Going Global - The International Job Search

by | March 31, 2009

Do you find yourself dreaming about your year abroad, that vacation overseas, or maybe just imagining life on Fantasy Island? "The plane, the plane" to opportunities abroad might be overbooked at first glance, but there are ways to score yourself a seat. The economic prosperity that most American college students have been enjoying has prompted many U.S. employers to expand overseas, and foreign companies to look for employees to help them dip into U.S. markets. If you have your heart set on an international career, there are a few things you ought to know.

Clinging to student life
First off, are you sure that you want to work abroad? You might find that continuing your education abroad through scholarships, fellowships, and general continuing education courses might be better for you. By stretching out your educational tenure you can put your loans on hold, free of interest accrual, and gain overseas experience without having to find a job. You may also be able to study in countries where your language skills are not strong enough to find a job. Studying abroad also provides an excellent opportunity to network in the country of your dreams. (The downside? More loans, more time spent in school, less flexibility. Make sure you really want the degree and experience, not just the trip.)

A dash of creativity
The foreign job search takes a bit more detective work than the average job search. If you thought your friends were having a rough time locally, just wait until you try to battle foreign bureaucracy. While some industries tend to have more connections abroad, you generally have to be creative if you want to work abroad. Any large consulting firm, the Peace Corps, or teach abroad program such as Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program could help you wind up overseas, but if you want to work at a foreign corporation, you must be flexible and creative.

Strategize
You need to formulate a customized international strategy. Start by sitting down to identify your strengths. Be realistic. What do you have to offer a foreign company that people from that country can't do just as well? Employers won't expend loads of time and money to secure a work permit for you unless you have something special to offer. Language skills are key. If you haven't mastered the language of your destination, maybe you should consider teaching English in that country while learning the language at night. Or try out a short-term work program. Companies such as Council Travel are good places to find work abroad programs. While you might not immediately find your dream career, you might develop skills necessary for your dream career through a series of short-term jobs.

~Due diligence
If you're fluent in the native tongue of your favored destination, develop a customized job search strategy. Start by looking up societies and nonprofit organizations within the United States in the country of your choice. Identify American companies that have a vested interest abroad - either in daily interactions, or with offices hosted abroad. A good place to start sleuthing is the company member rosters of those previously identified cultural and political organizations. Visit those companies' web sites and check out their job openings. If you're willing to invest some networking time, join those societies and meet the board members. Volunteer to help set-up seminars hosted by those societies and meet the speakers. The connections you make now may find you a job later.

Who do you know?
The sooner you realize that it really is who - not what - you know, the better off you'll be. The most important thing to remember when looking for an international job is that you need to find a niche. Once you've identified your unique qualities, create your job-seeking approach around the companies, societies, board members, career counselors, neighbors, friends, relatives, and anyone else you know who might be able to lead you to a job offer.

Here are a few good resources to jump-start your job search.

University of Michigan's International Study and Travel Center
The University of Michigan's International Study and Travel Center has compiled one of the most comprehensive lists of links and essays pertaining to travel and study abroad. Check it out (you don't have to be "Blue" to access the site).

Council on International Educational Exchange
The bearer of international student identity cards, work abroad programs, youth hostel memberships, and cheap student airfares, Council covers an extensive array of travel/work/study abroad issues on its web site. If you want to search Council's internship and job database, you have to register with the site.

~Peace Corps
Since its injunction in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, the Peace Corps has sent over 130,000 Americans throughout the world on missions that attempt to promote peace in the developing world. The Peace Corps' web site contains information on how to apply, stipends, and just about everything you ever wanted to know about the Peace Corps - including first-hand accounts from current and former participants.

Travel Information from the U.S. Government
When it comes to leaving the U.S., the government is a good force to reckon with before making any definite travel plans. Amongst its most prominent features, this government-controlled site has passport application forms, travel warnings, and travel publications.

ESL Teacher Articles from the Field
A modest compilation of short articles from ESL teachers abroad, this site offers first-hand samplings of life as an international ESL teacher.

JobWeb Career Fair Locator
JobWeb hosts an impressive list of job fairs searchable by state, month, and keyword. Look here to find out when the next job fair is heading your way.

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