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Want to work abroad? Here are 13 things you need to do

Relocating abroad for work is the biggest feather in the cap of the 21st century. It’s a road less traveled, but one that makes all the difference. For one, employers really value those with international work experience. The more adaptable you are, the better you’ll be able to effectively handle hardships without it getting the best of you. It also shows your employer that you have a growth mindset, and you can continually grow and learn throughout your life.

If you’ve watched the hit Netflix series ‘Emily in Paris’, you’ve indubitably got a glimpse of the expat life. Like Emily Cooper, you’ll find yourself against of landscapes of see-sawing chaos and idyll. You’ll never be always right or wrong. It depends on how you adapt to the situation; unlike Emily will you make an effort to learn the wee-bit basics of the language and work-culture of the new country?

To help you prepare, we put together some things to consider, facts to research, and questions to ask (yourself).

  1. Turn up your Language Game

This is essential if you’re moving to a country you absolutely don’t speak the language. If you don’t make an effort to learn the local language, then people will always look at you as an “outsider” and you will only be able to get around with expats like yourself.

“First of all, Emily was really lucky that all the clients spoke English and were willing to converse in English with her in PARIS! This does not happen unless you’re a really big executive who wields tremendous power,” says Eduard Klein, an international digital growth specialist. “If you’re just an employee at a marketing firm but you don’t speak the client’s first language, say goodbye to long-term relationships with them.”

As tourists or even short-term visitors, you can get away with Hellos and Goodbyes. But if you’re moving to work abroad, you need to make every effort to gain at least a basic conversational grasp of the local language.

Visitors and frequent travelers know that learning the local language gives you instant access to the daily necessities of life.

“Therefore, when you’re going abroad for work, make sure that you speak their language and understand their culture. The language you can learn soon enough but the culture will take time as you are exposed to novel situations during your time.”

2. Learn all about visas and work permits

No matter how much you plan and organize, your dream of working abroad will ultimately hinge on your visa or work permit. Therefore, finding out what papers you’ll need to be able to legally work in another country – and what you need to do to get these papers – will be the first step. Make sure you factor in that obtaining a visa or permit could take some time and money. You’ll also need to know how long you can stay with said documents – are they connected to employment or can you stay there for a certain amount of time, no matter what?

3. Research the cost of living vs. your salary 

Next up on the list of important things to consider: money. You might not know exactly how much money you will make each month, but you need to know what the industry average is and how it compares to the cost of living. You will basically need to figure out how much money you will have left once all the monthly costs (rent, bills, taxes, etc.) are paid. (Few things can be as depressing as living in an amazing place and not being able to afford anything.)

4. Find out how to find a job and a place to live

If you have set your heart on a specific city, research how easy it will be to find a job and a place to live. Check how people commute and how that factors into your budget and expectations. (Things might be easier if you just want to move to a certain country and are more flexible where you’ll work, but you will still need to be able to find a job and have a roof over your head.)

5. Consider how much time off you will have

One reason why you move abroad is probably because you want to explore a new culture – and you will need time to do that. It might not sound super important at the beginning, but find out how much vacation time (and sick days) you’ll get, as this can vary greatly between countries. All work and no travel can dampen the best adventure plans, so make sure that you will have time (and money) to explore and/or visit your family back home every now and then.

6. Start building a network

Having a network in another country is crucial – luckily, you don’t even have to travel there to small talk and schmooze: Use social media to find and connect with people in your industry. Asking someone for help, advice, and their proverbial “two cents” are always good ways to get a foot in the door, so become active on Twitter and LinkedIn, join groups or forums, and talk to expats and locals. 

7. Learn about your country and its culture

When you’re on vacation, everything is a little bit more awesome. We don’t want to rain on your parade, but living in a country will be a little different: There will be bills, taxes, and delayed buses. You might also live a bit farther from the beach than you imagined. Now, we’re not saying that everything will be worse, we just want you to be realistic and not judge your future home while wearing vacation goggles. A good idea is to visit the future home before you move and really ask yourself if you could live there. This is also a good time to meet with possible employers (even if it’s just for networking), look at neighborhoods, and talk to locals about the current job market and living arrangements. 

8. Get the hang of how locals find jobs 

Different cultures have different approaches to finding a job – some like a more formal approach with lots of paperwork while others prefer face-to-face interaction. Research how the locals find their jobs and figure out if you will be able to find something on your own (and from far away) or if you will have to go through a recruiter or agency. 

9. Study up on how to write resumes and cover letters

Now that you know how to find a job, you need to get everything ready to get the process started: Learn all about the layout, content, and formalities of writing a good resume and cover letter for your country and industry. Make sure you know how many personal details you’ll need to share and what documents/references you’ll need to include.

10 Read about possible diplomas & certifications

Depending on your education, skills, and work experience, your new home country might ask for an additional (language) diploma or certificate. Research the job requirements and learn how, where, and when you can get the necessary documents. (This might mean that you have to spend some more time and money to get where you want to go.)

11. Prepare yourself for things to be different

Exploring something new, starting a new chapter in your life, and broadening your horizons are hopefully some of the reasons why you want to work abroad – but we just want to throw it out there anyway: Make sure that you’re prepared for the possibility of a little bit of culture shock, homesickness, and some “but why”-questions that come hand in hand with “that’s just how it is”-answers. It happens to the best of us, so see it as a sign that you’re growing, becoming more awesome, and are about to make memories that will last a lifetime.

12. Have a plan B. (Just in case.)

Now, we don’t want to discourage any of your endeavors, but as a world traveler, you know that it’s always good to have an alternative strategy in case things don’t go according to plan. For example, it’s good to know how long you can afford to and are allowed to live in the country without having a job. Having said that, it will be important to figure out how much money you want to save up to accumulate an emergency fund for rainy (and stormy) days.

13. Go for it.

If not now, when?

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