Are You Interested in Working Abroad? Here's What You Need to Know.
Working in a foreign country is a unique and exciting experience, but making the move can be overwhelming. Every country has different rules and regulations, different types of visas, and different languages and cultural norms to navigate. Whether you're looking to land your dream job or you just want to be a citizen of the world, there are things you can do to prepare for life and work in another country.
8 Tips to Prepare for Working Abroad
- Study Abroad - Finding a study abroad program like Thunderbird's Global Challenge Labs can give you the skills and experience needed to prepare you for a job overseas. Studying abroad is a short-term commitment that gives you a good idea of what working and living abroad full-time is like. Gaining this experience looks great on a resume and can open the door to job opportunities by expanding your network.
- Learn a Foreign Language - Learning a new language has myriad benefits. One of the biggest is being able to communicate effectively in other countries. The most common and beneficial languages to learn, besides English, include Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, French and Arabic. If you know you'll be working in a certain region, find out which language would be most beneficial there. Being bilingual can also help you in English-speaking countries like Canada, New Zealand and Australia, where you're likely to work with people from throughout the Asia-Pacific Rim region, for example.
- Volunteer Work - Volunteering in another country is a rewarding and humbling experience. It teaches cultural awareness and empathy and makes the world a better place. It's also a great, short-term option for people who are curious about getting a job overseas. Even if you don't end up in a global career, having international volunteer experience on your resume is very impressive to employers.
- Save Money - Making a big move, especially to a foreign country is unpredictable; it's a good idea to have a financial cushion in the event of unforeseen circumstances. Before you embark on your journey abroad, try to save 3-6 months' worth of expenses. This will give you security in the event of an emergency and it will enable you to move quickly if other job opportunities arise.
- Research - A quick Google search on "working abroad" will pull up millions of resources — blogs from expats, job sites, information about visas and so much more. There are also many organizations, such as BUNAC and GoAbroad, that help people find international work, study and travel opportunities. Take advantage of these free and potentially money-saving resources to learn more about different countries, jobs and general life overseas.
- Update Your Resume - Make sure that your resume reflects your desire and ability to work overseas and in the particular job you're interested in. Include your job history, educational experiences, certification and skills.
- Take Advantage of Social Media - Social media has the ability to connect us with people and companies all over the world. The best professional social network is LinkedIn. Update your LinkedIn to reflect what is on your resume. You can also join any of the 1,100 "work abroad" or related groups. These communities can help answer questions and connect you to people or potential employers in other countries. You can also use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or others to connect with influencers, make new friends and expand your network — all of which could help you find an international job.
- Job Search - Find out which jobs you are able to do in different countries and what the job market looks like (i.e., will finding a job be easier in France vs. China?). While some people choose to move to a new country and then find work, looking for employment opportunities while still in your home country can help make for a smoother transition.
International Job Opportunities
Whether you're an expat or you're just looking for short-term employment while you travel, there are several opportunities that can get you into a new country and give you some work experience.
Teaching English - With an accredited TEFL certification, you can teach English in almost any country. Most TEFL courses require at least 120 hours of training and can be done virtually or in person. English teachers overseas aren't required to be fluent in another language, but they must have good language skills. For this reason, some countries also require a bachelor's degree and/or teaching experience. In addition, TEFL-certified teachers need to obtain a tourist or work visa. Visa requirements vary by country and limit the length of time you can stay in country. A few countries also have age restrictions for teaching English. For example, in China, you must be under 55. Teaching English can be an exciting and fulfilling job and the skills you take away are valuable in any career.
Au Pair - An au pair is a person from a foreign country that helps a host family with childcare, housework and other domestic responsibilities. Considered a culture exchange program, both the family and the caregiver get to learn about each other's culture. Unlike other jobs abroad, au pairs are not considered employees of the host family and they require an exchange visa rather than a work visa in most countries. While au pairs do make some money, the majority of their compensation is free room and board. There are many opportunities all over the world, but it's important to note that every country has different government restrictions on age range, length of stay and sometimes gender — some countries limit this occupation to females. The best and safest way to find an au pair job is to work with a reputable agency.
Tour Industry - Have you ever wanted to journey through New Zealand, discover underwater worlds in Australia or take in the breathtaking countryside in North China? Working in the tour industry is a great way to earn a living while immersing yourself in rich history and astonishing natural wonders. As a tour guide or tour director, you can travel as much as you want while becoming a subject matter expert and making an impact on the lives of travelers and students. Most tour companies require some college or a training course and training on the specific subject matter. The International Tour Management Institute is a reputable guide program offering a two-week course in San Fransisco and several online courses.
Cruise Ship Worker - Cruise ships are like floating cities, which means they need a wide range of employees to run the ship and the activities aboard — chefs, childcare workers, engineers, mechanics, spa therapists, teachers, entertainers and doctors. They also need employees on land to ensure that the operations run smoothly. Whether on the water or ashore, working for a cruise ship company enables you to travel, meet new people and gain unique work experience.
Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) - WWOOFing is a great workaway opportunity that connects visitors, or WWOOFers, with organic farms around the world. In exchange for room and board, WWOOFers work on the farm and participate in the daily life of the host. It helps the hosts, but it's also an incredible way to immerse yourself into the culture, learn about sustainability, meet new people and gain new skills. WWOOFing requires a tourist or holiday visa which varies in length depending on the country. This is another good option for those wanting to move around more frequently as the stays are typically shorter.
Peace Corps - As it says on their website, "The Peace Corps is a service opportunity for motivated changemakers to immerse themselves in a community abroad, working side by side with local leaders to tackle the most pressing challenges of our generation." There is a range of opportunities in countries around the world for people 18 and over. Joining the Peace Corps is a rewarding experience that can open the door to a global career. In fact, at Thunderbird, we have had many Return Peace Corps volunteers join the T-bird community and find that their service experience enhances their education and makes for a very seamless transition. The Peace Corps is a two-year commitment that can change your life and the trajectory of your career.
Digital Nomad - Digital nomads are people who work remotely and usually travel around to different locations. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this an increasingly popular course. According to a Pew Research survey, during the pandemic, the number of employees working remotely jumped 51%, bringing the total of remote workers to 71%. Additionally, 54% of remote workers surveyed would like to keep working remotely once the pandemic ends. Any job that can be done remotely makes the perfect travel job — as long as your employer gives you the green light. This unique nomadic lifestyle gives people the opportunity to earn a living while experiencing life in other parts of the world. It can make almost any job a dream job.
International Organization - Globalization has made it easier for more companies to have an international presence. Many are searching for employees who can lead and manage their global offices. Whether you are right out of college or mid-career and are looking for a job abroad, finding a post with an international organization could be a great way to make that transition.
These and other travel jobs offer unforgettable experiences and invaluable skills. At Thunderbird, we understand that no matter what stage of your life or career you're in, working abroad is an exciting option; and maybe a little scary. We hope these tips and job options empower you to further explore your dreams.