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How International Job Search Is Different from Job Search at Home

By Megan Fitzgerald

In today's increasingly globalized world of work, international work experience is not only valued - it's expected. This is particularly true when competing for top positions in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Hence, many job seekers are now searching for work overseas to advance their careers.

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But many of these job seekers are not aware of the differences between a job search at home and abroad and the challenges these differences can create. Not addressing these challenges can have a significant affect on your job search success.

Here are just some of the key differences between a domestic and international job search you should be aware of if you choose to pursue work abroad:

Work Permits

Part of securing a job abroad involves securing a work visa or permit to work in another country. Most of the time a job offer is required to get this visa or permit. And it usually involves the employer having to pay fees and complete paperwork to get these government authorizations.

The challenge this presents to the international job seeker is two fold. First, it makes them ineligible for many jobs as many employers are not willing to invest the time and money to secure work permissions for a non-citizen. And secondly, because most employers are naturally predisposed to avoid this additional effort and expense, local, qualified candidates will have a significant competitive edge over someone just as qualified but lacking the proper work authorization.

To overcome this challenge, it's critical that you have a compelling, differentiated message of value that is reflected in all of your career communications and career marketing materials. It must be very clear how you can offer much more than local, qualified candidates and why you are worth the additional investment of time and money required to hire you.

That said, in some areas of the world this is not such a problem. For example, if you are a citizen of a country in the European Union (EU), you have permission to work in other EU countries.

Having Credentials That Are Jurisdictional

Another challenge one can encounter when conducting an international job search is that of jurisdictional credentials. You may have particular degrees or credentials that are recognized at home but not in your target country.

Hence, you may be qualified to do a job you enjoy in your home country that you'd like to do overseas but can't because you don't have the right credentials.

To address this challenge, it would be important to first be aware of which countries do accept your credentials before you start your job search. Then consider which of those countries would offer the job opportunities and lifestyle for which you are looking. There may also be cases where some additional training could remedy the situation.

However, when you are able to convey your qualifications and value effectively, you can sometimes position yourself for roles comparable to the ones for which your credentials are not accepted and find similarly satisfying work.

Language Skills

Another challenge of pursuing work in another country is that a lack of the right language skills can render the international job seeker ineligible for many jobs.

Given English is the language of business globally, those who speak English may not be at such a disadvantage as those who do not.

The best way to overcome this challenge is to target countries whose languages you already speak. For example, English is an official language or predominantly spoken in over 50 countries. French is an official language in 39 countries and dependent entities, and Spanish is predominately spoken in over 20 countries and territories.

Cultural Differences

Culture can affect every single part of the job search - how you access information, networking, job application process and materials, interviewing, salary negotiation, and more.

To overcome the multitude of challenges these cultural differences can present, it is critical that a person seeking a job abroad do their research to make sure that they are clear on what those differences are and respect them at every step in the process.

Dual Career Couples

If you are single, the job search overseas can be a challenge. But if you have a spouse who also wants to work, both of you must overcome these differences in the international job search together.

Bottom Line

Although there are many differences between the job search at home and abroad, all of these challenges can be overcome with the right tools and strategies. However not taking these differences into account when defining your approach to an international job search can sabotage your chances of landing satisfying work 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.