How to work abroad?

From chalet hosting to working for international NGOs – here’s everything you need to know about working overseas and pursuing a career abroad.

Working abroad is great, just ask anyone who’s ever done so. Assuming they came back.

It’s so great in fact, around one in 10 Britons now live abroad, with countries like Spain, France, Australia and the US topping the list of most popular destinations.

But if the prospect of upping sticks intimidates you (which is perfectly normal), fear not: better internet connectivity, a rise in remote working, and a limitless need for native English speakers means it’s never been a better time to pursue paid work abroad. Trust us.

What are the benefits of working abroad?

Where to begin? Aside from the impressive dinner party chat you’ll have for decades to come, where you can casually refer to “that year I spent farming in Mongolia”, working abroad is an enriching experience that you’ll gain from both professionally and personally.

Expand your skills

For starters, you’ll expand your skill set. An international career – even one that lasts just a year –requires you to broaden your knowledge of the global workplace, develop new networking skills and discover new cultural perspectives of how business is done.

You’ll hone your communications skills too, and not necessarily by learning a new language (though this may be another skill you pick up), but by learning how to clarify your speech and make yourself understood to non-fluent English speakers.

Make some money

Depending on where you go and the job you pursue, you can make good money through careers abroad. Lucrative jobs aboard include teaching English in countries like South Korea, nannying in the Middle East and working on private yachts and cruises. What’s more, some people find that just by downsizing to a simpler life abroad, where tax rates are lower (or non-existent) and the cost of living’s cheaper, considerable savings can be made.

Advance your career

Work experience abroad is brilliant for your career progression. Research your options carefully, and you’ll almost certainly find that your work experience is valuable in some capacity overseas. This is particularly true in developing economies like India, where a British education and work experience is highly rated.

By moving to a country with a fast-growing economy, which places value you on a British education and work ethic, you’ll instantly raise your profile. Move somewhere exotic and you become exotic – use this to your advantage. And when you return to the UK, you’ll be able to draw upon your experience of working abroad to enhance your career even further: your experience will make your CV stand out, and you’ll have specialist knowledge of an overseas market.

Seasonal Work

Whether it’s ski instructing in Canada, cheffing on cruise ships or picking grapes in Australia – there’s no shortage of great seasonal work abroad. For many people, travelling and working abroad for a year can provide a perfect opportunity to take a career break or a sabbatical.

Start by identifying your skills (are you a great skier, a consummate waiter, great with kids?) and then identify the countries you’re interested in and the seasonal work they have on offer. Check whether you need any certificates or training – you’ll need the STCW training for working on boats and a CRB check if you’re working with British children – get yourself qualified and start applying.

With seasonal work, you may find that it’s easier to find something once you’re there and ‘on the ground’ (though this doesn’t apply to nannying). If you decide to do it this way, just make sure you have enough in your bank account to keep you going for a couple of months (some countries require you to have a certain amount in your bank account before entering), and be prepared to persevere! Remember that you won’t be the only person hoping to land a top job in a diving school or begging the cocktail bars to take you on. Be confident, friendly and keep, keep asking – because eventually someone will say yes.

Working Holidays

Countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada and several others, offer working holiday visas that permit tourists to work a set number of days while on their trip. While these visas do come with strict stipulations around the type of work, the age of the traveller (usually 18-35) and the number of days you can work, they also provide excellent opportunities for travel and work abroad. Do your research to see if there’s one that’s right for you.

Lots of people combine a working holiday visas with seasonal work – in fact, in Australia you must by law. So you could, for example, acquire a working holiday visa for New Zealand, travel around and then head to the South Island to work the winter ski season.

Work Placements

Depending on your current situation, you’ll have several options that could lead to a work placement abroad. If you work for an employer with offices overseas (even if it’s just one), it’s worth calling a meeting with your manager to discuss your options for a placement in the international office. Otherwise – and this is particularly relevant for those working in medicine, teaching and journalism – you may find work placements abroad via your sector’s associations and trade bodies. The British Medical Association, for example, is teeming with information on how UK-trained medical professionals can work in Australia.

