Thriving International Career: How to Get Started and Succeed as an Expat
Updated: Nov 18
Are you ready to dive headfirst into the world of international careers and discover how to succeed as an expat? Just imagine: new cultures to explore, exciting challenges to conquer, and the thrill of a global journey right at your fingertips.
If so, it's time to unlock a world of endless possibilities. But, as fellow expats, we know that this path isn't always a smooth ride.
In fact, being an expat means playing by a whole new set of rules. Whether you're trying to land your first job abroad or navigate salary negotiations in foreign job markets, or even advance your career in a completely unfamiliar country – it's a whole different experience.
Luckily, there are numerous tips and tricks that can help you build a successful career as an expat. And we're about to share all of them with you. We'll cover five key ways to start building an international career and stand out in the global job market, including:
#1: Develop a Unique Skill Set
Photo by cottonbro studio
In today's global job market, having a unique skill set is more important than ever.
With competition at an all-time high, it's not enough to simply have the same skills as everyone else. You need to stand out from the crowd by developing a unique set of skills that will make you an asset to any employer.
Here are the best ways to do it:
Identify your strengths
The first step in developing a unique skill set is to identify your strengths.
What are you good at?
What do you enjoy doing?
What sets you apart from others?
Take some time to reflect on these questions and make a list of your unique strengths.
Once you have identified your strengths, you can start thinking about how to build on them.
Look for opportunities to develop your skills through training, volunteering, or taking on new projects at work. Seek out mentors or experts in your field who can help you learn and grow.
Be open to new experiences
Being open to new experiences is key to developing a unique skill set.
Don't be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new. Take on projects that challenge you and expose you to new ideas and ways of thinking.
Traveling or living abroad can also be a great way to develop a unique skill set. Immersing yourself in a new culture can help you develop a global perspective and gain valuable cross-cultural communication skills.
Stay up-to-date with industry trends
In today's fast-paced world, it's important to stay up-to-date with industry trends and developments.
Attend conferences, read industry publications, and network with other professionals in your field to stay informed about the latest trends and technologies.
By staying current with industry trends, you can develop skills that are in high demand and position yourself as an expert in your field.
#2: Build a Strong Online Presence
Having a strong online presence is crucial for standing out in the global job market. With the majority of employers using online platforms to find and vet potential candidates, it's essential to make sure your online presence is professional and impactful.
Apply these four tips:
Create a Personal Website
Creating a personal website is a great way to showcase your skills, experience, and personality to potential employers.
It allows you to create a customized platform where you can feature your portfolio, industry blog, and share your resume and contact information.
Make sure to choose a professional template, use high-quality images, and keep the design clean and simple.
Optimize your LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn is the most popular professional networking platform, with over 700 million members worldwide.
It's essential to have a complete and optimized LinkedIn profile to increase your visibility and credibility.
Make sure to include a professional headshot, a compelling headline, and a summary that showcases your skills and experience. Use relevant keywords throughout your profile to increase your chances of appearing in search results.
Using LinkedIn is the #1 way to get discovered by recruiters and land international opportunities, so you don't want to miss out on it.
Build your social media presence
Social media can be a powerful tool for building your personal brand and connecting with potential employers. However, it's essential to use it wisely and professionally.
Choose the platforms that align with your industry and target audience, and make sure to post regularly and engage with your followers.
Keep your content professional and relevant to your field, and avoid controversial or offensive topics.
Monitor your online reputation
Monitor your online presence regularly to ensure that there is no negative or inappropriate content that could harm your reputation.
Set up Google alerts for your name and regularly search for your name on social media platforms. If you come across any negative content, try to remove it or address it professionally.
#3: Gain Diverse International Experience
One of the best ways to start building an international career and stand out in the global job market is to gain diverse international experience.
Related: Explore 7 best job search methods to land a job abroad. Remember—all international experiences count, not only "real", full-time jobs. So try to find some opportunities that could get you closer to working abroad, through interning, volunteering, learning languages or attending global conferences.
Here are some tips to help you gain international experience:
Consider interning abroad
Interning abroad is a great way to gain international experience.
It allows you to work in a foreign country in your field of interest, while also gaining valuable work experience.
You can also build a network of contacts in your industry and learn about different cultures and work practices.
Volunteering abroad is another way to gain international experience. You can work on a project that interests you, while also immersing yourself in a new culture.
Volunteering abroad can be a great way to develop new skills, meet new people, and make a difference in the world.
Here are 5 great websites that provide information about international volunteering opportunities:
Volunteer World is a platform that offers a wide range of international volunteering opportunities. You can search for projects based on location, duration, and specific causes or interests.
Go Overseas provides a comprehensive directory of volunteer abroad programs. It offers reviews, ratings, and detailed information about various projects and organizations.
Projects Abroad is an organization that offers diverse volunteer projects across the globe. Their website provides information on projects, destinations, and how to get involved.
Idealist is a platform that features volunteer opportunities, internships, and jobs worldwide. It allows you to search for volunteering positions based on your location and interests.
IVHQ (International Volunteer HQ) is an organization that offers affordable volunteer programs in various countries. Their website provides detailed information about the projects available and how to apply.
Learn a new language
Learning a new language can also help you gain international experience.
