Want a Job? Think Global

On 10/25/2011, in Career, by Jordan Wilson
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Economic conditions in your local region may mean there are few available jobs in your area of expertise or interest.

If you want to stay in your home town (or vicinity), you may have to take a lesser position or be unemployed for an extended period.

But if you are open to looking farther afield, you may be able to find a position that meets your career goals. And you may obtain a broader life experience in the process. 

Asia Jobs Outlook outlines their take on China’s Best Career Opportunities. As you can see, there are a wide range of skills being sought and some good opportunities in the financial services and business sectors.

I am a big fan of global career experience.

I have had the opportunity to live in the Caribbean and Switzerland, as well as working throughout the world. If I had the opportunity to relocate to Singapore or Hong Kong, I would do so in an instant.

Not having spent time in mainland China, I cannot say definitively if I would want to live there. But I do know people that have lived in different cities and they enjoyed their time in China.

The Pluses

Employment in Your Field

Going abroad may allow you to find a position that meets your skill sets or career goals. This is especially true when jobs in your local market are limited and a foreign economy is thriving.

Improved Skill Sets

Working in another environment may teach you new employment skills. Language is a common one. But how other cultures operate will also broaden your understanding of foreign business practices and consumer habits. As the world continues to become one big global marketplace, foreign experience will be an asset when you move back home.

Being far from your comfort zone (friends and family) helps develop one’s character and self sufficiency. These are attributes that are sought by every employer.

When I first moved from Edmonton to Calgary after university, I knew no one. Having to navigate a new city on my own toughened me up. I also knew that I had to succeed in my job as I had nothing to fall back on for support.

As part of a large group of articling students, many others were in the same situation. This differed markedly from the local articling students, most of whom lived at home and had their mothers make their lunches and wash their clothes.

While a small sample, I must say that I found colleagues that were not from Calgary did better, on average, than the local articling students. I think part of their success rate was due to their need to succeed. Desperation is a powerful motivator.

New Experiences

Finally, for someone that enjoys new experiences, working internationally is wonderful. While work life may be onerous, there should still be time to explore your new home.

Vacationers spend thousands of dollars to visit the Cayman Islands. I lived there. At night, I would go scuba diving or eat in a nice beachfront restaurant. On the weekend, I enjoyed the sun and sea on Seven Mile Beach. If that lifestyle appeals to you, there are not many better places to live.

The Minuses

I loved living in different places. But there are many who have had lesser experiences.

Living Abroad is not for Everyone

You need the right personality and attitude to work abroad. Many do not have it. Depending on where you live abroad, there might be significant differences from your home. Communication may be difficult. Food choices may not be the same as you are used to. Entertainment options may be poor compared to your desires.

When I first moved to Grand Cayman, a Canadian guy I knew was all excited one weekend. It seemed a new Fosters (a local grocery store) was opening on Saturday and he and his wife were eagerly anticipating the event. After a few years on the island, I came to understand his feelings.

Potential Isolation

You may be isolated. To get anywhere from Grand Cayman, one normally needs to fly first to Miami. Not a cheap or quick proposition. Singapore might be similar. However, places like London, New York, and Zurich are much less isolated. In Zurich, a one hour flight can get you many places for a weekend escape. Usually at discount fares.

You may be lonely. If you are used to spending time with friends and family, a move abroad can cause some stress. Yes, you will often meet new friends, but many people I know got homesick while away.

When I was still at Price Waterhouse, I knew one colleague from Calgary that lasted all of two weeks in Luxembourg. He could not handle the lack of family, the language and cultural differences, etc. And, yes, he was a local Calgarian who had lived at home with mommy and daddy all his life. Moving from mom’s cooking and cleaning to a foreign country was quite the shock to his system.

Can Be Expensive

It may be costlier than you think. It always amazed me how many foreign coworkers I met that had not done their homework on costs. No, monthly living expenses are not constant throughout the world. Before signing an employment contract, you need to determine two things.

One, what will be your net monthly wage. You need to factor in tax rates and other monthly deductions. Health insurance can be substantial in some jurisdictions.

Second, you need to determine your expected monthly cost of living. Not just rent, food, utilities, and other common costs. If you need a car, what are the monthly insurance and gasoline costs?

As I write this, my local gas price is CAD 0.85 per liter. Last week, in another city that I spend time in, I paid CAD 1.23 per liter. Almost 50% more. And then there is Europe. In England, the current average price is CAD 1.87 per liter. In France, CAD 1.99. And in The Netherlands, CAD 2.22. So if you need to drive, costs can vary significantly between locations.

Do not forget about lesser costs either. They can add up. In Ecuador, I paid CAD 1.00 for a haircut. In Canada, about CAD 22.00. In Switzerland, about CAD 70.00. Movies, drinks, etc. have similar ratios in those three countries.

Perhaps Less Personal Freedom

Do your homework on other aspects of living abroad.

I know two separate instances where colleagues transferred to different countries and wanted to bring their fiancées. Unfortunately, in each case, one could only be a dependent on a work permit if they were already legally married. Neither country recognized common-law marriages nor girlfriends (or boyfriends) as dependents.

In one case, the employee was able to marry prior to arriving on the island, so he was ultimately fine. A little hectic, but it worked. In the other instance, the employee tried to fight the immigration bureau. Not a wise move at the best of times. He annoyed the government so much that they told him that even if he did get married they would not recognize his wife as a dependent. The reason being that they believed the man simply got married to circumvent the dependency rules. In the end, he left the island rather than leaving his girlfriend behind.

Whether you agree with a country’s rules or not is irrelevant. When you decide to move to another location, you will be expected to follow their laws and customs. Know what the rules are before you arrive. Otherwise you may be in for some surprises. Usually of the nasty nature.

Conclusion

If you have the aptitude for trying something new and need a job, looking globally might be a great solution.

But do your homework before you sign the contract.

If possible, visit the location and spend some time examining costs and the lifestyle before you agree to go. Talk to people that live in the country, preferably expatriates, in order to better understand the pros and cons. If you cannot do this, the internet likely has a lot of information on life in the location. Probably a lot of discontented people, but you can wade through the unhappiness to try and get a decent assessment.

Also, talk to people that have lived abroad, even if not in your planned location. They can offer general advice on living in another country.

Then, when you do finally move, fully immerse yourself in your new home. Learn the local language. Explore the region. Talk to the locals and make friends.

For support, look for expatriate organizations (e.g., American Women’s Club of Zurich) or personal interest clubs (e.g., International Ski Club of Zurich) that exist in many places. You can meet new friends, speak your own language, and receive tips for living in your new home from those who have been there longer than you.

1 Response » to “Want a Job? Think Global”

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