I Want to Work Abroad: Land a Job Abroad Before Moving in 10 Steps
Updated: Dec 1
Moving abroad is an exciting and life-changing experience. It allows you to explore new cultures, gain valuable work experience, and broaden your horizons in ways you never thought possible. But what to do if you don't want to take the plunge without having a job lined up? How do you go about finding a job abroad? And how do you prepare for such a big move?
No matter how daunting it may seem, finding a job abroad before moving isn't impossible. We did it, our clients did it, and you can do it, too! This guide will break down the process of searching for a job abroad into 10 simple, actionable, and effective steps.
Scroll down to read the steps.
Have you already figured out where exactly you want to move? If not, let's start from there!
Step #1: Decide where you want to live.
Deciding on your "where" is where it all starts. If you're led by wanderlust and insatiable curiosity about the world, as we are, you're already daydreaming about the destinations you could call "home."
But if you're choosing your long-term location and a place to advance your career, it's more than just choosing an Instagram-worthy place to live. It's about finding a home that reflects your values, offers a stimulating job market and career-building opportunities, and has the lifestyle you crave.
You may already have a country and city in mind. But for now, keep your options open and chances of moving abroad for work higher by selecting multiple locations that could fit the bill.
Deciding on your "where" is where it all starts.
Consider countries and cities you've always been drawn to, places you've already visited and loved, or places you've never been to but always wanted to explore. Imagine yourself having a foreign address and see how that makes you feel. At this point, daydreaming is more than welcome–we want you to go after locations you're genuinely excited about.
Shortlist at least three promising countries and head to step two. Spoiler alert: In the next step, you will narrow down the list based on data, make an informed decision and pick a winner, aka your new home.
Step #2: Research potential destinations.
Now, it's time to narrow down your list based on data and choose a location that meets your professional, financial, and personal needs.
So, once you've got a list of potential countries, start with research. At this point, you want to gather all relevant data to make an informed decision about the best place for you to land a job, move, and live abroad.
Start by gathering data on unemployment rates, taxation policies, visa laws, immigration requirements, job market conditions, healthcare system, and cost of living. Find out how certain countries stack up against each other regarding the job market, cost of living, safety, healthcare, and other life-determining factors important to you. Numbeo and Expatistan are great places to collect all this information.
During the research, you might come across interesting facts or information that were off your radar before, so keep an open mind.
Questions to ask yourself when deciding on your next location
Here are some ideas of what to look for:
What kind of visa or documents will you need to be able to live and work in the destination?
What are the job market conditions like in the chosen countries? Are there enough job opportunities for you? What's the unemployment rate?
How does the cost of living compare to your current country?
How safe and secure are your rights as an expat citizen in that country? How many expats live there? Is it a friendly environment for foreigners?
How about healthcare? Are the quality and cost of healthcare suitable for you?
Are the work culture and values similar to how you want to live and work? How do these countries fit your lifestyle?
What other factors could impact your quality of life and work satisfaction in the destination country?
This step may take some time but don't rush it. Take as much time as you need until you feel ready to pick the one that best fits your life goals.
Now that you've got an overview of how potential destinations match up against your criteria, it's time: pick your ideal destination. Choose the country that offers the best combination of job opportunities, quality of life, cost of living, safety, and other factors that fit your needs.
Choose the country that offers the best combination of job opportunities, quality of life, cost of living, safety, and other factors that fit your needs.
Step #3: Research the local job market and job opportunities.
Once you know your "where," it's time to explore the job market.
At this point, you want to get a general idea about available job opportunities in your chosen destination.
Find out the following: how many jobs are available in the destination country in your target field, what are the standard requirements for your target jobs, and if it's possible to land a job without knowing the local language—in case you don't speak it yet. If you don't have a specific job in mind, start browsing through job postings to get a better idea about what jobs are available for expats and how to get them.
Use these resources to find out more about the job market and available jobs:
Check out local business websites, and learn about their culture and how they recruit.
Join Facebook groups for expats in the destination country to find out about job opportunities and other helpful information.
Check with your current or former companies to see if they have international offices or remote working opportunities.
Find and join professional networks exclusively for expats to connect with people and learn more about job opportunities in the destination country.
While exploring the job market, use the research to confirm all requirements regarding a visa or work permit to ensure you have a legal right to work there. Also, explore salaries, tax laws, and other important details to better understand compensation and how much you can expect to make as an expat in your chosen destination.
