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A Guide to Looking for Work Overseas

Updated on September 26, 2013

The excitement and allure of living and working overseas can be enticing, but there are a lot of factors to consider before taking the big step. Family and relationship obligations aside, it is important to think each step out logically and decide if the work and living conditions are a right fit for you. Taking the necessary precautions could mean the difference between having wonderful stories to tell to people back home, and being at the mercy of your employer (not in a good way). Below are some suggestions and topics to think about when deciding to go overseas:

Decide on a Timeframe

You can be as specific or as broad as you want. Some people want to make a career out of working overseas, and some just want to go over for a few years and then return back to their home country. The reason on deciding on a time frame can help you decide on how to plan your future. For example, if you plan on going for a short time, there are plenty of paid volunteer positions for a few months, or TEFL courses that will pay you while to learn now to teach ESL. Some people who are more serious about staying longer abroad might consider pinpointing out a country that has ample job opportunities (depending on what field you decide to pursue) and staying there longer to build up their resume. Looking at how long you plan on being overseas is also helpful because you can then gauge about how to handle your assets (, such as selling your car, house, some possessions, etc.) and where you will store things you will no take with you

Research your Options

Before you even begin job hunting, it is probably a good idea to decide where you want to head to first. Some people want to be a bit more adventurous and apply everywhere, but if you want to decide on a country to head to first, here are some suggestions:

Ask Around - The easiest way to do this is to ask around and see if any of your friends or acquaintances have any experience working overseas. Don't be afraid to ask questions because many people who have been abroad are more than happy to share their experiences. You may also be able to network this way to land yourself a job, or to gain valuable connections in whatever country you end up in.

Looking at Specific Countries - If you have a particular country in mind you want to go to, a good step to start is with your government's website to see if they post jobs overseas or there are any travel warnings. There are plenty of forums that post jobs and living conditions of different places. A popular one is called Dave's ESL Cafe, where there are job postings for teaching positions and forums that deal with various aspects to living abroad. If you have any dietary conditions such as allergies you need to be mindful of, look at the local cuisine and see what types of food they have. The point is to look at as much information as possible, because it is better to decide to not go somewhere by overlooking at information than not doing any type of research, going there and finding out that you regret going there.

Not sure where to head off to? - Many people might be in this position, and there is nothing wrong with that. Start by listing some things you'd like to experience overseas, and be as specific as possible. Some examples can include learning a new language in a country where English is not widely spoken, living in a country where you can access surrounding countries easily and cheaply, being in a tropical climate, or being in a place with lots of outdoor activities. Do some research online then to zero in on some countries you think might match the criteria you set for yourself, and see which one is the most appealing.

Job Hunting

After you decide on a place, or just want to dive into job hunting, here are a few helpful ideas to think about:

-Are you going to apply through a headhunting/recruiting service or directly to companies? There are advantages and disadvantages to each one. Whichever route you choose, make sure to research the recruiter/company carefully. There are sadly lots of scams out there (mostly from recruiting companies) that will take your personal information and sell it, or charge you a service fee and you never hear from then again. An example that I've seen is when a job seeker emails a principal through a gmail address, then a recruiter replies with job offers. One person was applying to a job in Saudi Arabia was interviewing with a recruiter from Pakistan, and then the job offer was with a contracting agency (NOT a specific school). Applying to companies can have its disadvantages, such as new companies starting up, or websites that don't have much information on there.

-If you are currently in a job, can you ask about job exchange options? For example, teachers in various countries have the option of swapping with another teacher overseas and teaching for a semester or an entire school year.

-Do you have the necessary equipment to conduct a Skype interview? Many international schools want to see the faces of those they hire, so they normally request a Skype interview. In some cases, employers will have certain cities they will visit where you have a change to meet them face to face.

-How flexible is your schedule for interviews? Keep in mind, there are varying time differences, so when arranging interviews, you might need to stay up past your bedtime or wake up early to do so.

-Does your resume/CV cater to varying word usage or vocabulary for the country/countries you are applying to? This may sound a bit silly, but from someone who has worked in a few different countries, it can make a difference. In Canada, you have to be a student teacher before you before a licensed one, and at a school I was interviewing with in South Korea, they had no idea what they meant. I spent 5 minutes explaining what that actually meant before moving onto specifically what I did at that school. Depending on what country and who is hiring you, try to word things so they are easy to understand, and you won't have to end up having a lot of miscommunication.

Here are some helpful websites to begin your job search:


Before you Accept that Job...

This may be a very obvious piece of advice, but read your contract very carefully, word for word. It is one thing when being in your home country when something goes wrong, but it is a whole other story when you are in another.

