Given the weak employment market in the U.S., now may be an opportune time to venture overseas for work, even if just for the short term. Some industrialized countries with relatively low unemployment rates at the moment include Australia (5.3%), China (4.2%), Japan (5.3%), Norway (3%), Singapore (2.3%) and Switzerland (4.1%).
After getting laid off in May 2009, attorney Andrea Lazarow went on more than a dozen interviews, none of which resulted in an offer. After spending her entire career in New York City, the 44-year-old decided to broaden her job search by 7,000 miles. "It seemed that every day I was reading or hearing stories about the booming economy in China and Asia at large, so I thought that there might be opportunities for me there," she says.
Lazarow was right. Today she is an English teacher at a university in China; next month she's heading to Seoul, South Korea, to work in the corporate strategy department at Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering, a large Korean corporation.
At the very least, working and living abroad gives your resume that wow factor that can help you be more marketable to your next employer, career experts say. "You will distinguish yourself, because not everybody has international experience," says Caroline Ceniza-Levine, a career and life coach and co-author of the new book How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times. "It shows ambition, ability to adapt, flexibility, and awareness."
Of course, finding work overseas and getting settled in a foreign country can be challenging.
Here are some tips to consider before venturing off.
1. Start Your Job Search Before Moving
Revisit your college or university's job placement or career services department. "Often these places have job books with actual job postings for international work, or at least lists of associations and companies that hire abroad," says Ceniza-Levine. For example, the University of Michigan has a work-abroad Web site with a list of internships, volunteer and paid positions. If you have dream companies in mind, says Ceniza-Levine, figure out where those firms have international offices and directly contact the hiring managers there. Or ask your existing company if there are positions abroad within the firm. A friend of mine at a major news network found out through her H.R. department that there was an opening for an on-air correspondent in its Middle East bureau. "I was looking for change," she tells me. "I had been working in the same position, for the same employer for over five years and felt the need to branch out and put myself in an environment where I could have new experiences." She's moving to Bahrain this fall.
2. Build an Overseas Network in Advance
Tap into international resources as part of your homework before making the leap abroad. If you have friends, family members, or current or former colleagues who live in foreign countries, ask them to refer you to local job placement firms and give you a sense of the local job market. Some great educational resources to check out before you make the transition include Transitionsabroad.com, WorkingOverseas.com and GoingGlobal.com.
3. Consider Federal Jobs
4. Transition by Teaching
"It seemed that the quickest and easiest way to [get to] Asia and establish a toehold there [was] to take a job teaching English," says Lazarow. After settling in and meeting new people, it may be much easier to network your way to a permanent job. The Council on International Education Exchange, TransitionsAbroad.com and GoAbroad.com all have information on teaching opportunities overseas, including ways to qualify for various programs.
5. Stay in Touch with U.S. Employers
If your plan is to return and find work in the U.S., keep in contact with the recruiters and employers you met with before leaving the States. Let them know how your experience abroad is going and when you plan to return home. Before Lazarow accepted the job in South Korea, her intentions were to return to New York City. "I was planning to start contacting all of the recruiters and employers who had interviewed me before I left for China to inquire about their hiring needs," she says. "I've also been checking legal industry job boards online and staying in touch with my professional contacts at home."
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Photo courtesy Kossy@FINEDAS' photostream on Flickr