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Working abroad is an amazing experience that could open many doors for new opportunities. It also enables you to have an international career, working with global teams in various destinations around the world. But there are some important things you need to know before working abroad. In this article, we will talk about some of them, so keep on reading

If you work in a non-English speaking country, you’ll acquire new language skills. Most importantly, you will gain cross-cultural competencies from the incredible opportunities of working with people from different cultures on daily basis.

But being able to work abroad is not easy. You need to prepare yourself mentally, physically, and financially before starting to look for work-abroad opportunities and finally taking the leap to go abroad for foreign employment.

I went back to school as an adult and decided to study in Italy. After graduation, I started working here as a part-time foreign worker. Even though I had been in Italy before I started my employment, life as an international students were completely different than as a foreign worker.

I decided to stay and try on my luck in finding employment upon finishing my study instead of going back home to my country. I must admit that I didn’t prepare myself well for employment since my first goal in coming here was to continue my education.

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Working Abroad

Therefore, I struggled in many different aspects due to my lack of preparation. In retrospect, these are the things I wish I knew before working abroad.

1. Choose Expatriate Friendly Countries.

You might be wondering how to decide which countries are expat-friendly and which ones are not. Although there are no specific answers, we could at least look at certain indicators.

For example, in my case, I came to Italy to study, but Italy has been in the midst of an economic crisis for several years now. The unemployment rate is high, especially among young people. Therefore, looking for a job is difficult for Italians and even more difficult for a foreigner.

So, if you want to work abroad, or want to study abroad first and try to look for a job there upon graduation, choose countries with good economic conditions to have a bigger chance of getting hired.

But even if the country that you have your eyes on has good economic conditions, it doesn’t mean they are welcoming expatriates with open arms.

You need to narrow down your search by looking for countries that have plenty of foreign workers quotas and a generous amount of work designated for foreign workers, especially the ones in your industry and area of expertise.

Thus, they tend to have easier procedures for working permits and residence permit applications and processes. This is important since applying for your working permit to be able to work there legally can be an arduous process.

Choosing an expat-friendly country with an accommodating working permit process will save you a lot of frustration, as well as save you time, money, and energy.

2. Research on Visa and Work Permits

The next thing you need to look for after narrowing down the list of prospective countries is to look at their visa and work permit requirements.

Find out what documents you will need to be able to work legally there, and what you need to do to get these documents if you don’t have them yet. Preparing documents could take some time and money, so make sure you prepare them as soon as you possibly could.

Another important thing to know is how are the visa and permit connected to employment. Do you need to get employment first and then they sponsored you to get the visa, or perhaps they have some type of work visa you can apply for without having a job offer?

How long can you stay in these countries after you obtain your work visa/permit? Are they connected to the work contract (e.g if it’s a two years contract, the visa will only be valid for two years in accordance with your working period) or you can stay there for a certain amount of time regardless of your employment status?

No matter how much you plan and organize, in the end, your dream of working abroad will depend on your work permit or visa. Thus, it is imperative that you have everything sorted out before you move abroad and start working.

3. Determine Your Specific Skills

You definitely have different skill sets you’ve acquired throughout the years working as a professional in your industry. Narrow them down and decide which ones that will be an advantage for you, a unique selling proposition (USP) that will set you apart from your competitors.

Most importantly, determine which country will be needing your specific expertise the most as it is something scarce in their country.

As a foreign worker, you will need to demonstrate that you have unique and specific skills and abilities to tackle certain tasks, assignments, or job descriptions.

It has to be something difficult to find among the pool of local talents. Therefore, you have a bigger chance to get employment as you could offer the company something that they couldn’t get from the locals. The more unique and specific your skill set is the bigger your chance of getting hired.

For example, I got hired because the company needs someone with a digital marketing and corporate communication degree, who had experience working with media, public relations, and advertising agencies, and who speaks at least one Asian Language on a native level.

Although there are plenty of Italian who had the first two requirements, it will be difficult to find someone having the third qualification, and that was when I came in.

Being Asian and speaking one Asian language as my mother tongue sets me apart from the other candidates. It also made the working permit application process easier, since the company could inform the authorities that they need to hire me because they couldn’t find locals with the specific skill set (language proficiency) that they were looking for.

4. Research on the Living Costs and Average Salary

One of the most important things to consider when looking for an opportunity abroad is the quality of life. It’s not always about money after all. We also need to consider work-life balance, especially if we want to move abroad with our family.

You need to make sure that this bold move will be worth all the sacrifice. How much is the average salary for a person with experience and qualifications in your industry in those countries?

