A guest post by Katherine HackettWhen thinking about starting a career abroad, the first thing to think about is whether living abroad is right for you. Do you have the skills necessary to adapt to another culture? Are you open to new challenges? Can you live without your favorite U.S. amenities, food and friends? If so, here are some tips on how to start an international career.
If you have lots of experience…
Whether you’re looking for a PR role in Shanghai or a bar job in Brazil, having lots of experience in your home country is important. Many people land international work by working for a large company, so if your company has offices overseas, make sure your bosses know that you’re keen for an international move if one comes up!
Before you start applying, research job postings carefully. It’s all well and good having 10 years of HR experience and glowing references, but if the job requires fluent Cantonese (and you only speak English) you’ll be wasting your time applying.
If you don’t have much experience…
If you don’t have a great deal of work experience, or are fresh out of University, a great way to get international work is by Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). TEFL teachers mostly need a degree but don’t need to have any teaching specific qualifications. They also don’t have to speak the country’s language; they are being hired for their English ability after all.
Opportunities for teaching abroad are available worldwide, but you’ll find that most jobs are in Asia, Europe and South America; where you look really depends on what you want from a position. It’s also important to consider whether you’re the type of person that will make a good TEFL teacher. You’ll need to be ready to live in and adapt to a foreign country – and you’ll also need patience by the bucket load. Most contracts last for around a year, but in Europe you can often find shorter term work.
Here’s a quick overview of the most popular options and what you can earn.
Europe – A fairly easy adjustment for most Westerners, Europe offers cultural experiences and, for many Americans, also a sense of familiarity. The strongest job markets here are Spain, Italy and Poland. Many people start work here by taking on a paid summer camp position.
Asia – A long-time favorite for expats. Salaries, like everything else in Asia, vary widely. You could work in a kindergarten in rural Thailand earning $1000 dollars a month, or in downtown Tokyo earning $3500. The most important thing to remember when considering salaries is that cost of living also varies widely. Research carefully before you choose a job based on pay.
South America – Really popular with TEFL teachers looking to live off the beaten track. Salaries in this part of the world are quite low, so if you want to live your life with some Western comforts, you’ll probably need to supplement your income with private tutoring work.
If you have always dreamed of traveling abroad, but wondered how you could accomplish it on your salary or work schedule, working overseas may be a great way to get the best of both worlds.
Kat is a former TEFL teacher in Korea who now works for i-to-i . When she’s not spending her time cooking up Korean food, you can usually find her with her nose in a travel guide!