How to land that international gig you’ve been eyeing

Always wanted that office overlooking the Thames or the Hudson River? Or are you game tackling the infamous LA traffic? Fancy working in Australia and going for a surf after work or can you acclimate to the freezing temperatures of the economically stable Scandinavian countries?

Many corporate warriors dream of a chance to work and live another country, if only to see how others live and how you stack up against the competition in a more competitive environment that the one you’re currently in. The challenge is daunting: packing up your life and moving to another country to not only work but live in. The personal impact is already enormous, especially if you have children. The professional challenge maybe even more so.

This post will, humbly, try to share some actions, ideas and concepts that could be helpful if you’re trying to take the leap. These are by no means bulletproof strategies, depending on your industry, level of qualification and available time to invest in this process, results will vary.

In no particular order:

  • Know why. Why do you want to leave the country of your birth where you have a support structure and you know the lay of the land? This is not an easy question to answer. Simply saying because you like adventure or want to travel is not the reason the recruiter wants to hear. In fact, that’ll get you scrapped off the list immediately. They’re looking for their next good hire, not a short-stint tourist/employee who keeps shoving his phone in everyone’s faces with pictures of his visit to Westminster Abbey over the weekend. There is no “best” answer here, just make sure you know why it is you want to move and emphasise the fact that you’re here to work and add value.
  • The interview(s). You’ll have to accept the fact that you’re going to have to go beyond the norm here. Unless you’re in the EU and applying in the EU or in the USA and want to move to another state (depending on the type of position, especially more junior positions, it’ll also apply in these 2 situations) you’re going to be conducting your interviews over the phone or via Skype/FaceTime. Very few companies, and only for very senior positions (think C-suite), will fly you in for the first interview. Telephone conversations are a difficult medium for an interview where body language, facial expression and other social cues play such an important role. You have to knock it out the park and be able to powerfully convey your answers, ideas and questions to leave the desired impact. Similarly, video calls give you more opportunity to express yourself, but different rules apply here. Also, be prepared for multiple interviews with different people. Whereas another candidate in the country/state not currently employed with the company will also be interviewed by one or 2 more people than a current employee, be prepared for at least 5 or 6 conversations with 3 to 4 different people in isolation of one another. You’ll have to take notes in all these conversations as the various interviewers will communicate with each other after each discussion and you’ll need to remember what was discussed with whom.
  • LinkedIn All-Star. LinkedIn is going to be your best friend in this endeavour if you put the effort in. Be creative so your profile stands out. If you can afford it, sign up for the Job Seeker plan ($30 per month) and download the LinkedIn for Jobs app where you can apply with your LinkedIn profile for job ads that support the function (about a fifth of the postings do). You’re going to have work it like you’ve never before, both online and off. Make sure your summary is catching, add relevant and quality extra content through videos, slide shows and published posts and request recommendations and endorsements that will highlight your core skills and experience. Aim for All-star status, complete as many sections as you can and supply supporting documentation where applicable. Most importantly, don’t fluff. Padding your LinkedIn profile is easy, but just as easy for the recruiter to identify and toss your application out. Worst case scenario? You get the job based on skills and experience you don’t have and you get fired 3 months into the job while you’re in another country. Yeah, don’t do it.
  • Homework. You’ll feel like you’re back in high school. Your first point of call is the company website as well as any subsidiaries or affiliates as well as company social media accounts. Learn as much as you can from these sources and do Google searches on company news and financial performance. But, don’t just research the company you’re applying at. Research the culture (work and social) and find points of shared interest between your home country and the one you hope to move to. Have relevant stories ready that your recruiter will be able to relate to contextually based in your current environment. Make sure you understand basic employment concepts of the other country (conditions of employment, accepted workplace practice) so that you understand the professional culture in that country. You’ll also need to do some research into the company’s competitors, industry news and norms as well as current trends and global events that might have an impact. Also important is to look at your personal situation and through exchange rates, living cost comparisons and your own career plan ensure you are comfortable that when the offer comes, you understand the inherent value of the offer in terms of purchasing power and if that offer can sustain your current lifestyle in the new country, as well as what your career path forward will look like when and if you move. Expatistan and Numbeo are good living cost comparison sites (although certain values may be slightly inflated) and should give you a good idea of what you need to earn in the new currency to sustain your lifestyle.
  • Patience. You’re going to have to be very patient. If you’ve made it past the first interview, many more might follow. Dealing with multi-national companies also means that decisions need to go through multiple levels of approval in more than one country for an appointment to be finalised. A good rule of thumb is 2 weeks between conversations. If you haven’t heard from the original recruiter or HR representative after 2 weeks have gone by, follow up. In most cases, you’ll receive feedback with next steps within 2 weeks. That can prolong the process of being hired to at least 3 months. Dig in, you need to be in this and focused for the long haul.
  • Time. If the company is in another timezone you’ll need to be ready to take calls outside of business hours or during the workday depending on what the time difference is. Before dawn or after midnight conversations are not uncommon as are calls slap bang in the middle of your workday. That will require you to manage your personal and professional time very well and take into account any possible impact on your family or your current job. On that last point, always keep your family informed on progress and don’t reduce effort in your current job. Most of your time spent job-hunting and doing all the homework will have to be done after hours so as not to affect your productivity at work.

Unless you’re headhunted, the process will be intensive, time-consuming and require you to remain focused on your current duties while sacrificing personal time to achieve the desired result.

When that offer lands in your inbox, only then celebrate. Celebrate hard, because over the next few months the effort you put in to get the job, will look like a cake walk as you start preparing for your move to a new country.

Good luck!