If you’re not in employment, but have recently graduated, there are several organisations that specialise in overseas internships, gap year work abroad programmes and work experience abroad programmes. Beware: these programmes vary in quality and some come at a high price. Do your research and be vigilant. Always ask yourself, do you need to pay someone to find an opportunity for you?

Tips for applying for work overseas

So, you’ve decided to do it. You’re going to move abroad to work, brilliant! Now you need to research the country. Make sure you consider:

  1. The language: if the first language isn’t English, is it one you could learn easily? Or, if languages aren’t your thing, is English widely spoken as a second language?
  2. Growth sectors: what jobs are in demand? (Tip: The Middle East is keen on British nannies!)
  3. Which qualifications are required for where you’re going, is a degree important? Are there any country-specific qualifications you need to practice your profession?
  4. Your CV/resume: make sure it’s tailored to the market you’re planning to work in

As well as researching these points carefully, you’ll need to consider all the logistical stuff like visas, taxes, laws, employment contracts and, of course, the cost of relocating. Here are a few more points to consider:

  1. Your employment contract. Yes, you might be moving to Bangladesh where dinner in a local restaurant costs less than two quid, but does that mean your salary will reflect this cost of living too? Very possibly. It’s important to note that, particularly in the developing world, you’ll often pay a higher rate for goods and services – colloquially known as ‘white price’ – purely for being a Westerner. Your salary, therefore, will need to be adjusted for this (just because the locals pay £2 for dinner, doesn’t mean you will).
  2. Taxes. Who will pay them – you or the company you’ll be working for? Make sure you’re 100% clear on how you’re being taxed. And if anything seems fishy, it probably is. Also, if you rent out your UK home, you could be liable to pay income tax on those earnings, check with an accountant before you leave.
  3. Which networks and communities can you tap into? Facebook is brilliant for this. Most cities will have several Facebook groups for expat or backpacker communities. But, also, tap your own circles before you go. You’ll be amazed by how many people will know someone, even a friend of a friend, living in the place you’re moving to. Ask for an introduction, you never know where it might lead!

Which countries offer the best opportunities?

Countries ripe for British workers and packed with working abroad opportunities include Commonwealth countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada. These countries all have clear-cut, well-trodden routes to employment, with Australia and New Zealand publishing lists of professions they particularly welcome.

Pros for working in these markets include a similar culture, English as a first language and, for Australia at least, excellent weather. Of course, some would argue that these pros are precisely why they’re not the best countries for careers abroad! Critics would say, why not challenge yourself by moving somewhere with a totally different culture, where you can learn a new language and truly broaden your horizons?

If that’s the case for you, then consider former colonies like India – where English is widely spoken and many business leaders have been educated in the West – but be prepared for mountains of bureaucracy.

Hong Kong and Singapore also provide excellent opportunities – with Singapore topping the list of HSBC’s Expat Explorer (its annual ranking of best countries for expats) for the last three years. Thanks to their booming economies, both countries offer plenty of career prospects and high salaries. But there’s a downside to so much growth: like much of urban Asia, Hong Kong suffers from terrible air pollution, and if your job requires working with Europeans, expect to be pull some late nights in the office (because the time difference).

What about Brexit?

While it’s still too early to call, if you’re considering a move to one of our European neighbours, it might be worth holding back until the so-called Brexit deal has been made. That said, plenty of workers are taking the opposing view and moving to countries like Sweden, Germany and France now, before regulations change.

Which companies offer the best opportunities abroad?

International corporations are clearly at an advantage when it comes to careers abroad and working abroad opportunities. Global businesses like HSBC, PwC and Google have offices in every corner of the world and are actively growing their businesses in developing markets, whole often looking for Western employees to help them do so.

As well as business consultancies and tech giants, charities and international NGOs often offer great working abroad opportunities.

So what next?

Once you’ve researched the country, identified your skills, checked what the trade bodies say, adapted your CV, tapped up your networks, filled your suitcase with contraband cheese and biscuits, you’re ready to go.

Or, at least, you’re ready to do more research (sorry – but you’ll thank us in the end).

Take a look at these articles to refine and consolidate your knowledge…