Fancy being a globetrotter?
This career guide explores international jobs and careers abroad. The world of work is becoming increasingly global in nature and many employees enjoy the prospect of experiencing different cultures and countries.
The opportunity for overseas jobs is immense in the East and West. The most popular routes for an executive who wants to develop a career which enables them to both progress and travel, are to either work in the hospitality industry or for a multinational company where they can move around businesses or divisions.
International jobs include remote jobs that you can travel with, career choices with transferable skills and employment that require travel.
Remote jobs include:
3) Graphic Designer
5) Search Engine Advertising
Jobs with transferable skills to move around the world include:
1) Teacher of English as a foreign language
3) Law – (to an extent)
4) Sports and fitness
Jobs that require travel include:
- Executive in a multinational company
- Cruise Ship Worker
- Film industry/actor
- Aid Worker
- Hostage negotiator
Multinational companies and organisations
There are many multinational corporations with international business in various sectors including oil and gas, manufacturing and construction – this list is just a few.
Shell; Oracle; Apple; Coca-Cola; McDonalds; BP; Toyota; E.ON; Nestle, Honda; Deutsche Telekom, General Electric, Oxfam, Vodaphone, Unilever, Siemens, Clifford Chance, and Google and Publicis Groupe.
"Companies who create a compelling employer brand can attract the best of international talent to them, helping to build their competitive advantage internationally. Done well, this engages employees whatever country or division they are in, giving an integrated employee experience."
Louisa Moreton, Director of Talent Communications and Consultancy, SAS London.
Benefits of an international career
The benefits of international work include meeting many new people from different countries and making great face to face connections to do better business in the future.
“The transfer of ideas and existing solutions avoid the duplication of effort and costs. This was particularly useful between the UK and US. We may speak the same language, but the simplest of ideas just hadn’t transferred across until I physically went there. Letting people working in other markets know that they are important and that their views would be taken back to Head Office was another benefit.”
Angela Little, former marketing and brand innovation senior executive Diageo PLC.
Other benefits of international jobs and international work include seeing how things are done in different ways in different countries, local customs and realising that everyone can learn from the diversity of approaches and cultures.
“An international career gives you a broad outlook and understanding of not only your professional area but many different people from all over the world, where you can draw on each other's strengths. Getting to know these people allows you to look at things from perspectives you would never think of yourself, so it presents a great stretch and expands your own abilities/horizons. This is great for innovation.“
Kasia Maziarka who works for international packaging manufacturer Rexam.
There are also lots of humorous examples of misunderstandings in language across countries. E.g. ‘Half twelve’ in the Netherlands is actually ‘11.30 am’ in the UK. If you aren't aware of the differences, you soon learn!
Drawbacks of international work
Living in a country where English is not the primary language can be challenging if you aren't a natural linguist but with effort can be a positive if your employer pays for lessons.
Another drawback is potentially less of a focus to contribute to the improvement of one's country. You can also lose the sense of true ‘belonging’ to a place, and on a personal level often sacrifice not seeing your loved ones for extended periods of time.
Your personal life can suffer as you can't necessarily commit to events far in the future, this is especially an issue when travel by aeroplanes are involved.
Jet lag with work abroad can be wearing after a while and international executives develop their own ways of dealing with it.
Competencies and qualities needed for international work
You have to have been great at planning and problem solving, ideally making use of a great PA to sort out all the travel and hotel arrangements. Being adaptable for unexpected delays, eventualities and opportunities are useful.
Apart from resilience and adaptability, a sense of humour is a must. As situations arise that could be quite stressful to some, you need to be more optimistic.
Problem-solving and being organised are crucial as is being an excellent communicator and making sure you can arrange everything you need in advance by phone or email. Plans change, so you need everything to hand to deal with last minute ‘hiccups.’ Modern gadgets help!
Curiosity, bravery, learning ability, people skills, adaptable to new environments/situations are all useful assets.
Understanding and being comfortable with matrix company structures, and being proactive from anywhere in the organisation is important too.
Support when you are moving to work abroad
Many international companies have contracts with international removals firms and use relocation specialists that will meet you in your new country and go through all the formalities you need to settle. These include social security
registration, opening bank accounts and other local things that you won't have thought about
because it's not done like that back home e.g. registering with the police in some countries.
For executives who are moving with a family, companies will also do the advance legwork on schools, places to live and have arranged appointments for you to visit, this is vital to business effectiveness and performance and time saving, especially if you only have a short period to sort everything out. Travelling as a single person is much easier, but having a support network is also beneficial.
Executives may also be given the services of a tax specialist as this can be complicated for ex-pats. They also might be offered financial planning advice and coaching to help the transition of the executive e.g. first 100-day coaching and also life coaching to help the spouse settle.
Some companies offer courses on ‘Cultural Awareness’ to avoid hopefully making the common mistakes.
Many companies provide a series of medical checks and private health plans for international travellers and some include dental checks.
13 tips when planning your international jobs
- Be prepared to take advantage of opportunities as they arise and be flexible.
- Learn a second language to at least business conversation level.
- Research which countries you would be happy to travel to and live in.
- Make sure Human Resources are fully aware of your aspirations and get to know the people who are in charge of hiring for those roles.
- If you have a family, make sure your timescales & moves fit in with schools and key exams to avoid making the change too unsettling.
- If necessary, plan to go ahead for six months, with the family moving later, this can be very beneficial as the first six months are always extremely busy in a new job.
- Make sure you act quickly when opportunities arise and be flexible.
- Be proactive in searching for opportunities.
- Do some cultural awareness training/be diversity and culturally intelligent.
- Be aware of the pros and cons, and what you are potentially sacrificing and gaining.
- Get a good PA or use a concierge service to deal with home issues while you are away.
- Get up to date with technology - you need to know how things work so you can fix them when they go wrong as you won't have the familiar in-house IT person right there to sort you out!
- Plan ahead as far as you can, especially with personal events. Organise birthday cards and presents to be sent in your absence, these are the sorts of things that can stress people out when all it takes a bit of pre planning.