Should I Use an Expat Recruiting Agency?

Expat Recruiting Agency

Expat recruiting agencies are often a first choice for many prospective expats. This is because new expats are usually not familiar with the expat recruitment process. Such applicants generally prefer a guided approach because it can be quite a daunting process trying to land that first expat gig.

Additionally, a quick search for popular expat locations in Asia, the Middle East, etc. often yield results replete with expat recruiting agencies at the top of the list. It doesn’t take long at all to encounter one of these companies in the course of your expat journey.

Expat recruiting agencies can and do serve a vital role in keeping the expat employment world revolving. They employers fill critical roles in a short period of time. They assist job-seekers in finding rewarding careers in the expat space. And, they bring a holistic awareness to the ins and outs of expat employment.

As with all things I like to approach everything from a balanced view. Making a decision to use an expat recruiting agency should be met with careful consideration. So let’s examine some pros and cons before I give my final verdict on the matter.

Pros of Using Expat Recruiting AGencies

Safety And Security

Working with an honest, reputable recruitment agency may save you a lot of time, headache, and stress when dealing with overseas employment. This is because you don’t have to worry about safety and security issues related to shady “employers”.

There are many suspect characters in the world of expat recruitment. Every job announcement is not what it appears to be. Keep in mind that anyone can post a job advert online if they have the money to do so.

In general, you will find such recruitment ads on shady classified ad listings. However, sometimes they may spring up on otherwise well-known and reputable job boards.

Short of visiting the country and employer yourself, the next best option to avoid recruitment schemes is through an expat recruitment agency. These agencies typically do a thorough investigation of employers to ensure the safety and security of job applicants.

Most reputable expat employment agencies have a long-standing relationship with the employers that they work with. They also have a comprehensive screening process when they intake new employers. The process generally involves a site visit, background check, licensure qualifications, and other measures to determine the legitimacy of the employer.

Access to Expat Employers

Expat recruiting agencies sometimes have access to job postings that are not available to the general public. Some expat employers exclusively use recruiting agencies, which means that that they have little to no direct contact with prospective job candidates. Other employers may only use recruitment agencies for specific jobs within their organization.

In other instances where employers recruit directly and use an employment agency, job applicants may still have some contact with the recruiting agencies during the hiring process. Therefore, using a recruiting agency is a way to get maximum exposure to the expat job market.

Free Guidance and Resources

Expat recruiting agencies are generally a powerhouse of guidance and resource accessibility. Recruiters tend to work with hundreds of employers and job applicants. So they are well aware of what employers are looking for in the ideal candidate.

They often spend time prepping and guiding qualified candidates about how to approach specific employers. Expat recruiting agencies also generally publish a great deal of employment advise to prospective candidates in the form of a blog and/or newsletter. They may also host information sessions or have other forums for educating job candidates.

All of these resources are typically free to job seekers. This is because their goal is to present highly qualified candidates to employers. Therefore, they often provide a host of resources to help you grow and succeed in the job search.

Cons OF USING EXPAT RECRUITING AGENCIES

Salary Negotiation

Recruiting agencies are paid a fee to procure talent for jobs. Sometimes their fees are taken from your negotiated pay and other times they are paid directly by the employer. Either way, you stand to get shortchanged in the salary department when going through a recruitment agency.

If employers pay a significant fee to the recruitment agency, they may offer job candidates less pay and/or fewer benefits to make up for the difference. This means that your potential earnings may be slightly or considerably less than that of a direct hire. Therefore, you do need to be weary of pay differences when you choose to use recruiter.

Employer Prioritization

Job seekers are not prioritized by expat recruiting agencies – the employer is the recruiter’s primary concern. Prospective candidates should never pay a fee to the recruitment agency because they are paid by the employer.

Because the employer often pays hefty fees to the agency, they get most of the recruiters attention and their loyalty. This means that no matter how talented you are, the employer’s needs and desires will always reign supreme.

Fraudulent Agencies

Just as there are shady “employers”, there are likewise fraudulent recruitment agencies in the expat space. Not all agents are what they appear to be. Some agencies may use less than scrupulous tactics in the hiring process such as:

  • Posting bogus recruitment ads
  • Illegally charging fees to applicant
  • Encouraging applicants to be dishonest
  • Making false promises related to pay or benefits

And the list goes on. Therefore, you should likewise be weary of recruitment agencies as you are of employers.

The Verdict

Expat recruitment agencies are a great option for prospective job seekers in the expat workspace. These agencies can provide you with assistance and guidance that may be of use to you for years to come. They can help you land the perfect expat job and start you on your way to a truly fulfilling expat journey.

You can likewise find the expat job of your dreams through other job search efforts. There is really no right or wrong way to seek out expat employment. The ultimate goal is to find the right job that suits your needs and desires.

In order to do so, you need to do your research no matter which direction you choose. As mentioned above, there are nuisances involved in either method you choose to use. The key is to ensure your safety and security while pursuing your passion.

4 Steps for Successfully Changing Careers

In today’s workforce, changing careers is virtually inevitable for the average person. Many people end up changing careers out of necessity because of the many technological, cultural, economic, geographical, and other forces that constantly shape our world.

Other people change careers out of desire. It is common for the average middle-aged person to have an urge to transition to a different career field. This is often because of the many changes that they have experienced throughout life.

Around mid-life the average person doesn’t have the same influences or mitigating factors that helped them to make their first career choice. Typically, these individuals are more financially stable and socially empowered to decide on the career path that they are truly passionate about.

If you are one of the many people considering changing careers either by choose or force, here are some steps you should take when making your career move.

