbabwe.

Keeping an open mind and being patient worked out for Paul McCabe, a retired Foreign Service worker whose expat career spanned several decades.

“Things don’t always seem as they are, so it’s important to keep all doors open,” says Mr. McCabe.  “In the expat world, you never know who you’re talking to.”
Mr. McCabe recalls when he graduated from grad school in international economics from Georgetown University, his dream was to work abroad.

At one point, while attending a conference in Rome for the U.N.’s Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), a “bigwig” took an interest in his background and invited him to lunch. Turned out he had been a German Luftwaffe pilot. Mr. McCabe’s keen interest in history and especially WWII led them to talk about that the entire lunch.

Nine months later, Mr. McCabe was contacted with a job offer from FAO because the head honcho had recommended him. Mr. McCabe wound up in Cameroon doing food aid and his career in the Foreign Service took off from there.

“The challenge is, when you’ve never had a job abroad, no one wants to give you a job abroad,” said Mr. McCabe. “So you have to treat every encounter with someone in an organization you’d like to work for as a pre-interview.”

All of this advice is useful, as long as it’s possible to get a work permit in the country an expat has chosen. According to Sharon Gilor’s Expat Moving and Relocation Guide, the best thing to do is “browse the official governments’ websites of your preferred country and look for information about work visas.” Another tool to include in a creative expat search strategy.

Source: Wall Street Journal
By: Anne Louise O’Connell 

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