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Key to International Job Search Success: Capitalize on the Demand for Specific Skills

By Megan Fitzgerald

More people than ever are looking to work abroad. Official statistics show 6.5 million Americans are living in over 160 countries, a million Australians are living overseas, and 6 million Brits live outside of the UK. These numbers and similar statistics are growing every year.

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When you consider that 80% of the population of Dubai and almost 30% of Singapore residents are expatriates, reports that there are over 210 million expatriates worldwide are not surprising.

Globalization, new technologies, and more cost effective options for travel are making this more possible for more people with every day.

With an increasing number of people leaving their countries to go abroad, one might think that there are fewer good job opportunities for the aspiring expatriate. But this is absolutely not the case.

The Number of International Assignments are Increasing

The desire to expand abroad is also an increasing trend with companies and organizations. With shrinking economic growth rates in certain regions of the world, companies know they have to expand into markets where growth and opportunities exist not just to thrive, but to survive.

As a result, international assignments are increasing. In a recent global relocation trends survey by Brookfield GRS, 43% of the respondents said that international assignees increased in 2010 - the first increase since 2006. It also reported that 61% of respondents expect the final numbers for 2011 to show an increase in assignees as well.

The primary driver for companies sending people abroad has historically been lack of skill sets and professional experience of local workforces in countries or markets in which they are operating. Although increasingly companies are sending their people abroad for developmental purposes, the lack of skills and experience needed to achieve business objectives is still the number one reason companies in 2012 are sending people to work overseas.

The Global War for Talent Means Greater Demand for Specific Skills

This increased demand for specific skills has led to a global war for talent. Companies can no longer be overly concerned about citizenship or location when recruiting for certain positions. This is very good news for those conducting an international job search.

Expanding into emerging economies where the number of skilled workers or experienced managers and executives are often quite low has always made finding skilled talent in these areas of the world a challenge. There are generally a wealth of options in many of these countries - Brazil, Russia, India, and China to name a few.

But the demand for skilled workers exists in both the developed and emerging markets. In fact, according to a recent OECD report, the countries with employers reporting some of the greatest skill shortages are Japan (80%), Australia (55%) and the United States (52%).

The Skills in Greatest Demand

These skills can vary from country to country and market to market. They can also change over time. But much of this information can be easily found online.

Countries in need of more skilled workforces often have skilled migrant or worker visa programs to attract those with skills that they lack. These visa programs give non-residents permission to do work they might not otherwise be able to get. Those programs generally have lists of the skills in the greatest demand.

For example, eligibility for Australia's General Skilled Migration Visa requires having the skills to perform the occupations on their Department of Immigration and Citizenship's Skilled Occupations List.

Developing the Skills in Demand

For those who feel they don't have the skills in greatest demand, there are still options. With more universities developing professionally focused courses and an increasing number of distance learning and online training programs, there are many opportunities to further develop a skill set or learn a new one.

Do the research to find out which skill sets are in demand in your country of choice and then see what online learning options are available so you can develop the skills you need from wherever you are in the world.

Capitalizing on the Demand for Skills

You can increase your chances of international job search success by positioning yourself as an expert in skill sets most in demand in your target country - if you actually have them.

It's important that you not misrepresent yourself by stating you have skills or strengths you don't at any point during your job search. Claiming you can do things that you can't will inevitably lead to poor performance and will negatively impact your career advancement and future opportunities.

However if your skills and strengths do align with those that are in demand, I recommend first clarifying your personal brand and then crafting your brand message with the greatest emphasis placed on those in demand skills. The next step would be developing career marketing tools and strategies to send that clear and consistent message of value to your target employers and recruiters on and offline.

Bottom Line

By effectively communicating that you have the skills in greatest demand in your target countries through a strong brand message and the right brand communication strategies you can set yourself up for international job search success.


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.