Looking for a job abroad? This article will review the basics of finding a job abroad, local nuances, requirements, pitfalls, and more! While the focus will be on finding a job abroad that requires formal qualifications (due to visa requirements), I will also provide options for those without a college degree and those who have limited or no work experience.
Finding a Job Abroad (My Journey)
For the last 8 years, I’ve been working abroad in China, the United Kingdom, and Europe. I’m originally from Los Angeles, California and I had no prior experience working internationally before I found a job abroad in 2013.
I literally packed 2 bags, bailed on law school, and moved to China to teach English.
Today, I have a thriving tech career in Germany, a Master of Science Degree from an amazing UK institution, and a wealth of knowledge to share with you; no matter where you are in your career.
Finding a job abroad is difficult, but not impossible and it’ll change the course of your life for the better! Let’s get into it.
Common Concerns with Working Abroad
As someone who helps people transition to life abroad with my Move Abroad Master Class, I’ve gotten tons of questions about whether or not finding a job abroad is the ‘right decision’ for their career/life.
Some of the most popular questions about working abroad include:
Q: Is working abroad a good career move?
Q: Should I work abroad while I am paying down debt?
Q: Do I need to speak the local language to find a job abroad?
Q: Is teaching English abroad a real job?
Q: Is it safe to live and find a job abroad?
While it’s impossible to address every question in depth in just one blog post, here’s my honest feedback about some of the most popular concerns regarding finding a job abroad.
There is nothing guaranteed in life – whether you’re living in your home country or abroad. Make the most of your opportunities when they present themselves or risk asking yourself ‘what if’ for the rest of your life.
Need Inspo for Your Job Abroad Search?
Moving abroad to teach English (my first job abroad) while my peers started their full-time careers at important banks, tech firms, etc felt A LOT like I was moving backward with my life and career.
I was making $18,000 USD in Beijing and some of my peers were making north of $100,000 in SF or NYC. Was I unknowingly wreaking havoc on my future?
The short answer is – no. I was setting myself up to be a slingshot. Let me explain.
Just like a slingshot, I decided to move backward with my professional life in order to build momentum, expand my international network, and improve my skill set. Over the last 8 years, I have worked in teaching, marketing, finance, emergency aid, and tech.
I gained loads of experience and finally settled on a career that made me feel fulfilled: tech. Once my career stabilized, my life catapulted forward in just 3 years to match and often surpass my peers in America!
I was also living in places with a much lower cost of living so I was able to pay off $10,000 USD in debt in just 8 months. I got married, I traveled to 50 countries, I build a life in the UK/Germany, and now I’m buying a house.
I am – by all accounts – a fully functional adult; I just built my life abroad.
You will never regret taking a chance on yourself and your dreams. Go for that job abroad while you’re young. You can always come home.
How Do You Start the Job Abroad Hunt?
Whether you’re abroad or living in your home country, the first step to finding a job abroad is to narrow down your search. You need to clarify:
- What region/country interests me most?
- What skills are people willing to pay me for?
- What careers sound interesting to me?
- How long do I want to be abroad?
- Who am I bringing with me?
Once you have a cohesive list to start with, you can start Googling about common jobs abroad that meet your criteria and tips about what to do next.
This could range from blog posts from people who have done something similar to job vacancies on expat forums. Get off of LinkedIn and start looking at city or company-specific vacancies.
For example, if you work in tech and you’re interested in working in Germany (like me!), you can Google ‘English, Jobs, Berlin’ and you’ll get a slew of recommendations for jobs that are open to English-speakers in Berlin (Indeed).
In order to make your resume/CV more competitive, I definitely recommend earning a few certifications on Coursera.
I used courses and certifications in Software Development to help me land the position I have today!
Build Your International Network
If you have zero experience with working internationally, you’re going to need to put in some elbow grease into finding a job abroad.
Companies and recruiters won’t want to waste their resources on talking to some ‘I was just curious’ candidate so you need to have (or build) a few meaningful professional qualities, such as:
- Joining international networking communities such as Internations, local Facebook groups like ‘Expats in London,’ or any other expat-related communities.
- Enrolling in formal language qualifications or language programs.
- Working on international projects or initiatives at work or for non-profits.
- Jumping on forums that focus on finding a job abroad in a specific country that you’re interested in.
Do whatever you need to do to demonstrate that you are committed to a more globalized way of life. Not only will this pop on your resume, but it’ll also legitimately build your network when you’re looking for a job abroad.
