The 6 Biggest Challenges of Getting a Job Abroad and How to Overcome Them

by Maria Magdaleena Lamp January 26, 2018

Finding work abroad comes with all the challenges of a regular job search—plus a whole bunch of fun new ones!

“What’s the most clichéd overcoming-challenges stock image I can possibly find?”—the author of this post. Photo: Thomas Yeoh/Shutterstock

Silence from recruiters

Not hearing back from potential employers isn’t the end of the world. But if it keeps happening, you couldn’t be blamed for feeling a little bit like it is.

The good news is that if you have access to a non-creepy way of contacting the recruiter you’re waiting to hear back from (LinkedIn or email = good, WhatsApp, Instagram or Facebook = bad), you can probably get away with a couple of well-crafted follow-ups.

The bad news is that recruiters get drowned in talent correspondence daily. “An appropriate amount of follow-up is once, maybe twice at most,” says Alina Basina, Head of Talent at Jobbatical. “If you email me once, there is a chance I can forget,” she says. “If you send a reminder, I will appreciate it. If you send it a third time — you are being cheeky and pushy.”

If you do follow up to inquire about the status of your application, keep your tone confident yet appreciative and make sure everything—including the names of the company and people who work there—is spelled and capitalized correctly.

Here, like throughout the entire job search process, careful writing is your friend.

(Unconscious) Bias

At any given point in time, a recruiter might be (unconsciously) judging you based on where you’re from, what your name sounds like, or what colour your skin is. Even someone hiring international candidates could be hesitant to interview you just because, for example, they’re not sure how to pronounce your name.

The good news is that you’re not the one who has to change—it’s the job market. It’s not your job to make yourself more “same” by “whitening” (removing any references to your ethnicity) your resume.

The bad news is that the job market doesn’t seem to know this. Resume whitening actually does work, and even ostensibly equal-opportunity employers discriminate.

Well. That’s sufficiently horrifying. Photo: eggeegg/Shutterstock

Is it naive to hope that simply putting your best foot forward will pay off? Should you conceal parts of your identity just to get a job?

Oh hells no.

The rest of the hiring world will will just have to catch up—at Jobbatical, for example, we’re releasing a content series to help employers remove bias from their hiring practices.

Meanwhile, keep polishing your skills and building up your resume. Blow them away with your competence and hope for the best — because sometimes that’s all you can do when the odds are stacked against you.

Stiff competition

Whether your dream job is across the ocean or just around the corner, you should always put effort into your application. But by applying to join a company that’s open to applicants from all over the world, you’re entering into competition with, well, the whole world.

If a job is cool enough to make you want to move for it, it’s probably having the same effect on others.

That means you REALLY can’t afford to phone it in.

Don’t send them the limp fish handshake equivalent of a job application. Photo: Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

Don’t count on the bare minimum to land you a job interview. Read all the CV tips and application advice you can get your hands on. Talk to people who have gone through the process and ask for their insights.

Clearly, you physically can’t take all the advice in the world, but by maximizing the amount of research you do, you’ll be making the best-informed decisions possible.

Then, when you’re lovingly crafting your resume and cover letter, take time to think about what really makes you stand out. Search the company’s website for clues about what they value in their hires (pro-tip: adaptability and passion often make the list, so consider these must-haves from the get-go). Study the language they use and reflect it back to them. Get in their head.

But not, like, in a weird way.

The guilt of leaving loved ones behind

You tell your parents you’re considering a job in [exotic country] and they freak out. “You’re moving where? Is that even a real place? Is this a scam? Are you joining a cult?”

Your loved ones will, understandably, be concerned for your safety. And, unless you’re really no fun at parties, they’ll probably miss you a lot, too. The guilt and doubt that comes with the territory here can be a strong demotivator.

Being a little selfish in these situations is no bad thing. Your life is yours to live, and why not open yourself up to as many experiences as you can? The benefits are endless and well-documented. Multicultural experience enhances your creativity, and, as a bonus, your Instagram feed will be the envy of everyone.

To get your family and friends on board and put their minds at ease, involve them in your research. When Jorge Ramírez Serrato, Software Engineer at Jobbatical, decided to move to tiny Estonia from tropical Colombia, he met with plenty of well-intentioned skepticism.

“Some guy asked me if Estonia was a city in Germany,” Jorge says. “So my reaction was pretty much to try to enlighten people. Now even my mom knows a lot about Estonia, to the point where she recommends me stuff to do and nags me when I haven’t visited certain places.”

Estonia: not a city in Germany, we promise! Photo: Elvis Antson/Shutterstock

When the time comes to make the move, video calls and group chats can help fight homesickness on a daily basis. And if you’re afraid of spending too much time apart from your family, try to find an employer who will finance a round trip back home once or twice a year (yes, they’re out there).

Culture barriers

From the application process to actually joining a team, working abroad is a hotbed for cross-cultural misunderstanding.

Most of us probably don’t bother taking this thought further than a handful of stereotypes (e.g. “Italians have strong opinions about pizza”), which makes it difficult to put cultural differences into context in any useful way. Books like The Culture Map by Erin Meyer help you do just that by translating these differences into actionable advice.

Armed with such knowledge and a general awareness of the people-are-different-so-don’t-be-a-jerk principle, you’ll be much better equipped to communicate across cultures.

Among other things, understanding cultural differences can help you figure out, for example, whether to include a photo in your application or what to expect from salary negotiations.

Photo: MaeManee/Shutterstock

Paperwork

If you need an employer to sponsor your visa and/or a work permit and your dream employer simply isn’t open to it, that’s pretty much the end of the road for that particular job.

The bad news is that, short of petitioning governments and lobbying for better immigration policies, there’s not much you as an individual can do about this.

The good news is that you don’t have to waste your time on companies that can’t or won’t deal with the red tape. There are plenty of companies out there willing to relocate you (with some exceptions, Jobbatical works mostly with such employers). And some countries are much easier to move to than others.

Helise Johanson, Relocation Specialist at Jobbatical, says that while there are a few countries with relatively simple immigration processes—like Germany, Singapore, Latvia, Lithuania, Denmark, and potentially Sweden, Finland, and the Netherlands, although the price tag for these can be hefty—nothing compares to the ease of relocating a new hire to Estonia.

Jobbatical’s home country is making a name for itself as a tech-savvy society that welcomes talent from across the globe. Depending on where you’re from, you can become eligible to work in Estonia anywhere between 24 hours (if your employer is a startup) and four weeks from accepting a job offer.

By doing this research in advance and applying only to companies that sponsor visas, you’ll save yourself plenty of time and disappointment.


Head over to Jobbatical to browse jobs around the world, or read more job application advice on our blog.

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