Some things to look for:

-If a contract is in two languages, which version do they adhere to in case of a discrepancy?

-Are the dates of employment correct? Or any dates for that matter?

-How often will your paycheck be? Will it be in cash or will they open a bank account for you?

-What are the conditions of letting go of an employee? Are there any probation periods, and can they let you go for no reason during that time?

-If the company provides housing, how will they do this?

-What is the company policy if you are in a legal dispute when overseas?

-What is the medical insurance like, if any?

-How will the company be involved with the visa process?

-How do you break a contract, and are there any penalties?

Trust your gut! If a contract looks suspicious or you have questions, do not be afraid to ask! If the recruiter/company does not reply, chances are that it's not a good place to work for. Another piece of advice that has helped others is to ask for email address of co-workers at the same company and ask for their opinion on the job. If you know anybody that worked overseas, ask to look at their contracts to compare. If the company you might be working for is a reputable one, they will not pressure you into anything, so take a few days to think about the offer they gave you.

Handling Affairs Back Home While Overseas

After accepting a contract, you have to start thinking about your possessions and bank accounts. Some things to consider:

-If you have your own place, will you rent it out, and who will help you out if there are any issues that might arise from your tenants?

-Do you have any loans that you need to pay? How do you plan on paying these bills? A good option to consider is to make sure you have e-billing and online access to your bank account. Other options that people can consider is opening a joint account with someone you trust, in case you do need to do some things in person.

-If you don't have your own place, where do you intend to store your possessions? Will you rent a storage facility, or can you ask a member to help you out?

-Will you ship some things over to your new place of residence, or will you try to make sure everything fits within the weight limit of your flight?

Living and working overseas can be a very exciting time for many. The important thing to keep in mind is to be careful and carefully looking at all options before deciding to fly out. Hopefully some of the suggestions given here will be helpful to you.


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    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Definitely one should follow these steps very important information often rushes without thinking

    • sarahshuihan profile image

      Sarah 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks for the kind words glassvisage. I think until you start applying to jobs and talking to other people, you don't really realize what it takes to work overseas. It would be nice if a company just upped and offered you a job and did everything right?

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 5 years ago from Northern California

      Wow, these are a LOT of a great tips, many I hadn't even thought of. This is a great place to start if you've never done this. I've barely even gone overseas for vacations, let alone to work on a longer-term basis. Thanks for sharing this information :)

    • sarahshuihan profile image

      Sarah 5 years ago from USA

      @teacherjoe52- yes these are very good ideas as well! I too have sadly seen first hand how shady some of these places to work for are. I know some people who didn't have foreign registration cards, which is quite scary considering those people would be slapped with fines or deportation.

      As for me, I mainly use skype to call back home because I found it wasn't worth it for me using a calling card on a cell phone.

      Thank you for your feedback. I may take some of these suggestions and either edit this hub or write another one :)

    • teacherjoe52 profile image

      teacherjoe52 5 years ago

      Good morning sarahshuihan.

      Very good information.

      May I also suggest you know the embassy and consultate email and phone numbers. See if there us a number to dial to get discount rate on international numbers. Can you use your bank card there. Are there any expat organizations there. Many countries in Asia a contract means nothing. That is why you need to give a copy to someone in your country before you go. Make a photo copy of your passport and give it to someone back home. Many times an employer will take your passport and refuse to give it nack and refuse to pay you. If you refuse to work they call the police, you are taken to jail and beaten until you agree to teach. Do you need to register at the police station, if they refuse it is because they are illegal.You need to be very cautious when going abroad. They have no concept of law or compassion.Sorry but it is true and I have seen and experianced a lot of it. I have lived oversea's for eight years and speak from a lot of painful experiance.

    • sarahshuihan profile image

      Sarah 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks europewalker! What type of work is he looking to get into? It is always useful to do some research now, depending on how long he has until he is done college.

    • europewalker profile image

      europewalker 5 years ago

      Very useful information. My grandson wants to move overseas when he is through with college. Thanks for sharing :)

    • sarahshuihan profile image

      Sarah 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks for the comment. I always appreciate the feedback. I do agree that the whole idea of working overseas has changed a lot in the past few years. There is a huge surge of people going now, which makes me curious about how many more jobs will be offered in the future.

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      Sarah, your generation has the capability and the luxury to travel way more than mine ever did. This is a marvelous sign of progress for humanity because one significant thing it's made possible is the de-mystifying of other countries. In turn, the possibilities for goodwill hunting (pun and allusion intended) and global connectivity are even greater. As a small businessman diligently working on ebay, my connection with those who live all over the world is vital.

      So what you address here is of great interest to me. Thank you for doing a beautiful and professional presentation with this hub.