Compare them with the living costs. Is it enough for you to have a good and enjoyable life? Make a list of the things you would like to have in terms of work benefits.

From there, you could see whether moving abroad is the right move for you and your family, or if staying in your country will be a better option.

Most importantly, list down the things that you valued the most. If you are single, having work experiences abroad will be a precious experience that will open doors for opportunities beyond anything you could ever imagine.

But if you have family, you might have more things to consider. Prioritize and weigh down the pros and cons, not only for your future career but also for the well-being of your family as well.

For example, working in Italy gives me less than what I could get back home when it comes to salary. Plus, I have to be away from my friends and family and need to allocate a significant amount of money for plane tickets for our family of three if we want to visit our family back in Indonesia.

But on the other hand, education and healthcare are cheap, even almost free. On top of that, the experience of studying, working, and living abroad is a rare opportunity for us (me and my husband) that can’t be measured with material compensation.

So even though we could make more money back home, we choose to stay here and have the biggest adventure in our life, living and working in a foreign country, and gave our daughter the experience of growing up as a third culture kid.

You might have the same point of view or completely different ones, but whatever they are, think about every aspect thoroughly and look at every single possibility from every angle before making any decision.

5. Adjust Your CV and Cover Letter Format

After you weigh in all the points mentioned above, and you are now convinced that moving abroad and working there is the right move for you, it’s time to start taking action; apply for a job to secure your work permit.

By now you should already narrow down the list of the countries, so the next step will be adjusting your Curriculum Vitae (CV) to the format acceptable in the countries.

Every country has a different standard and format when it comes to writing a resume. Some required you to put in personal information such as your gender or marital status,
some don’t require them.

Some required you to put in personal information such as your gender or marital status, but some don’t require them.

While many companies operating in many countries require a photograph with each resume, those within the United States do not. The same thing applied to the cover letter. It’s still common to include a cover letter in your application in certain countries but it won’t be necessary for other countries.

Also, find out if you need to prepare your portfolio. Usually, the portfolio is necessary for a certain type of career and industries such as design, advertising, fashion et cetera.

Look for what are the standard format in presenting a portfolio for your type of work and industry in that particular country you would like to work for and adjust accordingly to have a bigger chance of getting hired.

6. Find Out the Networking Process

In searching for opportunities abroad, the traditional networking process will be difficult to do since you can’t attend some networking events and have a chance to speak to people in your industries in person.

So, you need to figure out how the people in that countries and the companies that operate there do their networking process, and how you can join them remotely.

Some companies have a strong presence on social media. They have a very active Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook account. They have lots of followers on Linkedin and actively post job information there and so on.

Follow the companies, join their groups, interact with them, and introduce yourself when you have the chance. Stay updated with their latest information on events and job openings.

Make connections with their HR people or the ones from the departments aligned with your future career goals e.g finance or IT department. See if they could help you with some information you need.

I contacted some people as well as had people contact me on Linkedin. They told me that they were interested in working in the company I worked for and asked me how I got recruited, and what did I do in the first place which ended up landing me the job.

Some were also international students like me and they would like to know what they need to do to get a job after graduation, as I did for myself and so on.

It’s completely ok to do that. As for me, I was happy to help them with any information I could provide as long as they ask nicely and politely, and I’m sure other people are willing to help you too.

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Working Abroad

7. Find Out the Complete Employee Benefits Package

Your dream job abroad will not be complete without the proper employee benefits package. The thing is, as a foreigner, unfortunately, there might be some benefits that you don’t entitle to, or need to fulfill certain requirements first before you could get the benefits that the locals could have immediately.

Check the health care benefits such as insurance (for you as well as your family) and pension plan. Are you entitled to get the exact same things as the locals will as soon as you sign the contract?

Or will you have to finish a one- or two-year contract first without the benefits and pension funds before you could have a more permanent contract and therefore, be entitled to all those benefits and pension funds?

Look at them thoroughly. If you couldn’t get the same benefits as the locals, find out what you need to do or how long you need to wait before you get the same benefits.

Also, find out if there’s any compensation for that situation. For example, In Italy, they have what they called the Contratto a Tempo Indeterminato, or in English, an indefinite period contract.

When you have this type of contract, your longevity in the company is practically secure as you can stay there as long as you want, and they can’t kick you out without a messy legal process.

This type of contract also gives health care benefits such as insurance for the workers and their families and pension funds. Unfortunately, foreigners usually are only entitled to the Contratto Determinato or a contract that is valid for only certain periods of time (one or two years contracts)

This contract will not provide pension funds and may or may not give health care benefits such as private insurance. If they don’t, the foreign workers usually are given compensation higher than the standard salary that will be cut from 23% to 43% for the tax, depending on the salary, to be able to utilize the universal health care system provided by the country.

