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Current International Job Market

By Megan Fitzgerald

Economies worldwide are going through changes that are having a significant impact on international job seekers and those currently working abroad. It's important for those looking to work or advance overseas to understand this new and changing employment climate and the opportunities and challenges it presents if they want to succeed in it.

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Opportunities Expanding in Emerging Markets

Expanding globally, particularly into emerging markets, will be a means of survival for many companies in the coming decade. In a recent Mercer survey, 47% of employers reported plans to increase their use of international assignments to support their revenue and growth goals.

Companies in emerging markets also need leadership that their current local talent cannot provide.

This is good news for the international job seeker. It means there is a growing demand for professionals and executives with specific skills, experience, and the desire and ability to relocate overseas.

Impact of the Economic Downturn

However, since the economic downturn, companies have been forced to cut costs while investing in sending more people overseas to develop talent or realize business objectives. With the cost of sending an employee overseas ranging from $75,000 - $125,000 and reported current assignment failure rates of up to 30%, companies are racing to reevaluate and revise how they select, manage, and compensate their international assignees.

Changes in how companies are handling international assignments include:

  • Creation of alternative compensation packages that include reductions in benefits and salary
  • Increased use of short-term assignments and commuter options
  • Hiring in-country instead of sending employees abroad
  • Sending married employees abroad without their families (56% of companies report doing this - in Europe it is 66%)
  • Hiring younger, single professionals willing to accept lower salaries in return for the development opportunity in working abroad

Much of this is not such good news for international job seekers and those looking to advance their careers abroad.

  • Negotiating (or renegotiating) compensation packages may be more difficult.
  • Finding long-term assignments that provide the experience of building a life overseas will be harder to find.
  • Single professionals may be seen as a more "cost effective" option than people with families (which is good news for single professionals).
  • Options for work opportunities abroad may be more abundant but much less defined.

As a result, many of the international job search strategies from the past will no longer be as relevant.

War for Talent

All that said, the global war for talent is fierce. Companies are desperate for seasoned experts with specific skills and experience that can effectively manage, lead and thrive in different cultural environments. Reports prove that these companies are willing to pay handsomely to get and keep that talent.

Global companies realize that without the right people in the right place at the right time they will not survive in today's competitive global marketplace.

Bottom Line

Both opportunities and challenges abound in this new economic climate. Changing needs and demands are redefining the terms of engagement for employers, job seekers and those in pursuit of career advancement overseas.  Those who understand how to best operate in this ever-evolving global employment environment and have the right mindset, tools, and strategies will be well positioned to capitalize on opportunities and build a fulfilling career and a life abroad.


About this author...

Megan Fitzgerald is an expat career and personal branding coach, CEO of Career By Choice, and your guide to the world of international careers. With two decades of experience supporting professionals and entrepreneurs in 40+ countries across 6 continents, Megan uses a 360°approach to help expats and international job seekers become highly visible, sought after, and land work abroad. You can read about expat careers at CareerbyChoiceBlog, and also find her on Twitter as @ExpatCoachMegan, on Facebook and Google+, and, of course, on LinkedIn.