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The 5 Essential Questions To Ask Before You Start Your Expat Job Search

With the world seemingly becoming smaller every day, it’s no surprise that more people are choosing to find professional opportunities abroad. You may be looking for a change. Perhaps there’s a region of the world you want to work in to enhance your professional portfolio. Maybe you just want to live in a different climate.

Regardless of the reason, it’s key to put serious thought in taking your career international. If you are considering relocating abroad for professional reasons, there are a few questions you need to ask. 

Where Do I Want to Go?

When it comes to going abroad, there are plenty of countries to choose from (with varying degrees of access). However, if you are going to contemplate moving abroad, it is helpful to narrow your options. Not only will this help determine the direction of your search, but it will reduce the overwhelmingness of having too many choices. Do I have a desired weather climate? Is this a place that aligns with my political and social beliefs? Do I want to be in the same geographical region as my home country? What resources are available for my partner and/or dependents? You need to outline a list of important considerations to help you determine what parts of the world are feasible for your situation.

Do I Need to Learn a New Language? 

The more languages you speak has the potential to make more countries professionally accessible to you from day one (if you want to hit the ground running). If you don’t speak the national languages of your desired locations, you need to know how much that will impact your ability to live and work there. For some employers, especially multinational organizations, this may not hinder your work ability. However, for others, this could be a barrier to finding employment.

Additionally, if you don’t speak the national language(s), you may want to find out if there are other languages that are widely spoken in business. For example, in several Middle Eastern Gulf countries, while Arabic is the official language, many business interactions are conducted in English, due to the large expat populations. You may not need to learn a new language but it never hurts to know it from a social standpoint.

Can I Use My Professional Skills/Training In My Desired Location? 

National economies vary. It’s key to find out if your professional skill set is in demand for the locations you are considering. Some countries such as New Zealand and Canada maintain a shortage occupation list on their visa immigration websites. This means these countries highlight the type of skilled workers that they are trying to attract and this may give you an advantage in securing a work permit to move.  Now, you do have to make sure you meet any education or credential standards that a country may have to be employed in a specific field. But if your skill set is needed, this might make the expatriation process a little easier.  

However, the reverse can also be true. If your current skill set is overrepresented or you can’t do the same work as you did at home, you’re going to have to pivot to something else. 


How Complicated is the Legal Status/Visa Application Process? 

This can be answered all over the spectrum. It might be relatively easy to highly complicated depending on your passport, desired locations and the complexity of immigration process for each country on your location list. In general, the easiest way to gain legal status (from a career standpoint) is if an employer sponsors you. This means the employer bears the responsibility of ensuring you are in the country legally to work and will help to alleviate the cost of the relocation. If you have to manage this on your own, you will need to do the appropriate research and possibly hire a professional, such as an immigration attorney, to make sure you know and understand what options are available to you. If you are relocating for professional reasons, you need to make sure you legal status grants you the ability to work in your chosen country.

What is the Salary/Compensation Structure? 

Just because your skills are in demand doesn’t mean you will be paid in the same way you might be at home. Ideally, you may earn a higher income but that may not always be the case. The important thing is to find out what the typical salary range is for your position abroad. Talking to hiring recruiters as well as others who have experience in that region can give you a basic idea of what to expect. In addition, if you are considering working for a foreign company abroad, find out how and in what currency you will be paid. It is possible to be paid in a currency that is different from the host culture. You will definitely need to have a budget so you can determine if the compensation provides enough for you to live comfortably in your prospective host country.

Working abroad can be an exciting endeavor but make sure you’re asking the right professional questions so you can start your international adventure right.  Once you found your answers, it’s time to start that expat job search.

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