6 Steps to Starting Your Job Abroad

Do you daydream about dropping everything and starting fresh in another country? Do you love meeting and working with people from all over the world? Why not pursue your dream of working abroad?

According to the U.S. State Department, the number of American expats has more than doubled in the last 20 years. Over 9 million Americans have chosen to leave their friends and family behind to pursue life in another country. What they all have in common is that they couldn’t leave the thought of living abroad at just that, a thought.

Whether they crave adventure, want to find themselves, or are looking to advance their careers, expats the world over are finding success. If you’ve thought about beginning a new career somewhere far off, these six steps will help you start your job abroad.

Relax

So you’ve finally decided to follow your dreams and move abroad. For many people, what comes next can seem daunting. But you have to remember to relax.

Everyone’s living abroad story is different, but it’s important to remember that millions of Americans make it work every year. People from all walks of life with all sorts of skills manage to find success working around the globe. So when you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember that someone has walked the same path. In fact, many of those people have written about those experiences. Look online for blogs like Go Abroad and online communities of expats such as ExPat.com. You'll find encouragement and advice to help you figure out your next steps.

Of course, living and working abroad takes planning and preparation. Whether you want to travel to a country with a large American expat population or you want to forge your own path, remember that you’re following your dream.

Photograph of A World Map

Lean In to Standing Out

Let’s face it, most hiring managers want to hire someone from their own country. That’s why you need to highlight what makes you different.

Don’t try to hide the fact that you’re foreign. In fact, your best bet is to highlight it. Many jobs need someone with knowledge of American culture and that makes you a perfect fit. If a company is interested in expanding into the American market, your firsthand experience might be just what a company is looking for.

Lots of American expats also work in jobs in the hospitality and tourism industries. If you love history, you could be perfect at working as a tour guide for visiting English speakers. You might also be great at working with visiting Americans as a local guide.

You can also set yourself apart as an expert in intercultural communications. Lesley University’s graduate program in International Higher Education and Intercultural Relations teaches you the skills needed for international jobs so you can work across cultures and borders.

Boost Your Language Skills

Your language skills can make or break your application when you’re looking for a job abroad.

That means if you’re already fluent in another language then you have a leg up on the competition. But even if you’re new to the world of foreign languages, it’s never too late to start learning. Programs like Duolingo, a mobile language learning platform, are easy to set up so you can start learning.

You should also take a moment to look for local language schools. Your future language teacher might end up as a great resource, making connections and giving you tips for traveling.  And if you’re pursuing an advanced degree, look for a program with a global internship option. There’s nothing like diving in headfirst when learning a language.

Network

Chances are someone in your extended network has experience traveling or living abroad. It’s your mission to find that person. Broadcast your plans on social media and talk to everyone you know so you can make a personal connection. Learn from people with experience and ask them if they still know anyone living abroad or if they remember any local connections.

And if you’re still in school, reach out to your professors and talk to your school’s foreign language department. Ask them about opportunities for recent graduates like teaching English abroad and show up to office hours. Your persistence will pay off.

It’s also always smart to reach out to recruiters. Look online for companies that specialize in international jobs or do a quick search through LinkedIn. When you’re looking for a job abroad, it’s important you utilize every resource.

international students chatting

Don't Neglect the Logistics

Before you leave, read the fine print. You don’t want to find yourself halfway across the world only to find out your future place of employment just went out of business.

Horror stories like that don’t happen often, but they do pop up occasionally. Your best bet is to try to connect with future coworkers. Try to meet people by searching on sites like LinkedIn or Facebook. You should also read reviews of the business online. If you found the job through a recruiter, ask them how long they’ve worked with the company and what they think of it.

You also need to be prepared to know your visa situation inside and out. To work in another country, you need the right kind of paperwork and permissions. For many countries, you need to start the processes months in advance. So make sure to double-check government websites for info and start the process early.

Make Travel Work with Your Life

You don’t need to spend the rest of your life living abroad. It’s okay if you only want to spend a few months working and traveling.

There are lots of reasons why living abroad full time might not be right for you. Maybe you can’t upend your family life, but you still crave work with an international bent. Don’t fret, there are lots of jobs that scratch the itch for adventure without turning your whole life upside down.

Look for careers in study abroad or international student advising. Universities and international schools look for employees with an advanced degree in intercultural communication who can facilitate cross-cultural connections. You’ll find yourself greeting visiting scholars, working with international students, and helping Americans look for study abroad opportunities. And while you won’t work abroad full-time, you’ll travel abroad a few times a year.

You should also consider international companies who are headquartered abroad. You’ll have the chance to travel for conferences and will work alongside people from all different cultures And many international companies will sponsor you if you make an international transfer.

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