Nothing opens the eyes and broadens horizons quite like international travel. After all, it's a big world out there with lots of places to explore, learn, and work. The idea of searching for a job in a different country might seem like a daunting task, and it's arguably not going to be the right path for some. That said, choosing to follow a career abroad can provide a wealth of benefits.
According to a study by the British Council, international work experience can enhance a person's productivity and problem-solving skills. As an expatriate worker, you'll also be immersing yourself in a foreign culture and taking on challenges that are outside of your comfort zone. A prospective employee who is confident and has clearly demonstrated an ability to adapt to change is going to stand out to employers.
Does this sound like something that's a career calling for you? Well, before you update your Linkedin profile and start firing off resumes, there are some things you need to know before taking the international leap.
1. Choosing the right employer is key
Carefully looking at all aspects of a potential employer from work environment to salary and benefits is important for accepting any position, but especially if that job is in another country.
Because labor laws can vary dramatically from country to country, it's imperative that you do the research into what those laws are and how strictly they are enforced. Taking a job with a company that has a history of mistreating its workers could make for a very unpleasant experience of working abroad.
A good employer will value the diversity that you're bringing to their organization and should offer to help you gain a work visa to make the transition as smooth as possible. Do they offer any sort of stipend to go towards relocation expenses or help with housing?
While some employers may offer the benefit of sponsored housing, it's still important that you do your research on the accommodations. The cheap rent of an employer-sponsored flat may eat into your salary if there's no kitchen to cook in and you're ordering delivery for every meal.
It's certainly possible that your dream job is waiting for you in another country. Just be sure you do the proper research that the dream job isn't a nightmare in disguise
2. Don't ignore the math of your salary and cost of living
Everybody wants to be compensated properly for the work they do and accepting a job that offers fair pay can be the difference between a foreign work experience that's rewarding and a miserable one.
Before you send out a single resume to a foreign employer, it would be wise to do some research into the country's job market. Is the industry of your choice in a healthy state with upward job growth or is it oversaturated with unemployed native job seekers?
If your research shows that the foreign market is ripe with openings that pay a higher salary than what you're seeing at home, fantastic! While this is certainly good news, you also need to look into what your cost of living expenses would be.
You'll need to factor in everything from transportation costs to rent, groceries, insurance, and utilities and see how it all balances out with your paycheck. A salary with a foreign position that's 20% higher than what you're currently making may not be so appealing if it only leaves you with pocket change at the end of the month.
3. Do your homework on the visa process
The idea of working abroad is certainly an appealing one that conjures up ideas of adventure and exciting career growth. Making that dream a reality is likely going to be a somewhat lengthy process and require quite a bit of paperwork with both your home country and the foreign country you'll be working in.
The US Department of State has plenty of information on its website about the visa process and learning the ins and outs of it will make your life a lot easier in the long run. A good employer will help support you through this process, but there's plenty that you'll need to do on your own to make sure that you receive the proper type of visa. For example, certain visas may not allow you to switch jobs within a certain time frame or could penalize you if your employment contract is terminated.
Securing a visa can take several months, so this is one matter where time is certainly of the essence. If a dream job, say in Milan for example, does present itself, it is possible to expedite the process and secure an Italian visa appointment in New York, but again, the more time you give yourself the better.
You should also be especially careful of any prospective employers who say that you'll be "volunteering" and will not need a visa despite receiving a wage. Don't be afraid to reach out to your government's website on working abroad for guidance and legal questions you might have.
4. Getting credit and filing taxes can get complicated
If the US income tax laws are enough to make your head spin, try factoring in the tax laws of working in another country like Singapore. First things first, if you're a U.S. citizen and are working abroad, you still have to file your taxes with the U.S. government. You may not necessarily have to pay taxes, but the IRS is clear that they must be filed.
Another factor that may slip your mind while making plans to conquer the tech industry of Spain is the issue of credit. While you may have an impeccable credit score of 800 in the United States, that impressive score won't be following you overseas because countries use different measures for judging the financial trustworthiness of citizens. While this may sound appealing if your credit score is rather low, a poor credit score can also make securing a visa tricky.
US citizens working abroad should continue to keep their US credit cards open and make regular payments. Nobody wants to leave the country with an excellent credit score and return home to a dismal one.
Building up credit a credit profile in another country can be difficult, so opting to pay with cash may be or using a card you already have that doesn't have foreign transaction fees may be the best option.
5. Take the appropriate steps to soften any language barriers
Diving headfirst into a new culture can be an exciting experience, but there's a reason the term "culture shock" exists. It can also be challenging, frustrating, and tiring trying to acquaint oneself with unfamiliar traditions and societal behaviors – especially if there's a language barrier.
Doing all that you can to soften the language barrier before you board the plane will help greatly in building up your confidence for the first day on the job. Even if you do happen to be taking a position in a foreign country where English is the native language or widely spoken, keep in mind that there could be differences in slang and office lingo.
Take some time beforehand to work on those conversational skills and catch up on the country's pop culture. It can go a long way in easing you into your new work environment and home.