How to Find a Career-Building Job Abroad: An Illustrated Guide to Navigating Through Uncertain Waters


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This illustrated guide shows you how to find a career-building job in a foreign country. Leslie Forman has created this model based on her 7+ years in China and Chile, as well as countless conversations with current and future expats. This deck features whimsical nautical drawings by Chilean artist Ignacio Barceló, and shows that finding an awesome job abroad requires a bit more than a Google search — it's a collaborative process that involves understanding your own motives and goals, doing your research, taking leaps, building strong local networks, recognizing your value in the local economy, and so much more.

Published in: Career

How to Find a Career-Building Job Abroad: An Illustrated Guide to Navigating Through Uncertain Waters

  1. 1. by Leslie Forman @leslieforman How to Find a Career-Building Job Abroad An Illustrated Guide to Navigating Through Uncertain Waters
  2. 2. Here’s what people ask me: How can I find a job in a foreign country? A good job. This is my answer.
  3. 3. Based on 8 years packed with so many (mostly fascinating) jobs, opportunities, projects, visas (and plenty of crazy stories) while working in China and Chile. . .
  4. 4. * If you’d like to read more about these experiences, check out my site & LinkedIn.
  5. 5. . . . I’ve broken down these experiences into specific steps and stages . . . My hope is that these will be useful for anyone considering a similar career path — especially anyone that’s embarking on this type of journey without the backing of a government agency or multinational corporation.
  6. 6. . . . all with a nautical theme to emphasize and celebrate the uncertainty inherent in this journey. All illustrations by Ignacio Barceló. Check out his portfolio, packed with quirky sketches of dogs.
  7. 7. It all starts with asking a bunch of honest questions: (you might want to grab a piece of paper to write down your answers)
  8. 8. What motivates you to embark on this journey? Adventure? Ambition? Creativity? Escape? Language? Lifestyle? Macroeconomics? Money? Professional Standing? Reinvention?
  9. 9. Your current situation: Education Experience Family Finances Languages Skills etc.
  10. 10. Maybe the biggest question of all. (it doesn’t fit neatly into any stage) Who? What? Where? Why? How important is this relationship in your life? How eager and willing are you to structure your life around it? How?
  11. 11. Once you’re (at least relatively) clear on your answers to these questions . . . . . . it’s time to start figuring out how to make this big dream happen.
  12. 12. Reaching out to friends, friends of friends, and new contacts to find: Better information about what specific career possibilities are really like Unfiltered stories Updated information etc.
  13. 13. Your first step into a foreign country Formal Programs : -  Accelerators and Incubators -  Fellowships -  Internships -  Scholarships -  Teaching English -  Volunteering -  Working Holidays
  14. 14. Your first step into a foreign country Informal Arrangements : -  Save up money and make the leap -  Stay with friends or family (some arrangements will be more attractive than others, depending on the boat you’re in. )
  15. 15. Figuring out the details Housing Visas Insurance? School? (some of these might be settled before you land and others you’ll figure out as you go along)
  16. 16. When you’ve safely disembarked in this new country. . . . . . you’ll want to focus on:
  17. 17. Meeting like-minded locals House parties (if you’re invited to a birthday BBQ for someone you hardly know — say yes!) Industry communities (events, coworking spaces, classes, clubs) Sports Music
  18. 18. Getting (more) comfortable Language Culture Getting things done
  19. 19. Dealing with the unexpected Bureaucracy Confusion Illness Homesickness etc.
  20. 20. And at this point, you’ll be well-positioned to find . . . (drumroll please)
  21. 21. Longer-term opportunities in your field: A “Real” Job Local Business Opportunities Online Options (you’re far more likely to find these through friends rather than websites, especially as a foreigner with an “unusual” background)
  22. 22. Hooray!
  23. 23. And this stage might last years! Until you’re ready to get . . .
  24. 24. At some point, you may be ready for a new adventure: (You’ll know when it’s time. Trust me.) Acknowledge how this experience has changed you. Figure out how to build on this.
  25. 25. Maintain real ties with faraway friends Skype helps. And e-mail. And pictures. To bring ongoing joy. And build a solid global network to support your present and future dreams.
  26. 26. What are the fundamental skills necessary to create this kind of global career? I believe there are at least 4.
  27. 27. (one) A Strong Professional Skillset. These skills might include : -  intellectual property law -  investor relations -  project management -  solid writing and editing skills -  teaching middle school science -  technical mining mechanics -  etc. * As a locally-hired foreigner, you might not get much formal training. You may be expected to already know how to do the job. You’ll also need to be ready to learn as you go along. The learning curve can be steep!
  28. 28. (two) ? Localized Personal Branding How can you articulate what you have to offer in a way that resonates with the local job market? -  Any big names on your resumé — companies, universities, places, etc.? Emphasize them. -  Equivalent local degrees? How does yours compare? -  Needs of local industries (services, technology, outreach, investment, etc.) -  How are you perceived in the local culture? How might you turn this into a professional advantage?
  29. 29. (three) Strong Networking Skills -  Opportunities come from people. Therefore, to find opportunities, you need to connect with people. (This idea comes from The Start-Up of You — here’s the book’s visual summary.) -  When you meet people (at parties, at the gym, on the train, etc.) be sure to follow up and keep in touch. -  Be active on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. (JobJenny is an excellent guide for how to use these toolls effectively as you build your career. Her articles on The Muse are especially helpful.)
  30. 30. (four) Flexibility and Resilience Dealing with cross-cultural misunderstandings, visa trouble, loneliness, illness and other obstacles — this can be incredibly stressful in a foreign country. To make it work, it takes a certain personality type (resourceful, creative, etc.) and a consistent, mindful focus on what you truly need.
  31. 31. Creating your international career: a collaborative journey across cultures, to immerse yourself in another culture and figure out how you can add real value to the community and economy.
  32. 32. Illustrations by Ignacio Barceló - - -  @barceloi
  33. 33. I hope this short guide has been useful for you! Feel free to contact me any time with questions or comments: - - -  @leslieforman