TEN STEPS TO GETTING A JOB ABROAD

I recently had the pleasure of being on a panel to discuss working overseas, hosted by Holly Bouma, Associate Director of International Programs, at the College of Business at the University of Central Florida. An overseas job can offer excellent opportunities to broaden your experience and further your career. Here are 10 steps to help you get one.

1. START WITH BASIC RESEARCH

There are MANY web sites with excellent information. Just Google working abroad and you will see. Here are a few to get you started:

This resource is updated annually and includes country-specific career and employment resources for over 80 locations and over 40 city career guides. You can access over 600,000 worldwide job/internship listings and over 450,000 corporate profiles. UCF has a subscription that you can access through Knightlink.

The information on these sites will help you begin to fill the three circles in the diagram below where you try to identify an overlap between your preferred countries, employers and jobs.

“T” in the overlap in the center represents the ideal target jobs you should focus on. The more specific you can be regarding the country, the company and the job you want, the easier it will be to identify what it will take to land and succeed in those jobs. It will help you understand what those employers look for, and to align yourself to meet their needs. You cannot differentiate yourself by trying to be all things to any employer anywhere globally. So lets focus on each of the above circles starting with country.

2. FIND A COUNTRY OR REGION OF INTEREST

Make sure your initial research covers

  • Ease of understanding the Culture and language
  • The state of the economy
  • Acceptability of living standards
  • Safety in terms of Politics, Crime and Health

On a range of 1 to 10 some parts of the world will score very differently in the above categories. Make an informed choice that you won’t regret.

3. FIND COMPANIES OF INTEREST

Here is an obvious way to look for companies that may have overseas opportunities. Look for the following;

  • Large International organizations – include non profit organizations too.
  • US organizations that export their products and services.
  • US organizations that import or build their products overseas.
  • Foreign companies bringing their products and services to the US.
  • Consulting companies that help the above organizations.

The above will provide you with a considerable list. To narrow it down select an industry. This is no different to when you are looking for any job. Find an industry that is meaningful to you – where the mission is something you can relate to and find fulfilling. Look for something that gives you purpose and makes you feel proud. The stronger this feeling the greater your energy and drive will be.

4. FIND A JOB/FUNCTION OF INTEREST

Many of you have selected your majors and are on a path to a specific function. However if you have not, talk to as many people as you can! Find out what they actually do all day. Get below the job titles into specific activities. Assess your desire to perform those activities. Find out the critical skills required to succeed in those activities. Then build a plan to develop those skills and align to your target employer’s needs.

Aligning to your function of choice in an international setting means you may also need to be aware of local practices, laws and regulations in your country of choice. Showing that you have researched this and taken tangible steps to master these is a good way to demonstrate your commitment, and a good way to differentiate yourself with relevant value. This is another reason you want to target jobs in specific locations otherwise it will be too difficult to internationalize yourself.

5. THE KEY IS TO NETWORK!

You cannot find all the information on line that you will need to make informed choices. It is vital that you actually talk to people. I suggest the following;

  • Alumni who have international jobs.
  • People who have your job/function of choice in your target companies.
  • H.R in your target companies.
  • International Recruiters.
  • Foreign Expats from the country where you want to work living near you.
  • American expats living in the country you are interested in.

Network as much as you can with these types of people. Use LinkedIn to find them and ask each one for additional contacts.

Think outside the box. I know a student who wanted to work in Vietnam. He started learning Vietnamese and visited all the local Vietnamese restaurants. It started as an opportunity to practice the language but he got to know the owners who were a wealth of information and additional contacts. By the time he talked to an international business he sounded infinitely more knowledgeable and prepared.

6. PREPARE YOUR RELEVANCE

Build your differentiated competitive advantage to win the job you want. Build your case in terms of how you can meet their needs. It always boils down to who can provide the most compelling relevant value to the employer.

Remember that many countries have education systems as good or better than ours. So why not just employ a local nationality in such a country. Why go to the expense of relocating you?

Above all else, employers value people who get the job done. They want to know that tasks assigned to you will be completed on time. To assess this they look at your team fit, your job specific skills, and your drive to persist – especially when solving difficult problems.