It can improve your communication skills and make it easier for you to work with people from different countries.
You can take a language course at a local school or university, or you could consider studying abroad in a foreign country.
Attend global conferences
Attending global conferences can also help you gain international experience.
It allows you to network with professionals from around the world, learn about new trends and developments in your field, and gain valuable knowledge and skills.
Check out these 4 websites that provide information about global conferences:
Eventbrite is a popular platform that features a wide range of events happening worldwide, including conferences. You can search for conferences by location, topic, or date.
Conference Alerts is a comprehensive directory of international conferences across various fields and disciplines. It allows you to subscribe to email alerts based on your interests.
ConferenceNext is a global conference directory that lists events from various industries and academic fields. You can browse conferences by category, location, and date.
WorldConferenceCalendar.com provides a database of conferences worldwide. It allows you to search for conferences based on topics, locations, and dates.
#4: Cultivate a Global Mindset
A global mindset is key to a global career.
A global mindset is key to a global career.
But what does it mean to have a global mindset?
A global mindset means having an open and curious attitude towards different cultures, languages, and ways of doing business.
It shows that you are adaptable, flexible, and able to work effectively with people from diverse backgrounds.
Here are some tips to cultivate a global mindset:
Travel and learn
Traveling to different parts of the world is an excellent way to broaden your horizons and gain a better understanding of different cultures.
Traveling will help you learn about new customs, cuisines, and ways of doing things. It will also teach you how to navigate unfamiliar situations and become more self-sufficient.
You can document your travels on a blog or social media to showcase your experiences and knowledge.
Learn a new language
Learning a new language is an excellent way to show that you are committed to understanding other cultures.
It will also help you communicate with people from different parts of the world.
Learning a new language can be challenging, but there are several online resources and language apps that can make the process easier.
Photo by Julia M Cameron
Stay informed about global events and trends by reading international news and subscribing to industry-specific publications.
This will help you understand how different cultures and economies are evolving and what opportunities and challenges they present.
You can also follow social media accounts and podcasts related to your industry to stay up-to-date with the latest developments.
Network with people from different backgrounds
Networking with people from different backgrounds will help you build relationships and gain new perspectives.
Attend industry conferences and events, join online communities, and connect with people on LinkedIn. Be open to learning from others and sharing your own experiences.
Embrace diversity in all its forms by being inclusive and respectful of different cultures, religions, genders, and backgrounds.
Be willing to challenge your own assumptions and biases and seek out diverse perspectives.
This will help you build stronger relationships and work effectively with people from all over the world.
#5: Network on a Global Scale
Networking is key to finding job opportunities and building a successful career.
It's no longer enough to rely on traditional job search methods like submitting resumes to job postings. Instead, job seekers must take a proactive approach and network on a global scale.
Develop your online presence
Creating a strong online presence is a great way to network with professionals from around the world.
Start by creating profiles on professional networking sites like LinkedIn and adding your skills, experience, and accomplishments.
Use keywords and industry-specific language to make your profile stand out in search results.
Connect with other professionals in your industry and engage with their content through comments and shares to expand your network.
Photo by Tatiana Syrikova
Attend global conferences and events
Attending global conferences and events is a great way to network with professionals from around the world. Look for events in your industry or niche and make plans to attend.
Take advantage of opportunities to meet other attendees and exchange contact details.
Follow up with new contacts after the event to stay in touch.
Join professional organizations
Joining a professional organization can help you connect with other professionals in your industry or niche.
Look for organizations that have a global presence and offer networking opportunities.
Start with one of the following:
InterNations: The world's largest expat community, offering networking opportunities and events.
Expat.com: A global online platform providing information, resources, and a community forum for expats.
Expat Network: An online platform offering resources, articles, and networking for expats.
Attend events and participate in online discussions to expand your network and stay up-to-date on industry news and trends.
Volunteer your time and skills
Volunteering your time and skills can help you build your network while making a positive impact in your community.
Look for organizations that align with your values and interests and offer volunteer opportunities. Volunteering can also help you gain new skills and experiences that can enhance your resume.
Photo by cottonbro studio
By developing your online presence, attending global conferences and events, joining professional organizations, and volunteering your time and skills, you can network on a global scale and stand out in the global job market.
In a competitive global job market, standing out is essential for success. Here are 5 key things you can do to build a thriving international career and succeed as an expat:
Develop a unique skill set: Acquire in-demand skills to thrive as an expat.
Build a strong online presence: Establish your professional presence online to attract global opportunities.
Gain diverse international experience: Seek internships or volunteering roles abroad for a broader perspective.
Cultivate a global mindset: Embrace cultural sensitivity and adaptability for success in international environments.
Network globally: Connect with professionals worldwide to access valuable insights and collaborations.
By following these tips, you can build a successful international career as an expat. Embrace the opportunities and continuously adapt to thrive in diverse settings.
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Matilda Patsou & Ana Colak-Fustin
Matilda and Ana, the founders of MoreThanCareers, are expats, international corporate recruiters and HR professionals with 18+ years of combined HR experience. Since 2018, our career-building techniques, tools and resources have helped over 500 coaching clients and 8,000 individuals worldwide land new, more fulfilling, higher-paying and career-changing jobs.