expat enjoying the sun and an old laptop

Do you dream of working in a foreign land? Below are 10 insider tips that will help you if you are looking to grow your career overseas.

1. Identify your bright spots

Sure you worked 15 years in shipping or marketing but this doesn’t mean anything to a manager in a foreign country looking for a new team member. Clearly state your transferable skills in your resume. Remember that years of experience back home often equates to ‘zero experience in the local market.’

Unless you have years of local market experience you will need to clearly show which skills will make you successful in your new career. These success skills are your bright spots. Make sure they shine in your resume.

2. Demonstrate your value

The best way to show your worth to an expat firm is to focus on your achievements. Nothing speaks better than what you did well in the past. Remember your achievements need to answer three main points:

  • What was done?
  • For whom?
  • What was the result? (Figures speak better than words, use % or $)

Make a list of your achievements, use them as a guide, they will help you define a credible expat career objective and also script the conversation during your interview.

3. Find mentors

Find someone you trust in your community and ask him or her for a referral to a person who works in a field you are interested in. The key word is trust. You want to build a tribe based on trust.

Mentors will give you advice and what the main challenges are in their field. Always make sure you ask for referrals to other members of your mentor’s tribe. Do not be a user. Make sure you keep in touch with your mentors when you have landed your dream expat career.

4. Learn about the new home

When I first arrived in Dubai in 1999 nobody back home had heard of it. Later, many multinationals setup their MENA (Middle East and North Africa) offices there and expat professionals make up 80% of the population. As the expat population grew so did the ‘incidents’ with the local population, due to a lack of cultural knowledge. From losing your job to ending up in jail, cultural awareness can be vital to thriving in your new home.

5. Develop a strong personal brand

Now that you have a good idea of your value, the cultural context and what the main challenges are in the field you chose, make sure you position yourself for career success. Developing a strong personal brand will enhance your chances to be noticed or recognized for your unique attributes and achievements.

6. Blog

Launching a blog will help you establish yourself and assert your credibility in a field. You will notice that many high-level expat jobs are specialist jobs, and managers are always on the look out for specialists online. Just don’t write about your co-workers.

7. Learn to deal with doubt

Nothing will come out as planned. Get used to it. You can plan your career abroad to the smallest detail, and it will not happen that way. I always ask the same question when I meet a new client ‘tell me how you got where you are’. The most interesting and successful expat professionals answer ‘it’s a long story.’ There is no plan.

Instead of planning, learn to deal with doubt in your life. Acquire skills to live with that little voice which wakes you up at 3am wondering if you will get a promotion/job abroad. The best tool to deal with doubt comes from judging situations and finding opportunities when they arise. Become a great decision maker rather than a planner.

8. Learn the language

Once you have set your sights on a specific country, start learning the language. You do not have to be fluent but being able to shop at the local store and get directions, are a must. You will be overwhelmed during the first weeks of your arrival, learning the local language as well as local customs and cultural dos and don’ts will go a long way in decreasing this stress.

9. Prepare your exit

Earlier I told you not to plan your career but this is one thing you know will happen. You will leave your current job and move to another one. Sooner or later you will have to do it if you want your career to grow. Please tell me you don’t still believe you can climb the career ladder in the same firm for the next 30 years? Ah! Good.

Do not wait to be frustrated, fed up and angry with your current boss or job to do this. Prepare a professional letter to your boss, meet and explain why you are leaving. Stay courteous until the end of your notice period.

10. Choose wisely

Just because the posting is in a foreign country it does not mean the rules go out the window. A lot of times these days we are pressured to find a perfect career, defined as the job you would do even if you didn’t get paid. This is insane.

Looking for an expat career with this mindset means you will look for a long time. It is totally impossible to simply do ‘what you love’. Rather focus on doing what you are. Do something that caters to your bright spots.

Related: CV vs. Resume: What’s the Difference and Who Uses Which?

John Falchetto works with professionals who want to grow their career overseas.  With 17 years both as an expat employee and employer he can help you make your dream career become a reality by defining your personal brand, and applying strategies for long-term success abroad. Follow John on Twitter @johnfalchetto.

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