Expats around the world share the feeling of dread that comes with having to find work in a foreign land. Cultural differences, language barriers and company protocols can quickly make you feel like you’re drowning in information, or even worse, not enough information. Unfortunately, it can take a lot of time and even more effort, but there are a few things you can do to help yourself along. Whether you’ve already arrived, or you’re on your way there, here are some top tips to help you in your search for employment.
1. Get to know the job market!
Make sure you know what you’re in for and what kind of work is available, ideally before you arrive. Even better, before you confirm the move. If you’re moving your life across the globe, it’s worth putting in that extra effort to avoid getting one hell of a shock. The last thing you need, on top of the many other stresses you will encounter, is to find out that your money is drying up and there’s none coming in anytime soon.
In most countries, you’ll find a number of websites dedicated to advertising jobs. If you don’t know the local language, there will be websites dedicated to expats that will undoubtedly have a page with current job listings in English. To save you some time and effort, I’ve compiled a very brief list at the end of this article of various countries and their applicable job and expat websites. You can thank me later…
As if that’s not enough, it’s also worth searching for companies in your new home that offer the type of job you are looking for and contacting them directly. For example, if you’re looking to find English teaching jobs in Japan, you may google ‘English teaching jobs Japan’. A multitude of companies will no doubt pop up in your search, including ECC, Nova and the ALT program just to name a few, all of which allow you to apply online.
2. Update and Adapt
Updating your resume is something you should do before applying for jobs regardless. In a foreign job market however, you may have to do a little more than that. With company values, protocols and business culture differing greatly from country to country, there’s a good chance you’re going to have to adapt your resume to suit the country you’re applying in.
In Europe, for example, you now need to follow the Europass CV format which makes applying for roles throughout Europe a simple and standardised process. European Resumes will also often include information such as nationality – information which you would never include when applying in countries such as Australia or the UK. This is generally to avoid discrimination, also for which you would generally not include a photo in resumes for Australia, the U.K. and the United States. However, in many Asian countries such as Japan, including a photo is common practice.
Learn about the work culture and common practices in your country of choice. Not only will this mean knowing what to expect, it will also impress your potential employers.
When applying for positions in Japan, I was asked on several occasions whether or not I was ok with the fact that my total salary would not reflect what I saw in my bank at the end of the month. I sat there a little confused, thinking that common sense would prevail and that people should already know this. So why? Apparently, many a foreigner before me lost it at their employers when they realised that tax, health insurance etc. was taken from that amount, something that they could have easily researched prior. Please don’t be that person.
Using Japan as an example once again, it is also normal for employees to work late, well past their scheduled finish time. As a foreigner, you may not be held to such standards, but be aware that what you do will determine their view of you as not only a worker, but a foreigner also. It is also common that employers may ask you about tattoos, piercings etc. as these things are generally frowned upon or even prohibited in Japanese culture.
Each country will be different, but there is plenty of information available online and from expats who have already experienced it. Doing this research will make your life easier when your journey begins, so it’s worth taking the time to look into it. In my situation, my boss was in shock that I wasn’t stomping out of the workplace at 9pm sharp, among other things that the previous employee did, which has led to having an awesome relationship with my manager. Well worth the effort.
4. Talk. And talk some more.
If you arrive before obtaining work, it’s worth spreading the word. When you start to make new friends, chat to people and build a network of sorts, make sure those people are aware that you are on the hunt for work. These people may know someone who knows someone who’s hiring – an easy in that takes very little effort on your part. When moving overseas, many people start to discover the warmth and generosity of many locals – just part of the magic that is expat living.
If you find yourself moving to a country that speaks a language other than English, it’s worth brushing up on your language skills. You don’t have to become fluent overnight, but learning basic phrases and words shows that you’re trying. It shows you’ve taken the time to put in some extra effort and this will often go a long way with potential employers. Many people underestimate the power of a few small phrases, but an employer will often feel more comfortable hiring someone who walks out of an interview saying thank you in their native language than someone who neglects to acknowledge it.
To sum up, preparation is key. If you do your research and prepare, your job hunt should, at the very least, go more smoothly.
It’s also worth noting that taking one job doesn’t mean you have to stay there. If you’re finding yourself hating your work, look for something else! You’re not locked in and you will have gained some valuable experience in the meantime.
And remember! Don’t stress! It will happen eventually. It can be stressful at home, let alone in another country, but don’t let it ruin your experience. It will all be worth it in the end!