Step #4: Reach out to local expats.
Time to start connecting with local expats.
LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media platforms can be great resources for finding people who have moved to the destination you're looking into. Get in touch to learn more about their experience looking for a job abroad and how they went about the process. You can also ask them about how it felt moving to the destination country, how different life is there compared to your home country, how easy it was settling down in the new place, and what they think you should know before moving.
Use this opportunity to confirm the information you've gathered so far and ask any additional questions you may have.
Explore the following:
FB groups for expats
LinkedIn groups for expats
professional expat networks
expat events and meet-ups
Important: At this point, refrain from asking people for a job or referral. Your goal is to gain knowledge and make connections that can help you start your process of finding work abroad. Understanding how the local job market works, how different things are compared to your home country, and how expats perceive their experience in the destination country is more valuable preparation for your move. You don't want to start your interactions by asking for favors. Focus on research and building relationships first.
Step #5: Sort out your documentation.
Next, take the time to get your paperwork in order. This will include anything related to visas and work permits, certificates of education, employment histories, etc.
Prepare the essential documents for your visa application and job search. What works best is having all the documents ready to go in a single, preferably online folder. This way, you'll have everything at hand when it's time to start applying for jobs or filling out paperwork for visas and permits. So, open a folder on Google Drive or elsewhere and upload digital versions of the following:
a current resume
passport and ID
work permits or visas
letters of recommendation
financial information (e.g., bank statements)
proof of education or qualifications, and
other related documents.
Having all documents readily available will save you time (and headache) down the line so that you can act quickly when the right opportunity comes up.
Ask for support if you need help sorting out your documentation or understanding visa and work permit laws. Contact a local embassy to get all the information you need and reach out to someone who has already moved abroad to the destination country.
Step #6: Create a job search strategy and plan.
Finding a job abroad is a massive life project that has lots of surprising pros and cons. As such, it requires careful planning and preparation.
By setting up a strategy and planning how you will approach your job search, you'll increase your chances of finding the right job in the destination country while minimizing the stress and overwhelm that often come with significant life changes.
Follow these three tips to create an effective strategy and plan how to go about the job search:
Get clear on what you're after. Prepare a list of your non-negotiable criteria for a new job, and keep it at hand when applying. List the job titles, companies, and industries you're interested in to give your search focus.
Prepare a list of relevant job boards, websites, and search keywords. Find local job boards and bookmark them. Create a list of keywords related to your target jobs so you can go through job listings that match your criteria.
Stay organized and keep track of your job search activities. Create a file or spreadsheet to document the jobs, companies, and people you've reached out to. Stay on top of your job search by tracking all your applications and connections. Organize your time effectively by setting monthly, weekly, and daily priorities.
Note: You'll be tempted to skip this step and dive right into applications. But trust us; you don't want to do it. You'll end up wasting a lot of time and energy by not having a plan in place. As a wise person once said, "failing to plan is planning to fail," so take the strategic approach and create your job search plan before you start applying.
Say goodbye to job search chaos and hello to a smart strategy in just 60 minutes.
↓ Grab your job search strategy planner ASAP ↓
Taking the time to organize and plan your job search abroad will give you a much-needed structure and increase your chances of success.
To set yourself up for success, follow this guide on kickstarting and building a successful career as an expat.
Step #7: Update your resume and LinkedIn.
Regardless of the destination country, your resume and LinkedIn profile are two essential tools for job searching.
Before you start updating them, get clear on local hiring practices. Read up on local hiring trends, what recruiters in the target industry look for when reviewing resumes, and how you can position yourself as an ideal candidate in a new country.
For example, in Germany, you may need to submit a "lebenslauf." The literal translation of that word is "life path," and it's a detailed chronological list of all your past experiences and achievements. This is a more comprehensive document than a standard resume and frequently much longer. (Fun fact: Lebenslaufs are often 10+ pages long!)
Once you're clear on how to adapt your resume for the destination country, it's time to pull up your documents and start updating them.
As a foreigner, include all the relevant information for your target country, such as language abilities and experience in international work environments. If you have professional qualifications or certifications that are recognized and accepted in the destination country, make sure to add them, too. While you're at it, don't miss these tips for a perfect expat resume.
After you've updated your resume, use the same content to update your LinkedIn profile. Add a well-written headline and summary section that sound professional and reflect how you want to be seen by recruiters. Note down that you're planning to relocate and specify your target country.
