Working abroad is a good way to boost your resume. Aside from providing travel opportunities, a global career can also hone your marketable skills, increase your salary by as much as $25,000 assuming you’re bilingual/multilingual, and make you a better person.
However, it can also be intimidating. With hundreds of countries in the world, plus all the possible jobs you can take abroad, you may find it difficult to chart out a global career that suits you. To make things easier, here’s a guide to help you get started.
- Evaluate Your Career Goals
Before anything else, think carefully about what a global career can do for you. Will it give you an edge among your peers, in your company and/or in your industry? Or can you reap the same benefits working within the U.S. for American companies?
You don’t necessarily have to leave the U.S. to pursue a global career. Now that it’s easier than ever to find remote work opportunities, you can still carve out a path for yourself without going out of the country. However, if you’re set on physically transferring abroad for work — whether temporarily or permanently — that’s when you follow the next steps.
- Learn a Second Language
If you think there’s no use for that non-English language you know, think again. The demand for interpreters and translators is projected to grow 29 percent by 2024, so don’t throw away those foreign language materials yet.
In case you don’t have a second language, however, don’t worry. You can still learn basic conversation with online courses. Once you’ve mastered the language, practice it by conversing with native speakers, so it’ll soon become second-nature to you.
- Learn the Culture
There’s more to foreign culture than traditions and taboos. You can also ask questions such as:
- What’s the current political/economic climate in the country?
- What is the country’s general attitude toward foreigners?
- Will you get by with a mastery of English alone, as in the case of the Philippines, where most people can speak at least basic American English?
- Or will mastery of the local language be mandatory, as in the case of East Asian countries?
- Test the Waters
Theoretical knowledge is good and all, but there’s nothing like actually visiting another country to test the extent of that knowledge. Before you decide to live in that country for good, schedule a preliminary visit first. This way, you can get a “feel” for where you’ll work. It’s also a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture and practice your foreign language skills while you’re at it.
- Know Your Way Around
Since you’re staying abroad for a relatively long time, it’s a good idea to know the important places in a foreign country. Find out where your country’s embassy is, as well as the locations of its banks, medical services, post office, etc. You never know when this knowledge will come in handy.
- Be Open to New Approaches Toward Work
In Western countries, conflict is usually dealt with in a straightforward manner. In Asian countries such as Japan, on the other hand, people are usually afraid of shaking the status quo. Since everyone has to have their say in a matter, it can take weeks or even months to reach a single decision.
Of course, that can seem frustrating or even ridiculous to you. But if you’re set on working in that kind of country, understanding the culture as it is — not what it should be — will go a long way. After all, Japan’s emphasis on collectivism has served it well in the past.
- Take Courses With a Global Approach
Granted, you don’t need a degree in international relations to thrive in a global marketplace. But academic knowledge about a specific country/region/culture can be useful. For example, you can take a free online course on international relations to get you up to speed.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Use Technology
LinkedIn isn’t just for finding work opportunities. It’s also a great way to network with contacts from outside the country. However, be careful when applying to foreign companies. Some of them deliberately misrepresent themselves online to lure unsuspecting applicants into a shady business. Check their online presence, ask about them in forums, and take 100 percent positive reviews with a grain of salt.
Wherever your global career takes you, keep the lessons you learn close to your heart. By exposing yourself to cultures other than yours, you pick up perspectives that may never even occur to you if you chose to stay with a U.S. company. Make the most of your stay abroad, do as the Romans do, figuratively speaking, and be the best professional you can be.