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How to look for a job overseas and succeed

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As a naive American who moved abroad for a relationship, I just merely assumed that looking for a job overseas and continuing on in my career would not be different from living back at home. Four months after I moved overseas I began searching for work before I even could speak the native language. I started my job search focusing on international companies who I assumed were more flexible and needed native English speakers. I also assumed hiring managers would obviously know I am a foreigner and forgive my few mistakes I might make during an interview.  This is partially true but I want to stress partially. In preparation for a new job market one of the things I did was to do some research and I made minor changes to my resume and turned it into a standardized European curriculum vitae or CV which was not difficult to do. However searching for a job and interviewing is where things began to turn grey without my realizing it, until it was too late. Looking for a job abroad can at first seem business as usual but in fact it ‘s not. I made a lot of stupid mistakes. I lost quite a few job opportunities and learned some lessons along the way all because I made a few assumptions I later found out most new arrivals make but can kill your chances of getting a new job.

The first mistake I made was proceeding to go about business as usual meaning, I used my familiar job search methods clicking thought he internet and trying to translate the job postings and submitted my CV.  When I received a phone call from a recruiter, they would ask how well I spoke the native language. I had to tell them, “Sorry I don’t.”  When I got a job interview, I discussed my employment history and talents in the same way I would back at home only to see a strange look on my employers face by the end of the interview. Later I would get a dismissing phone call letting me know I did not get a second interview. I did my best during the interview what could have gone wrong?

What I did not know was that by not understanding the business culture in my host country, I was actually hurting myself and not improving my chances of getting a job.  Employers don’t forgive your cultural misunderstandings and chalk it up to you being a newcomer. In fact, employers look to see if you fall into a cultural stereotype or if you have brushed up on your cultural awareness and will fit in well with the other employees in the company. It does not matter if you found an international company or a branch office from your home country to go work for. The vast majority of employees including human resource managers are native employees. That means the way they think, communicate, and the labor laws they follow will all be culturally united. If you don’t fit in, they may not be willing to make an investment in you.  What I did not know was that discussing my career in a very stereotypical American way, was clearly not the thing to do.

Getting cultural advice is a must have if you want succeeded in get a job overseas.  A good way to do this is by investing in getting a career coach or find a recruiter that specializes in job placement for international employees. It will help you avoid making costly mistakes on your resume or interview.  A career coach can explain the cultural differences in the work place and for an interview.  And there are more differences in how interviews are conducted than you think. They can explain what your host country looks for in a candidate, which may often come as a shock but help you prepare for some of the questions that will be given during an interview. In some countries interview questions are set up to be trick questions but knowing this ahead of time can help you avoid a trap.

Understand what to do and what not to do before you look for a job abroad and invest in learning the local language. You don’t have to master it right away,  just put forth a good effort particularly if you are in a leadership role.  The next time that phone call comes from a recruiter asking about your language skills, having at least one language course completed can increase your chances of getting the interview. Give nothing less than your best effort to respond correctly to cultural differences and demonstrate your language skills. It lets your employer know you are serious about your career ambitions regardless of the circumstances.

If you don’t have enough in your budget to hire a career coach then read books. I have to be honest I did not do any cross cultural training nor did I read any books on living and working overseas before I moved.  That was a big mistake.  Moving abroad and getting a job in a new country is a big life changing event and going at it blind will either make your life abroad extremely difficult or unsuccessful in your career pursuits.

I learned my lessons in looking for work abroad the hard way. Now days I know what is expected of me, I can navigate culture in the work place and I am less stressed out in a different environment. I feel pretty confident so I can focus on responding in a way that’s appropriate and that landed me the job.