The ultimate guide to getting a job after moving abroad

Author: Chris Dottie, Managing Director, Hays Spain

For years, you’ve been dreaming of moving abroad and now you’ve finally done it – you’ve made the jump. Now, you’ve landed in this foreign country, the jet-lag has worn off, but it’s been replaced by a mild sense of panic and the recurring question: “How do I even begin trying to find a job here?”

I have two international moves under my belt and I remember them both like they were yesterday, so I mean it when I say that moving abroad is one of the boldest things you can do. And, relocating without a job to anchor you down and help you settle in – well that’s even braver.

But, taking this gamble will soon pay off if you approach your job search in your new home in the right way, following the advice below:

Before you start applying for jobs, get the lay of the land

Before you do anything else, it’s essential that you research the local job market to get a feel for what you are working with. You don’t want to start your search by looking for roles which are scarce, won’t pay you enough money, or are called something completely different in this foreign country.

When I first moved abroad I had no mobile phone (in fact I needed to use a phonecard in a cabin in the street – ask your parents if you don’t remember those days!) and the internet was in it’s infancy, so I had to gather information manually and slowly. You don’t have that excuse, so get your laptop out and do some research, register with a global recruiter such as Hays, and reach out to any other connections. Remember that you aren’t the first person to move abroad, so even if you don’t have personal connections in your new environment, figure out where more experienced expats gather, and turn to them for knowledge and advice. You are looking for people who can help you find out the below:

How hireable are you?

How in demand are your skills? This is something you can find out from your recruiter, and by doing some research online. Taking into consideration the fact that many countries are facing skills shortages, you might be pleasantly surprised to find that your skills are highly in demand. For example, in Spain, we are currently facing a shortage of IT specialists, more so than many other countries, and Spanish language skills are not always necessary. In any case, it’s important to understand your own “USPs” (Unique Selling Points) – what is it that makes you valuable and what can you offer to a company that is special in the local market?

But you should also brace yourself for the opposite scenario – whilst your expertise may have been highly sought after in your native job market, you might be on the back foot abroad. This isn’t the end of the world, but it may mean upskilling yourself, taking on contract roles, or a more junior position in order to learn the ropes.

Which industries are thriving and which are diving?

It’s not enough to just scope out the skills situation in this foreign job market. What about your preferred industry – is it booming abroad, or is it taking a downward turn? Perhaps you’re keen to get a marketing job in the construction industry, but this industry has taken a nosedive in your new location, and thus sales and marketing expenditure is at an all-time low. On the other hand, the tech industry has never looked so promising, and you might have always wanted to venture into this arena to see what it’s like.

Keep an open mind when it comes to industries, and again, do your research. I’ve spoken before about how having a variety of industry exposure can actually be highly beneficial to a person’s career and proves that they are adaptable. And you would be hard pushed to find an employer who doesn’t value this quality in a candidate.

Is your job called something different in your new location, and how much can you expect to earn?

What are your desired jobs, and do the titles of these jobs differ between your native and foreign country? For example, in America, a Vice President of Marketing might translate to a Head of Marketing in the UK. It’s important that you use the right terms and keywords, and nuances of them, when you start searching for jobs online.

Once you’re clearer on the titles of the roles you should be looking for, find out what you can expect to earn with your level of experience. As I said, your recruiter will have a good idea of this, and I would also recommend having a look at our Hays Salary Guides for your country. Weigh this up with the cost of living, and assess whether the roles you are looking for are financially feasible for you.

Who are the top employers?

Now, research all the best companies to work for in your desired industry. Again, your recruiter will have an idea of this, but in some markets you can also look at review sites such as Glassdoor, and reach out to your local network.

Once you have a list of preferred employers, send them to your recruiter, set up job alerts for vacancies at these companies, and follow these companies on social media to get a better feel for their company culture.

Simply put, you cannot assume anything about the labour market, and I strongly suggest you use every tool available to you to research the landscape.

Now that you’re ready to start your search, remember to tailor your application

Now you are ready to start your search, it’s time to optimise your online profiles, your CV, and your supporting documents, so that these meet local best practices and stand out to the hiring managers.

Your CV

Provided your CV is up to date with all of your latest skills and experience, you will need to make sure that this is now tailored to suit best practices. There are cultural differences when it comes to CV etiquette: from the information you include, to the length of your CV. This is another part of your search where working with an expert recruiter is essential.

Your supporting documents

For every role you apply for, I would advise writing a summary of your situation and what you are looking for. Often, this is in the form of a covering letter to put your application into context, but in some cultures a summary at the top of your resume is more common – so check this with your recruiter.

Your online profiles

It is important that you have an online presence in your new country. Should you be joining any local professional networking sites? Is your LinkedIn profile updated to include your current location? You could also change your headline to “Actively looking for X roles.” I would advise connecting with local recruiters, and seeing if there are any LinkedIn groups specifically for expats of your profession, living in this country.

As I said in the beginning, moving to a foreign country is scary enough. This, coupled with needing to start your job search as soon as possible can feel even scarier – that is, if you feel like you are going in blindly. If, however, you research the local landscape for your ideal role, and how best to increase your chances of landing said role, this fear of the unknown should soon start to fade and you will feel more positive about your chances of job search success.

The challenge of adapting to a new culture once you have moved abroad is not easy, but in my experience it is one of the most enriching and valuable things that you could do, both in terms of career progression and personal experience. Take the leap, go and do something new – the pride you feel when you get that first job in foreign climes is something that will stay with you for a lifetime. 

Thank you for reading. For more useful advice and insights about the world of work, visit our dedicated blog page here or click on one of the links below.