You can’t just claim you are the right person. You have to show them – and in this case, you have to show them that you can do so in a foreign environment.

Use S.O.A.R.

Situation – describe a situation similar to those that occur in the job you want

Objective – describe the objectives you were responsible for achieving

Actions – describe the actions you personally took

Results – describe the results, and positive impact, ideally using numbers

S.O.A.R. is a well-structured way to demonstrate the relevant value you can bring to an employer. As an obvious example, a good command of the language will help you fit into the local team and understand how to get things done. Look for specific skills not readily available in your chosen country. How do you find out? Just talk to people and ask! Also large organizations run on specific processes to drive consistency of quality and customer experience across all their locations. Being part of a global team helping with training and monitoring processes can be an excellent way to get initial overseas experience.

7. WHERE TO START – STUDIES ABROAD

When you think you have identified a country or region of interest consider a study abroad there. These can be excellent ways of confirming your interest in that location and building your relevant language skills further. It is also a great way to meet potential organizations who fall into one or more of the categories in Point 3 above.

Don’t use every spare minute on the trip to exhaust the sight seeing opportunities. Plan ahead and set up meetings with organizations that have international interests. Understand their needs. Look for opportunities to achieve some relevant S.O.A.R.s. Look for local internship opportunities you could go back there for. Build relationships with people who could help, guide and mentor you there.

If you are a student at the College of Business Administration at UCF contact Holly Bouma who runs a series of excellent international programs. Email her at holly.bouma@ucf.edu to set up an appointment.

8. DO NOT ALWAYS EXPECT TO JOIN AN EMPLOYER IMMEDIATELY IN AN OVERSEAS POSITION

Work your way to it. Sending people overseas is risky for organizations. The people they send are ambassadors for their company. You therefore need to earn their trust in terms of your track record of getting the job done, being a good team player and being loyal.

As stated above in Point 6, a good way to do this is to join shared services that visit overseas branches. Examples include, human resources, product training, customer service, marketing, financial audit and so on. This will give you great information on which locations you might want to be transferred to on a longer term basis. It will also give you credibility and value when you get there.

9. MAKE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND ALL THE PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS

There are some practical issues that need to be handled properly.

  • Your working visa. (BTW some countries will not grant working visas to partners/spouses.)
  • Immunization requirements
  • The terms of overseas employment covering;
  • Local cost of living, anticipated accommodation, transport, insurance, etc
  • What happens if you get sick, in trouble such as a car wreck, robbed, etc

Lastly how long does the assignment last? What will you be doing when you return and what is the career path? There is an adjustment to be made when you go overseas and another sometimes-harder adjustment when you get back!

10. SOME KEY MISTAKES TO AVOID

  • Do not forget you are there to do a job. No employer wants to fund your tourist ambitions.
  • Never appear to be superior to local employees. Learn from each other. Build relationships.
  • Never forget that you are not in America. Make sure you wear locally acceptable clothing and avoid voicing political or religious opinions both verbally and on social media. The penalties for being caught with drugs and in some countries alcohol can be severe. Last but not least be very careful with any amorous advances!

During my career I have had to rescue/remove numerous staff who got themselves in trouble in one of the above ways – sometimes with serious consequences to our business and the individual’s future prospects in our organization.

SUMMARY

Working overseas is a wonderful way to broaden your mind, give you experiences and responsibilities you might not get at home. You will make friends and connections who can alter your life. I love business. However international business has rich additional dimensions in terms of both challenges and rewards. It is also a wonderful way to learn and share new ideas and technology across the world.

So think global. Lets connect, experience and celebrate each other’s cultures, build understanding, and build business together. In my previous industry of automating financial institutions in organizations such as Fiserv and Temenos we had some thirty different nationalities and many different religions perfectly capable of working together, often under considerable deadline pressures on very complex high technology projects. Being on a multinational team was part of the attraction for our staff.

For those of you who are interested in working abroad, and becoming international, I highly encourage you to start your preparations right now because it takes time and dedication. When you succeed don’t forget to reciprocate by helping and encouraging others with their international ambitions. This should include encouraging those you meet abroad to work in the U.S.

Dare I say it …..

“Lets become part of making the world great again!”

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