Before I moved to London from China, I focused on building relationships with British nationals in China and followed up with their friends in London.
I would often meet these at Crossfit or at bars around Beijing and then I’d casually bring up that I was looking for a job abroad in the UK. Expats are always happy to help because we know how difficult it is to find a job abroad.
Networking doesn’t always have to be so rigid.
Top Tips for Finding a Job Abroad
Let’s talk about application tips. While the way you express your past work experience, qualifications, and notable accomplishments are typically the same across borders, there are a few specific nuances I want to highlight when finding a job abroad.
There are a few potential pitfalls for you to be aware of:
- Localize the format of your CV/Resume so it’s in line with the local expectations. Germany prefers photos, the UK does not. Etc.
- If you don’t have a local address or phone number, your application might be excluded early on in the application process. Only use your email instead.
- If you need visa sponsorship, call attention to the matter after you’ve spoken to the hiring manager. If you highlight it to a recruiter or on your application immediately, you are more likely to be rejected without consideration.
- If you do have the legal right to work there, immediately highlight that on your written application. I put mine in my CV introductory paragraph (3 sentences max).
- The best way to secure a job abroad is to do a Master’s Degree in that country first. Read my masters degree abroad article here. There are often incentive programs and specialized visas for graduates to remain in the country after the completion of their program. The government doesn’t want to lose out on trained talent!
A good rule of thumb is to focus on large international companies that already have a history of sponsoring foreigners BUT I’ve seen startups sponsor specialized talent as well.
Check to see if the country you’re interested in has a list of companies that are already licensed to sponsor foreign talent (the UK has this!).
How to Find a Job Overseas Without a Degree
Wondering how to work abroad without a degree or how to get a job overseas without a degree?
Look – I’m not going to sugarcoat this. Finding a job abroad is already incredibly difficult. Not having a college degree nor any work experience is not going to help you in this process.
However, you can still apply for seasonal or service-based jobs! You just won’t be paid very much (or at all) and there likely won’t be a long-term visa sponsorship in it for you.
Some jobs abroad without a degree necessary include:
- Seasonal, service-based jobs: scuba instructors, ski instructors, ship/yacht staff, massage therapists, etc.
- Volunteering in exchange for Accommodation/Food: WOOFing, Trusted Housesitters, working/living at a hostel, organic farming staff, etc (fyi no money is allowed to be exchanged).
- Travel-related jobs: local guides, translators, ‘fixers’ (often has language requirements)
Pay special attention to the local visa laws and requirements and be suspicious of any company trying to get you to work in exchange for a formal salary on a traditional Tourist Visa.
This is likely illegal and you risk facing serious legal action and could potentially get DEPORTED/banned from that country.
Instead, keep an eye out for short-term work visa allowances or programs that exchange volunteer work for accommodation/food as the absence of money often lands you within the tourist visa limitations.
These are great for writers, editors, photographers, graphic designers, devs, and more. If you have a marketable skill that people want to pay for, you can make a lot of money remotely.
Another great option is housesitting. Trusted Housesitters is a site where you can stay at someone’s house while they are away in exchange for watching their house or sometimes their pet. It’s a great way to travel the world for free or stay somewhere for free while you’re figuring out your next move.
How to Get a Job Abroad Without Experience
Getting a job abroad without experience is also quite difficult, although not as difficult as finding an international job without a degree at all.
One of the largest sectors offering multiple job opportunities to those with no experience is Hospitality (and Tourism).
There are many different types of hospitality work you can do, but with no prior experience, you will most likely only be able to work in housekeeping, as a waiter, bartender, or chef de partie (if you are skilled in cooking) until you master the basics.
Those positions are usually quite simple to learn, and you will almost always receive some sort of quick training.
If you are looking for a seasonal job, many restaurants, bars, or even hotels will be happy to hire you, but keep in mind that you will need to follow the local visa laws and requirements as nobody will sponsor you a visa for this type of work.
Some people choose to work and get paid ‘under the table’, but I would strongly discourage you from doing it. In many countries, the police perform random checks and deport those who break the law.
The salary for hospitality work with no prior experience for the types of work mentioned above isn’t usually very high, and you may end up working 6 days a week, but you will often receive good tips and save some cash while having a taste of life in a new country.