Therefore, it’s imperative that you learn about the complete employee benefits package such as the health care benefits and pension funds, as well as the contract system for foreign workers before you decide to look for jobs in that country.

8. How Much are the Tax Rate and Other Regulations

As I mentioned above, in Italy, you are expected to pay for tax around 23% to 43% of your monthly income, depending on the amount of your salary, to be able to access (almost) free universal health care and education.

Every country has different rules regarding this. In Scandinavian countries such as Denmark and Sweden, the tax rate could even reach more than 50% of the income.

But on the other hand, the citizens and foreign workers who are legal residents enjoy plenty of benefits such as long paid maternal leaves, even for the father, and top-notch quality education and health care system.

Decide what’s important for you before choosing the perfect place for you to work abroad. Would it be okay for you to pay a significant amount of tax in order to get the free benefits they offer?

Or would you prefer to make a big income and don’t pay much tax since you won’t be needing free health care or free education since you are still single? The choice is yours to make.

9. The Company Culture

When deciding which country you would like to try on your luck to work abroad in and have an international career, the company cultures are important, because you need to abide by these “rules” if you want to climb on the corporate ladder.

For example, as Indonesian, we value our family. We are willing to do sacrifices by having a job that pays us less but enables us to have more time to enjoy relaxing with our friends and family, instead of having a time-consuming and demanding job that pays a lot but leaves no time for our friends and family.

Therefore, I love working in Italy because they value the same thing. Spending quality time with friends and family is important. People work for a living, not the other way around.

I will be miserable if I have to work like a robot and have nothing other than my job. No matter how much they pay me, I could never be happy.

But maybe you have a different point of view and goals, perhaps you like to dedicate all your time to your work, that’s ok too.

Or perhaps you like to drink and socialize, therefore, a country that has drinking together with colleagues after office hours as part of their work culture like Korea will be a perfect fit for you.

Spare some time to search for the work culture in the countries you are eyeing for your work abroad adventure. Don’t dismiss this as it could be an important factor in deciding whether or not you are going to survive, or even thrive in your foreign employment.

Budget Tracker

Use this budget tracker template to track your expenses during your Back-to-School preparation period. All the things you might need to prepare financially for attending a University, an online college/course, even for a study abroad, are listed here. This template consists of 11 different worksheets, each sheet represents a different phase of your Back to School Journey preparation.

10.  Do Thorough Research on The Cities

Lastly, don’t forget to do thorough research on the cities in the countries that you are planning to move into. Are they generally safe, especially for women and children? What is the crime rate, is it high or relatively low?

This is important because most likely there will be times when you will have to work until late and go home alone. How’s the transportation system, are they good and reliable? Are they connecting the whole city so that you could easily move around inside? Are they affordable? Do you need to buy a car? Et cetera.

If you want to bring your family, you’ll need other things to consider such as are there any good and affordable schools available in many places? What about other facilities such as parks and public libraries? Which part of the city has the best neighborhood perfect for families and so on.

Over to You…

Working abroad is not only a great experience, but it can also launch your international career and open doors for new opportunities around the world. But you need to prepare yourself, the more you prepare, the better your working abroad experiences will be.

First, you need to look for expatriate-friendly countries, where they tend to have a bigger quota for foreign workers. Then you need to know what are documents required to apply for the working visa/ permit and prepare them accordingly.

Determine your specific skills highly needed in those particular countries so that you could have a bigger chance to get hired. Do research on the average salary for a person with your skills and experience in those countries and the living costs.

If you like what you see, start applying. Adjust your CV and cover letter to meet their standard and find a way to connect with the right people to get yourself seen.

Don’t forget to look for the standard complete benefits packages offered by companies operating in those countries and the tax rates as well as other work-related regulations. Look for the work cultures in those countries and see if you can fit in.

Lastly, do deep research on the countries and the cities of your dream working abroad destination. Make a list of what’s important for you, collect information, make a comparison, and weigh the pros and cons before making any decision

If you have the opportunity to go work abroad – do it! Prepare yourself carefully so that you’ll be able to enjoy your once-in-a-lifetime adventure and get the most out of it!!!

Have you worked abroad before? Did you have something you wished you knew before moving abroad for work or something you wished you’d done differently? Share them down below, I’d like to hear from you.

Do you want to work abroad? Do you find this post useful? Pin them for later and share them on social media and spread the spirit!!! Happy work abroad hunting…

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Working Abroad