The question comes up in the minds of many professionals after a great trip in a wonderful city. “Should I look for a job abroad?” It’s a natural reaction to an amazing traveling experience, but it can also leave you truly considering a big career leap. There’s nothing simple about finding a job abroad. It takes time, effort, and a company that believes enough in you to invest in bringing you over.
So when you consider whether you should start looking for a job abroad, keep the following factors in mind.
What’s your real motivation?
What is truly driving you to want such a huge career move? It’s not just a case of switching jobs and joining a new company that you’re looking for. It’s an entire change of scenery, leaving behind all aspects of familiarity. Depending on how new you are to the country you’d like to move to, you might not have any friends and family to lean on, and would thus need to start personal and professional relationships from scratch.
To justify such a leap, you need to make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. If you want to work abroad because you’re unhappy with your current work or life situation, you should first make sure that you have exhausted all options you’re willing to take, such as finding a new job or moving to a different city. Those types of moves are easier to make than having to deal with the intricacies of working abroad (visas, work permits, company sponsorship, etc…).
If your motivation is pure and well thought out, then go ahead and kickstart the process of job hunting. Find job boards that cater specifically to that country. Research companies that look like they are willing to take on And remember to check if your current employer has any roles available abroad.
The paperwork is a nightmare
Even with countries that have the most simple visa application process, dealing with all the paperwork and bureaucratic red tape involved in moving and working in another country can be a total nightmare. This can only be further compounded by companies unwilling to sign off on crucial documents that confirm that you’ll be gainfully employed at the time of your move. Often, that comes from a wariness that you’ll only be there for a short period and are a risky investment.
From visas to residence permits to working permits to 90 day waiting periods to 1 year waiting periods… you get the point. Actually moving to another country can be a confusing, illogical process. You might need an advisor. You might need a lawyer. And it all depends on how complex the process is for the specific country you’re looking at. And it’s different for each country, so there’s no clear and easy heuristic to go by.
If you truly want to make the move, you need to be willing to go through the paperwork nightmare. Because that’s the stage at which most expats-to-be decide to move on from the dream of working abroad. But if you’re committed enough, the process can be managed and navigated.
You might not be welcomed
The simple reality of nationalism and being a foreigner is that your prospective new home country might not want you there. It’s a sad aspect of living in a world that assigns heavy emphasis on national identity. Even in a country like the United States, whose founding history is integrally based on immigration, there are a lot of people who simply don’t welcome foreigners.
No matter how well you may know the language or how well you integrate into the culture, a large portion of the country’s native population may never welcome you. But that’s no reason to despair, if you can see past the unwelcoming attitude of a subset of the population. You can, and will, find your niche with some effort. Think of it this way: even in your own country, there are likely people who you’ll never interact with or get along with, but you’ve still found your place.
When making the move to another country, you have to be prepared to experience some unfair treatment and some discrimination. But with a bit of a thick skin and a good sense of humor, it’s easy to ignore that behavior.
There is a familiarity trap
Countries that have large populations of expatriates also tend to have large expatriate communities. This means that the people who came over from one country or another tend to clump together in communities based on common geographies or languages. For example, there’s a huge American expat community in Berlin. While a good way to find new friends and establish yourself in a new country, these communities may also result in a familiarity trap.
You may be looking to get away from the attitudes and behaviors of your home country. You may be looking to immerse yourself in a brand new culture. Falling into an expat community can trap you right back into the familiarity of your home. You may find yourself only interacting with other expats from your country. You may find yourself neglecting to learn the country’s new language because you can get by in your expat neighborhood.
If you want a completely new and different experience, it’s important to have a good mix of interacting with various communities. It’s ok to rely on fellow expats who have already established themselves in the country. That can help you get on your feet, learn your way around, and feel more at home. But if you eventually want to feel like a native yourself, sticking with your fellow expats can trap you in a familiar routine.
On the whole, working abroad can be a highly rewarding experience, especially early in your career. It’s important, however, to make sure that you’re considering all the factors and difficulties that go into making that move. And if you are truly and eagerly motivated for the right reasons, then you should absolutely try to work abroad.