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8 Key Tips in Preparing for an International Job

Updated on December 15, 2017
aesta1 profile image

My husband and I have worked on many international assignments and are very much aware of what one needs to do before you get on the plane.

How to prepare for an International Job

Off to a new international job? There are many things to prepare before you get on the plane. Gone are those halcyon days when "road warriors" and consultants like you had secretaries for their executive assistants and assistants for their secretaries.

Today, somehow, the folks at the sharp end book their own flights and look for their own accommodation. And if you work for yourself, you'll be booking flights on the way to the airport and cell phoning a hotel as well.

Preparing for an International Assignment

Preparing for an International Job
Preparing for an International Job | Source

1. Get a Signed Contract

A signed contract. Don't leave home without it! Unless you are in sales, travelling on speculation is not smart. You need to have a legal paper in your possession stating clearly the work to be done, the resources provided and the remuneration for the work including allowances and other benefits.

Maybe, you are very trusting. But imagine yourself spending thousands of dollars to go to this assignment and find out when you arrive there that you don't have it. And because there is no contract, they are not legally bound to pay your expenses. So you are out of job and out of pocket as well.

Ascertain the amount for air travel and accommodation. If the assignment is willing to pay only for an economy ticket, then find out your options at this level. This is true of accommodation as well.

It is good to know how much living allowance you are entitled to before you book a hotel or rent a place. If you will be in one location for a while, book the hotel for one week and then look for other lodging. You will get amazing savings and you can get a kitchen and laundry, too.

Know the Assignment Well

Preparing for International Work
Preparing for International Work | Source

2. Know all you can about the assignment

Have a clear idea of the terms of reference (TORS) so that you can negotiate the items you are not comfortable with. If you think that there are some areas you don't have the skills in, bring it up so they get the support needed. If its data, check for websites BEFORE you leave home.

Make sure your implementation requirements are budgeted like for example, there is some local travel money if you are going between work sites. Look for travel allowances if you will be delivering your work in different cities. If there are materials you require, make sure there is a budget for it. If you need to have workshops, get to see how much is allocated.

Read what the country requires of expats who work there and their families as well.

Prepare an envelope for all the requirements and start filing relevant information.

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A Thought to Always Remember

Sometimes, you forget that what you hope will be true is not the same as the reality awaiting you at the other end! There are all kinds of things you need to consider before you fire up your engines for the next task...and, then, more to follow once you're on the road.

But the more you have prepared, the better able you are to meet the challenges of a new place, a new work environment and new bosses.

International Work is Complicated

International work
International work | Source

3. Prepare Documents for your international job posting

Make sure your documents are valid. Check for expiry as well. Countries have different requirements so check it out online.

Check pages of your passports to ensure you have enough for when you decide to travel in countries other than where you're going. Some countries need a page for the visa. Each time you renew, they'll need another page. Sometimes you can get a visa upon entry, only for a month or 3 at most and then this will be renewed so make sure you have several blank pages in your passport.

Always get business visas when these are available. Check on the country website and make sure you know! Often, in countries where you don't need a visa to travel, you will need a visa to work. If you are close to an embassy of the country you are going to, it is better to get a visa right there. While airport visas avoid the complexity of going to embassies when you don't live close to one, they can be a hassle upon arrival as most passengers are also lining up to get a regular visa and you are the odd person out. If you have to, prepare the required documentation such as pictures.

Sometimes, they may ask for a letter from your employer stating your assignment in the country and also your address when you are in the country.

Always have 2 passport size photos with you when you are travelling. These are cheap to get in some countries so get more when you happen to be there. In some, you pay less than a dollar. In others, you have to cough up $11. If you have a family of 4, this can be quite a hole in your budget.

Aside from your passports, there are many other documents you need to have a back up of so in case you need it, you have it in hand. You'll never know what they'll require.

Once, for visas, the Ministry we worked for needed our marriage license to show that accompanying spouses are really their legal partners. Other times, hotels will want your marriage licenses to allow you to share a room.

Sometimes, they have requirements for longer stay than for tourism visits so be ready. Vaccination records are also needed in some countries.

If you are bringing your family and you have kids, you need all their health records, school records in addition to passports and visas.

Make sure you have a camera to document your work

Canon EOS Rebel T6 Digital SLR Camera with 18-55mm EF-S f/3.5-5.6 IS II Lens + 58mm Wide Angle Lens + 2x Telephoto Lens + Flash + 48GB SD Memory Card + UV Filter Kit + Tripod + Full Accessory Bundle
Canon EOS Rebel T6 Digital SLR Camera with 18-55mm EF-S f/3.5-5.6 IS II Lens + 58mm Wide Angle Lens + 2x Telephoto Lens + Flash + 48GB SD Memory Card + UV Filter Kit + Tripod + Full Accessory Bundle

You can take pictures and videos not only to send to your family and friends but also to jazz up your reports. Make sure you have pictures of the important pages of your passport, id's, visas and other documents.

