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International Job Search and Portable Careers

By Megan Fitzgerald

For those of you conducting an international job search and want to work abroad, I invite you to consider pursuing a portable career.

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The Portable Career

A portable career is a career that you can take with you wherever you go. It can gracefully move with you to a new city or new country - whether for several months or several years.

A portable career gives you more freedom to choose where you want to live and work, and helps you maintain a professional identity rather than starting over professionally every time you move somewhere new.

It also gives you more flexibility to organize your work to support an international lifestyle, and can actually help you work less so you can enjoy life overseas more.

Why a "Portable" Career?

There are many reasons for building a portable career.

You may live or desire to live in a country where:

  • You don't speak the language, rendering you ineligible for most jobs.
  • It's extremely difficult if not impossible to get a work permit.
  • Your credentials are not accepted or recognized.
  • There is no demand for your specific skill set.
  • Earning potential or salary levels are too low to support your desired lifestyle.

Or you may want to travel and experience the world. You want the freedom that comes from doing location-independent work.

Portable Career Options

Historically there have been few careers that were both truly portable and provided a livable income. These careers have included teaching, nursing, childcare, or administrative support.

However, with today's advances in technology such as voice over IP programs like Skype, high-speed internet connections, and the ability to set up businesses and to market your services online, the list of portable career options is now much longer.

The list of jobs that can be made portable include: accountant, artist, web designer, computer programmer, online business manager, IT services, coaching, consulting, writer, journalist, publicist, teacher, import/exporter, social media strategist, trader, researcher, and event organizer.

As markets become more global and technology evolves, we are sure to not only see more portable career options available, but more people pursuing them to make their dream of an international, mobile lifestyle a reality.

Portable vs. Non-Portable Careers

But how does a portable career differ from a non-portable career?

There are a few key differences:

  • Portable careers often involve services or skill sets that are generally in high demand worldwide. Careers in education and training, healthcare and technology are often portable because the demand for services usually outweighs the local supply of talent.
  • Portable careers are not primarily driven by credentials or degrees that are jurisdiction or location specific. Law degrees and medical degrees are examples of credentials that are not readily accepted everywhere.
  • Though not always the case, portable careers generally do not limit a person to their local market. Portable careers can involve providing services virtually or selling products online. You could be a coach or consultant that provides local in-person coaching or consulting, but also provide services via phone or video chat globally. In fact you could be running a business online that does not sell to anyone at all in your local market.
  • Portable careers usually involve regular engagement with technology and online business and communication tools. This is particularly true if a person is providing services virtually or creating and selling products online.
  • Portable careers generally do not involve owning and managing brick and mortar businesses. The process of setting up that kind of business and the difficulties of selling or moving it make it less than ideal for someone looking for a more mobile lifestyle.

That said, organizations are becoming more and more global. Not only will many of the jobs of tomorrow be delivered or conducted virtually, but I believe changes in the marketplace will lead to more specialized virtual services.

Hence there will be more portable jobs as well as fewer jobs that could not be considered portable to some degree.

Bottom Line

If you are conducting an international job search and have a true desire to work abroad, consider pursuing a portable career. A portable career can not only get you working overseas, but help keep you working abroad for the long-term.


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.