Most us dream of working abroad, and it’s not just because of the higher compensation. Living in another country and immersing in a foreign culture is a unique experience that any independent, go-getter woman would want to have. There’s also a certain allure in “making it” in the international stage -- it’s like saying to the world that you've finally made it.
However, we all know that scoring an overseas job is even more difficult than a local one. The international job scene is very competitive--no matter what industry you’re in--and you’ll be competing with the top talents all over the world. So, to help you prepare for this challenge, we’ve put together a primer that will help you get a headstart on your overseas job search and ensure that you have a fighting chance even if you’re up against a ton of top candidates. Read on!
First things first--you need to have a concrete plan in mind. This can be one of the most challenging aspects of an overseas job search because if you don’t have a plan, you can easily get overwhelmed with the myriad of opportunities. Come up with a strategy instead of just shotgunning your resume in all available job sites. “You need to know first where you want to go and what you want to be doing,” advises Noemi, an advertising account manager based in Myanmar. Having a targeted approach to job searching will help you land potential work opportunities faster.
Also, make sure to consider the following factors when you’re making your plan:
- Target Country--is there a demand for your profession in your selected country? The higher the demand, the more jobs openings available. Aside from that, you should also find out more about the country you plan to work in: the job scene, the socio-political and cultural conditions, etc. What’s it like to live there? What are the working hours like? What’s the language used (you might have to take lessons if you’re planning to go to a non-English speaking country)? Are there any cultural nuances you should be aware of? This will help you determine if it’s a place you can imagine yourself working and living in.
- Travel Papers--what documents do you need to legally work abroad? Aside from a passport, you would need to secure several papers like visas, work permits, medical certification, and other essential documents. Getting these papers ready can take some time and cost a bit of money, so find out what you need and procure them early so you don’t experience any delays during the application process.
- Housing and Cost of Living--since you’ll be living long-term in another country, you should also look into the different housing options available for overseas workers. Also, consider the cost of living in the country you want to work in, as this is going to be a major factor when you’re negotiating a compensation package with your employer. You want to make sure that what you’re going to earn is going to allow you to live comfortably (and not just survive) in your country of choice.
Where to Look for Jobs Abroad
Once you’ve made up your mind on what position and country you want to work in, start doing your research. Browse through job sites for openings in your target country. JobStreet and Monster are just some of the job search portals that have an international reach and have listings for different countries, while other localized sites like Contact Singapore only list jobs for a specific country.
Another option is to sign up for LinkedIn, a business networking site popular among professionals. Noemi recommends using it since it’s a useful tool for connecting to the right people in your particular industry. Since LinkedIn also allows you to create a professional profile and showcase your work achievements, it also gives you exposure to recruiters and headhunters who might be sourcing people for international jobs.
Aside from these, some people also found success in being part of an agency, which can help in your job placement and the processing of your travel papers. If you decide to go this route, make sure that you go with a reputable and accredited agencies (i.e. POEA-licensed). You wouldn’t want to wound up with illegal recruiters.
Referrals are also a great way of coming across a potential job opportunity. Jhana, a physical therapist, scored her US job after being referred by a friend. So, don’t disregard your network, and always keep your connections warm, because they might just help you land your next job.
But sometimes, you don’t have to search really far for an overseas job because your current company could be offering international positions. This is exactly what happened to Janine, a technical consultant for a software company in the Philippines, who is now based in Malaysia. “I was there at right time, at the right place,” recalls Janine. “The company presented me a good opportunity [financially] by switching contracts with travelling as a perk.” So always keep your eyes peeled for any offshore opportunities, and even express to your boss that you want to work in an overseas branch, advises Janine. Who knows, you might just get it.
Preparing for the Interview
International job interviews are no different from local ones, although more emphasis is given on your ability to adapt in a multicultural setting, according to Noemi. Prepare for the interview like you normally would by researching the company, having structured and complete answers to common questions, and polishing your communication skills. Do your best to shine in the interview, especially if you’re up against local talents who can offer the same skillsets, but less recruitment cost, to the employer.
One of the ways to be more effective in answering interview questions is to use the STAR approach. It’s a technique that has always worked for Noemi in all her past interviews. STAR is an acronym for Situation or Task, Action, Result. First, describe the particular situation or task that you were dealing with, then explain in detail what action you took to address it, and finally, highlight the results you or your team had achieved. “It helps me structure my responses to interview questions instead of falling into a stream of consciousness,” Noemi adds.
In other industries like healthcare, a lot of emphasis is given to work experience and certifications. In Jhana’s case, she had to take the US Licensure Exam for Physical Therapists first in order to qualify for the job she was applying for. However, she mentions that, “as long as you hold a PT license in the US, [the] interview will be light.” So, make sure that you have the necessary trainings and certifications, and that your past work experiences show that you’re an exemplary employee. Once you have that covered, the interview will be a breeze.
Most interviews for international jobs are usually done by phone or via Skype, unless the employer flies you to their country or they come here to the Philippines to recruit talents, like what Jhana experienced. Nevertheless, it’s important be on your best professional self when you’re doing phone or Skype interviews. Here are other pointers to remember:
- Dress up for your Skype interview, especially if you’re doing a video call. It doesn’t matter if you’re about to go to bed--the employer expects you to look polished and professional during an interview. Remember, first impressions last.
- Make sure that you’re in a conducive, quiet place, and that you have a good connection or phone signal before the interview begins. Noisy surroundings, technical problems, and choppy lines can waste a lot of time, leave a bad impression on the employer, and wreck the entire interview.
- Stand up and smile during a phone interview. Being on your feet helps you focus better and smiling brings energy and enthusiasm to your voice.
- Address the interviewer politely, and listen intently to the questions. Don’t interrupt the interviewer until she’s done speaking. If you have something to say, jot it down on your notes first and just mention it when it’s your turn to talk.
- Send a thank-you note via email to the interviewer and let them know that you had a great time talking to them and that you’re looking forward to hearing from them. Don’t do a follow-up via Skype chat if you did a Skype interview--the employer won’t like it, and you’ll just appear intrusive.
Tips for Success
Applying for jobs abroad can take a lot of patience and perseverance. The wait time is longer since it could take months before you hear from the employer, and you need to put in a lot of effort to prepare for the application process and to make yourself eligible for overseas work. But if you put in the work, you’ll surely reap the rewards. Here’s some advice from Jhana, Janine, and Noemi to motivate you to get that dream job abroad:
- Invest in your credentials. The international job arena is highly competitive so it’s better if you keep yourself up to date.
- Manage your time wisely. Prioritize things that should be done first.
- Keep calm, be patient, and of course, pray.
- Do your best no matter how small the project is. Exemplary work gets noticed in the office. And be confident in your skills--your bosses would not want to send someone who does not have the confidence to represent the company.
- Be an asset to the company. The company will take good care of you if you become an asset to them. Then, eventually, you can demand what kind of work you want to have.
- Say “yes” to every little opportunity. Who knows, they might open doors to different possibilities.
- Know what you want and be prepared to work for it.
- Make sure you exhaust all means of finding a job. Do not stop in just creating a profile on Jobstreet or LinkedIn. Look for other ways. Perhaps, your industry contacts or former colleagues can help hook you up.
- While looking for a job abroad, do not slack on your current job. Keep on doing excellent work and building your portfolio as your future employer will be looking at that later on.