Don't forget to take pictures of your suitcases so when they fail to arrive with you, just show the pictures to those in the airlines in charge of looking for them.

This Canon EOS Rebel bundle is what I use. As I often am embarrassed to take pictures without asking, I need a telephoto lens. This is especially helpful in cases when it is difficult to ask per mission from a crowd or so many people.

With lens choices, you can take the best pictures for displays, for web sites and for sharing with your home office. Pictures matter when you are on site and you need people to understand what is happening there. Often, when you can't talk about sensitive situation, just send the pictures. They'll figure it out.


4. Determine location of your work

Find out where you will work. What could be more irritating than driving in the midst of traffic for two hours, morning and afternoon, to reach your place of meeting or work? This gets more serious if you have already signed a lease on the place you have decided to stay. Unless, of course, when everything else other than work is in the place you have chosen to stay in. Then, you make some compromises. Groceries, restaurants, schools, parks, safety and key amenities are important consideration depending on your requirements.

Even if you have a car, choosing a place closer to work reduces the stress of every day. It is better to first stay at a hotel and look for a more appropriate accommodation once you arrive in the place.

Test out the area before you sign the lease to living accommodation

Location of work
Location of work | Source

5. Arrange for International Insurance

Buy peace of mind

This is often given free by the contracting company or given as an option to purchase from their own provider. This is a must. And don't think only of medical insurance. Think about evacuation. Many things can happen no matter how short your stay is. Check the coverage.

Read those tiny boring lines even if you have to use a magnifier. In long stays where your insurance is paid for and not that of your family, sometimes, it is cheaper to buy it in the country you are assigned. Their classification of the country might be cheaper than your own. Ask around. International SOS is big in many countries and reliable, too.

6. Know and take care of family requirements

When you are on long work assignment in a particular place, it is good to have your family with you, It can get lonely. There are now many schools in many developing countries that are at par with the schools your kids go to in your own country. Some are even better. This is true of health care as well. But make sure you try hard to make them happy or you will have a nightmare in your hands. So, look for international schools and other services your family requires.

In many countries, it is easy to get help so this can make life easier. Have breaks once in a while to a location they enjoy so life becomes more manageable.

7. Bring your own library

It is not uncommon in the countries we go to not to find the books we desire. We used to bring suitcases of books as we are avid readers but carrying them makes us unable to bring other things which we also enjoy.

These days you have choices of Kindle and other tablets. They are easy to carry and allows you to get the more recent books. This is what we use now when we are travelling and it lightens up our carry on and enables us to bring food we like and can't get in other countries.

Get a Tablet

Fire HD 8 Tablet with Alexa, 8" HD Display, 16 GB, Black - with Special Offers
Fire HD 8 Tablet with Alexa, 8" HD Display, 16 GB, Black - with Special Offers

With this Fire HD Tablet, you'll have access to millions of songs, books and movies. It is lighter to carry and you can get new publications as well as current subscriptions.

What I like about this is that I have access to books I have read before so if I want to use some references connected to my work, I can access them easily. I remembered how heavy books were to carry when tablets were still not available. Sometimes, we photocopy pages to bring with us but that is no longer a problem now. Your books are with you and you can access them anytime. This is a very important resource for you.

What is also good about this is that, at night, I can read in bed without disturbing my husband or vice versa as the screen is bright enough and you can even make it brighter for reading.


8. Arrange your finance transactions

Make sure you have identified the best flow and transfer of money. Have a person in your home country you can trust to do some things for you. You might need to give this person power of attorney for some things. Most things you can now do online.

We always ask the bank to give us one person with whom we can communicate when we have issues regarding finance. Also, how we can easily transfer money or ask for some finance transactions to be done on our behalf. We find it easier to work with our bank in our own country, send the pay there and use the ATM and credit cards wherever we are. Develop a good relationship with your bank. It makes it easier.

Know that you can only do so much

You can only prepare so much but whatever you can arrange and do before you go will make for a smooth transition to your new work and location. Once you're on the ground, relax. There is always a solution to every problem. Be pleasant but be firm. Get the best deal you can.

Here's help in transitioning to your new international job

© 2011 Mary Norton

Are there other things you want to add to prepare well for international posting?

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    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      You've really given the international job applicant a lot to consider through sharing your experience. The photocopies of your important documents is a great idea and also checking the restrictions of the destination country as to length of stay and restrictions. Thank you. Very useful.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @dellgirl: Thanks for the visit.

    • profile image

      dellgirl 6 years ago

      Another interesting lens, thank you for sharing this information.