If hospitality is your passion and you would like to pursue it as a career, I would recommend getting more experience in your home country (or countries where you can easily work legally) and then applying for jobs abroad for positions such as a restaurant or hotel manager, or a chef.
The demand for managers with relevant experience in the fast-paced international environment is massive and many employers are willing to sponsor a visa for the right candidate.
Good chefs, especially those who specialize in a particular type of cuisine, can also find great abroad (think of Italian chefs working in high-class restaurants in Bangkok or chefs skilled in French cuisine working in luxury establishments in Dubai).
If you don’t already have experience, taking courses and getting certifications can beef up your resume and make it look more experienced.
How to find a hospitality job depends largely on the type of work you are looking for. If you are only interested in seasonal work as a waiter, one of the best and fastest ways to find a job is by going to restaurants in person and speaking directly with restaurant owners or managers.
If you would like to apply for more skilled positions, you will most likely need to go through a recruitment process.
Be prepared to answer any questions about your experience, communication skills, product knowledge (food and beverage), cross-department management (hotels often look for managers who can shuffle between departments), staff training, or budgeting.
As a reminder, this is for informational and educational purposes. I am not a lawyer nor an immigration specialist so please do contact a licensed professional before making any serious legal decisions or financial investments.
Best countries to work without a degree
If you’re looking to move abroad without a degree, your choices are going to be limited unless you can get a sponsored work visa, or have some kind of family connection. Where you can work without a degree is going to depend a lot more on your experience.
If you have a trade qualification like a plumber, electrician, or chef, you’re going to be able to get a job and a visa much easier than someone straight out of high school with some weekend waitressing or retail experience.
If you want to teach English abroad, you don’t always need a degree depending on where you’re going – especially if you’re a native speaker. There are plenty of countries that offer programs where you either only need a TEFL certification, or you can earn one as training:
- Costa Rica
More countries are starting to bring in degree requirements for ESL teachers on top of native language status, just to lower application rates and make sure you have the organizational and timekeeping skills for the admin side of teaching abroad!
It’s less about the country requiring degrees for entry, and more about the individual business or economic trends. For instance, a lot of people in the UK have degrees, so many businesses have this in as criteria to apply for jobs.
So, if you don’t have considerable experience or work in an industry that’s more vocational than degree-based, you’ll want to look for businesses and job roles that don’t degrees, then find out where they’re based.
In-demand jobs abroad for Americans
If you’re an American looking for a job overseas and want to increase your chances, there are often lists of in-demand roles. For example, Australia and the UK have in-demand job lists that get fast-tracked through the visa process.
Roles normally include healthcare professionals, agricultural workers, scientists and academics, engineers, some specific marketing roles, and more.
If you’re not on your chosen country’s in-demand list, there are still roles that Americans might be uniquely suited for. Roles like:
All of these business-centric roles are great for Americans, especially if your prospective employer is looking to break into the US markets or improve its global reach. As you have a unique insider track, it makes you an even more valuable candidate.
Also, consider anything where being English-speaking or bilingual will be an advantage. If you want to work customer services at a resort that caters to Americans or other Western tourists, having an American on the desk might help smooth the waters, as there’s a shared cultural understanding.
It’s definitely something to think about.
Brush up on your language skills on Memrise so you can add them to your CV confidently!
Jobs abroad for British citizens
Honestly, the jobs abroad for British citizens are going to be much the same as the American ones due to an overlap in culture and perception. With the break from the EU, there aren’t as many opportunities for Brits to move and work overseas with ease, which is a shame.
Again, business-related roles are always in demand, as are language-related ones. Being taught British English rather than American English is still a point of difference if you’re teaching English overseas, especially if it’s for entrance into the UK University system.
This puts you in a unique position, and you can work this to your advantage.
As with Americans looking overseas, anything that can tie you to British culture, history, or the markets can be beneficial. You’ll notice that marketing departments of major businesses are multicultural, multilingual, and thriving.
That’s because they can hit and understand a lot more markets and garner a better reach for their employers. Your knowledge of your own culture is a massive selling point if you’re looking for work overseas – so use it!
Want Help with Your Move Abroad?
Three times a year I run LIVE workshops to help people transition their life abroad. You’ll go through my 5-week ‘Move Abroad’ Master Class independently and then we’ll meet at the end of the week to go over content, themes, and any specific questions you might have!
You can complete this class at any time throughout the year and then jump into the live classes whenever you’re ready.