5 tips on restarting your career after moving abroad

As a global career coach, I work with clients who are similar to me. They don’t live in their home country, and they may even be on their second or third global move. 

Whatever their reason for moving abroad is – for adventure, moving with a partner or for economic reasons – it makes sense for people to continue with their existing career. However, even with qualifications and experience, and perhaps with an understanding of the language, picking up your career trajectory as soon as you land in a new country is not so straightforward.

Looking for a job within a culture you’re not familiar with, and the disorientation that comes with moving countries can be challenging. Having moved three times myself, I am familiar with global moves, and would like to share this with you.

Feeling Disorientated

I remember when I came back to the UK after working for the British Red Cross in Haiti.  I had been working in an intense, fast paced environment in the hectic aftermath of the earthquake for one year and a half. When that came to an end and I arrived back in the UK, although it was good to be out of a stressful environment, I felt lost. And on top of that, the place I had called home for 8 years seemed alien to me. It was like starting again from scratch.

Looking for work

Luckily I found my feet again and after a short while landed a job within the private sector. But it’s not always like that. Depending on the culture and attitudes, where you end up wanting to live can make a big difference in your experience of finding a job and settling down there.

For example, when I returned to London, employers liked my diverse experiences. It was attractive to them as they believed it would add value to their organisation. 

Spain was different though.

A few years later when I moved to Spain, I assumed that attitudes would be the same as in the UK but I was wrong. The work culture was completely different and I had a lot to learn if I wanted to establish myself and prosper. In fact, a hiring manager told me outright that I would find it difficult in Spain after living in France, UK and Haiti. 

I wasn’t sure what this hiring manager was talking about. After all, I had left my home  and lived in all these different countries around the world, so obviously I was more than capable of adapting and finding work. But after a while, I realised what she meant.

In Spain, employers care about different things, and therefore look at a CV or work history in a different way to how they would in, say, the UK. Work life in Spain is more about connections and stability.

Even if the language is the same, it doesn’t mean that the way you do things will be the same. You will have to readjust and adapt to the new environment.

Here are 5 tips I have learned along the way which will make it easier to restart a career abroad. 

1 – Check your career compatibility

Job titles can look the same, however, you might not realise that the roles can be quite different depending on the country. For example, the role for an HR Manager in the UK doesn’t match what an HR Manager does in Spain. It’s a good idea to find out if any differences exist for you and whether you need to gain some additional skills or qualifications.

Some employers might not take you on board for your lack of experience in the country you have now decided to settle in. They might want you to be familiar with the laws and regulations of that country.

For instance, when hiring a foreign worker in Canada with Workvantage, employers may seek out those familiar with Canadian employment laws and have an understanding of the local business environment.

And then there’s salary, which can also vary a lot between countries.

2 – Sell employers the benefits they might not see

As I mentioned before, depending on the culture, some employers might not seem interested in your background of moving abroad or coming from another country. 

Understanding how your diverse background and experiences can add value to organisations will help you sell yourself, making employers focus on the benefits you bring that others don’t. 

For example, you can adapt to any situation (benefit = flexibility), you are resilient (benefit = keeping calm under pressure), you have an open mind (benefit = can see opportunities), or how you can view things from different perspectives (benefit = great team player). 

3 – Seek work opportunities that need your specialist or native knowledge

Some employers may be interested in the specialist knowledge you didn’t know you had.

Your native language for example can be extremely useful for employers who want to build relationships and expand into new markets (this doesn’t let you off the hook of learning the language of your new country by the way!).

If the country you came from was ahead of the curve in some technology or ways of working, you can capitalise on that knowledge.

4 – Make connections

It is always important to connect with people you know who already live in your new destination. Equally important is to make new connections with locals or people within your industry. 

Try Meetup.com or Internations.org where you can meet groups of people in the same field, or with the same career interests. Network and make friends with natives and locals who understand the work culture and where to look for jobs – they may even already know of the perfect job opportunity for you.

5 – Learn as much as you can about the culture

Adapting to work life in a new country can be a challenge in terms of the way you used to do things. Acceptance is key, otherwise you will spend a lot of energy fighting against things you can’t change.

Workplace cultures may look similar on the outside, but there can be a lot of nuances to be aware of. You will need to think about how people communicate at work and with their clients. Are they direct, formal, do they like talking about the personal aspect of their life? How do they construct emails? 

Take the time

It might take some time before you land a job, so do the research first, be patient and be ready to adapt. Moving abroad is a big step and you will need to at least understand the mentality of your new country. 

I help people navigate their new life abroad and continue or adapt their current career. If you’re interested in getting this kind of support, book a coffee chat with me today.

Sylvia Nicolas
Verified Coach
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Sylvia is an ICF Certified coach who can help develop your potential as a leader. Email sylvia@snhumanresourcesconsulting.com to find out more or book a free consultation with Sylvia right now.

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