Ready, Get Set…Jet Set!
So the wanderlust’s got you again. Every Pinterest photo of a tropical beach or idyllic cobblestone road is beginning to metaphorically slap you in the face with a “Psst…you already pinned this.” Okay, enough already! Before you rush to get that compass tattoo you’ve always dreamed of, consider working abroad. Why not travel around the world AND boost your professional résumé?
Throw away the attitude that’s making you doubt your own ability to secure a job overseas. Though it might not be as simple as participating in a university-led exchange program, it is absolutely feasible and just as much fun. To help you out, here’s a list of tips for landing (and succeeding!) in a job abroad.
1. Don’t be afraid to be annoying.
While your capability to score an amazing job in the country of your dreams is possible, the journey to find it may take time. Like discovering the perfect lip color, it’s going to require careful effort, shopping around, and nothing shy of a million Google searches. Find a target country or region, locate businesses or opportunities that suit your future career (or even just your personal interests), and email away! Having trouble? Consider au pairing or participating in a travel internship program. Just don’t worry about sending emails to fifty plus employers. After all, they likely don’t know each other and will never see your seemingly desperate Gmail outbox.
2. Understand your objectives.
So…you found the job. Now, back to square one! There’s nothing like making a good ol’ fashioned list to remind you where you started. Before you hop on the plane, write down things you want to accomplish abroad. Consider why you applied for this position in the first place. During your time overseas, revisit this list frequently to keep yourself on task.
3. Ask questions!
Leaving home is tricky, especially since your Magic 8 Ball contains more liquid than TSA allows on your flight! Although your time in English 101 taught you that the cliché, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question,” isn’t true, forget what your professor said and live every day with that as your motto. Not sure what mysterious juice fills the complementary bottles in the workplace fridge? Ask. Ask the best way to get to work on public transit, ask coworkers to translate confusing sentences for you, ask people where the nearest public restroom is. Just ask a lot of questions! Soaking up all of that knowledge will make you feel more confident, intelligent, and self-assured.
4. Take time to learn about your host country’s professional etiquette.
Take the Emily Post manners book your mom bought you in third grade and throw it out the window, because etiquette completely changes the second you leave your home country’s soil. Whether you spend time researching in advance or carefully observe when you arrive, your success, at least in part, hinges on your ability to understand the social and professional customs of your new home. Make your efforts to understand your host country’s conventions clear to your employers, and they’ll likely forgive you when you make mistakes (because you will!).
5. Kick culture shock in the tooshie.
No matter how many times you’ve traveled abroad, you’re most likely going to forget how it feels to have culture shock. Every person you chat with about your travels will comment on how you’re so brave, how your trip is incredibly lengthy, and how you’re surely missing home. Every. Single. One. The constant reminders can be difficult, but remembering that the feeling will pass is key. Unlike that old boyfriend who pops up on your newsfeed, you can’t unfollow the homesick, so have a good cry, eat a delicious treat from your host country in obscene quantities, and fight off the jetlag induced ennui with a fourteen-hour nap. After all, you’ve got foreign employers to WOW tomorrow!
Caroline Glass is a twenty-two year old wannabe adult from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Though her current city depends on the day, she uses Tuscaloosa as a home base and is a graduate student in urban planning. When she's not found running frantically around town with a Diet Coke, you might find her lounging on her balcony and sipping tea (duality, people!). Caroline enjoys traveling, eating ice cream, visiting art museums, binge-watching HBO, and writing to tell you all about it. Follow her on Instagram at @luvcarol1.