An up-to-date resume tailored to a job search abroad and a great LinkedIn profile will help you stand out from other candidates, regardless of how competitive the target job market is.
Step #8: Get ready for international interviews.
Prep first, apply second? Yes!
It may seem counterintuitive to start preparing for interviews before you even apply for the first job. But trust us—you don't want to get caught off guard when the phone rings or an email arrives with a job interview request. When it comes to interviews, preparation is half of success.
So how do you prepare for international interviews?
First, read up on local hiring culture and expectations. Research how job interviews are conducted, what questions are often asked in interviews, and what interview best practices are typical for the target country.
Second, practice your answers to common interview questions. Compile a list of your previous achievements and have a few stories prepared that illustrate how you would handle various situations in the workplace and how you're qualified for the position.
Third, do some practice interviews with friends or family and record yourself to get a sense of how you come across on video, as this is how most international interviews are conducted.
Most common international interview questions
Here are the most common interview questions for international job seekers:
What motivated you to apply for a job abroad?
Why are you looking to move to this particular country?
What experience do you have working in international teams?
How do you manage cultural differences?
What would you bring to this job that no one else can?
When are you able to relocate? What support would you need?
The first question is crucial. Interviewers will surely ask you why you want to work abroad. Head to the linked article and prepare a strong answer. By preparing and practicing for interviews, you'll increase your chances of getting hired and get a step closer to your dream of relocating abroad.
Step #9: Spread the word that you're looking for a job.
Now that you've got your resume ready and brushed up on how to do international interviews, it's time to let the world know you're looking for a job.
Word of mouth is still one of the most effective ways to find job opportunities. So don't be shy to tell everyone you know (or even those you don't) that you're searching for a job in a specific country.
Networking is one of the best ways to find a job abroad. But how do you network with people who live miles away from you?
First, leverage your current contacts in the country you plan to move to. Know someone who already lives there? Perfect! Reach out to them. Plus, now is the time to reconnect with people who gave you firsthand insight into the country (step 3). Let them know you're now looking for a job and to keep you in mind if they hear of any job openings.
Second, join online groups to make new contacts and build your network if you haven't already. Have a look at how many Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media groups there are for people moving abroad! Join a few relevant ones and start conversations with other members.
Third, reach out to recruiters and HR professionals in your target country. They are always looking for the right talent, so let them know you're open to new opportunities and enthusiastic about relocating.
Plus, join relevant industry groups on social media and look for international events in your target country. This will give you an opportunity to connect with people from the same industry who live or work in the destination you plan to move to.
Want to take it to the next level and speed up your job search? Explore the seven best job search methods to land a job abroad.
Be brave and let people know you're looking for a job abroad. Someone close to you might already know of a great opportunity that fits your skills and expertise. So, the more people know about your plans, the better.
Step #10: Start applying for jobs.
It's finally time to apply for the jobs you want!
When browsing for relevant job openings, pay attention to how the job description is written and use similar language when submitting your application.
If you're applying from a different country than the one you plan to move to, mention that in your cover letter or email. If possible, add a sentence or two about your plans for the future. Mention how soon you can start and how long you plan to stay in the country.
If possible, focus your efforts on one market at a time—apply for jobs in one country before moving on to another. Don't forget to search for available jobs regularly, keep track of companies you applied for, and stay organized by planning and tracking your job search activities.
Important: don't focus solely on online applications. Explore alternative job search methods that can help you land a job abroad much faster.
Remember—a job search takes time and can be rocky. Don't get discouraged if you don't hear back from companies or some of your applications get rejected. It's all part of the process. Be patient, stay positive, and keep applying. The right opportunity is waiting for you.
You can find a job abroad before you move—you just need to know how.
From deciding on your target location to networking and submitting job applications, this guide outlines an effective, step-by-step plan for making your relocation a success. With this step-by-step guidance, you can easily make your relocation dreams come true in ten simple steps that guide you through the exact process giving you the structure needed to get hired abroad in the most efficient way.
As long as you remain focused on your goal of working abroad and keep taking small steps towards it, the right opportunity will come your way.
Bookmark this guide and let us know when you land a job!
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Matilda Patsou & Ana Colak-Fustin
Hi there! We're Matilda and Ana, founders of MoreThanCareers, 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.
Now it's your turn. And MoreThanCareer is here to help!