Assess Your Career Aptitude

The average, traditional college student selects his or her career major based on financial or social influences. They usually select a career field in which they can easily find a job and earn a decent salary. Typically, they are heavily influenced by their parents or guardians and/or their peers.

When this happens, the average person doesn’t usually select a career based on their innate passion. They decide on what is convenient from a variety of aspects. They may go on to have a fulfilling and pleasurable career. However, they may not have made the best career choice according to their natural aptitude.

When changing careers, this is something that you should think critically about. Does your chosen career field align with your natural aptitude and desire? If not, you will probably be setting yourself up for disappointment.

There are a number of ways that you can assess your career aptitude. You can take a career aptitude test. There are many free and fee-based aptitude tests available online or through college career service centers. Such tests can give you a basic foundation in which direction to go in when selecting a suitable career path.

Another great way to dig deeper into your career aptitude is to work with a career or life coach. Working one-on-one with a coach can help you discover your passion and purpose on a deeper level. The right career coach can give you substantial feedback in an unbiased and professional manner.

Research Your Desired Career Sector

Once you decide on which career path you want to take, you need to do some research. You need to understand how the career field works and how you plan to navigate through the career path.

All careers aren’t created equal and all career paths aren’t for everyone. You may feel a burning desire to pursue a career that just isn’t a good fit for your age or your life path. You must consider your financial situation and responsibilities when changing careers.

Some career transitions may necessitate a pay cut, schedule change, etc. that may interrupt the flow of your life. These are things that you need to be aware of before moving forward.

Get the Proper Education and Training

When it comes to changing careers, you should never shortchange yourself when it comes to education and training. It may feel daunting or overwhelming to think about going back to school or completing an entry-level training program but it may be necessary.

In some cases you may be able to transition to a new career field without much time or effort. But the average person will spend about one to two years preparing for a career transition.

The good news is that it is not a long period of time in comparison to years of joy and fulfillment that you experience in your new career. Anything worth having is worth waiting and working for.

Redefine Your Personal Brand

Finally, you need to redefine your personal brand when changing careers. Most likely your career portfolio is solely based on your previous or current career. You will need to fine tune your career portfolio and your sense of self in order to access opportunities in your new profession.

In order to do this you will need to take inventory on how your past education and experience integrate with and complement your new skillset. In essence, you need to reinvent yourself. Not just on paper, but you need to reinvent your person.

Changing careers comes with new demands and requires a different way of relating to yourself and your work. Chances are you won’t be able to show up in the same way unless your new career is closely related to your previous or current one.

It is a good idea to work with a professional such as a career counselor or coach to help you redefine your personal brand.

How to Prepare for a Career Change

Career Changers

Changing careers can be a daunting task for someone who has spent 20 or more years in the same occupation. Admittedly, it takes a lot of courage and strength to leave your comfort zone and possibly even your paycheck to start a new career later in life. But the good news is that plenty of people have successfully achieved this accomplishment numerous times over.

A career change most likely will not occur over night but with proper planning and steadfast action it can be done. The ultimate goal is to get it done without trying to take shortcuts. And I know that this may sound frustrating to some who have already spent years obtaining their education and even longer honing their craft. But, it is not always easy or efficient to simply uproot your career without taking the proper steps.

I was faced with this same dilemma a few years ago when I decided to transition into coaching. I have over 17 years of experience as a health science educator. My bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees are all aligned with my previous career path. When I felt the need to venture out on my own and start my own business I did not want to spend a great deal of time studying or learning a new skill. But, I had to in order to be successful at what I currently do.

Though I had a number of years of experience in career coaching from my previous career, I knew very little about business or financial coaching. So I dug my heels in and started learning the necessary skills for becoming effective in these areas a well. It took me about two years of planning, preparation, and practice to get to a level where I felt confident in starting my own business as a coach. But, I did it and so can you if you follow these steps.

Start Your Education

In order to successfully transition into another career path you must become knowledgeable in the key skills that it takes to properly execute the new career path. This may be in the form of going to trade school, college, or university.

You must have a license or certification in order to legally practice in some professions. Even if you already have a terminal degree in your current profession, you may need to get another degree in order to enter a different career field. For instance, you may have a master’s degree in cyber security but you desire to become a registered nurse (RN). Even with a strong educational background in cyber security, you will still need to complete the appropriate amount of college credits and internship hours in nursing school in order to qualify to sit for the RN exam.

It typically won’t take you as long to complete another degree if you already have one. You may be able to complete a bachelor’s degree in two years or less if you already have a bachelor’s degree or higher in a different discipline. So the good news is is that you may not have to start from scratch.

However, it is not always necessary to get a formal education in order to become proficient or to legally practice in certain career fields. You may be able to take a few online courses, read some books, or study under a guru in order to efficiently transition into a different career path. For instance, you can make a lucrative career in web designing but it doesn’t require any formal training to start a career in this profession.

So your education should start with researching the requirements for entering into the career path that you choose to transition into. Thereafter, you will need to plot the best plan of action for accomplishing your education goals.

Complete an Internship or Apprenticeship

Gaining experience in a new career field is an invaluable asset for making a smooth transition. In many cases colleges and universities provide internship or apprenticeship experiences, which makes a strong case for getting a formal education in a career field. On the other hand, there are a number internship and/or apprenticeship opportunities for prospective career changers that are not linked to formal education programs.

If it is difficult to find such opportunities, volunteer experiences can also provide you with valuable experience in your chosen discipline. This can be in the form of volunteerism through established organizations or volunteer opportunities that you create on your own.

When I decided to transition into coaching I started off by volunteering my services to family, friends, and various organizations. I provided my coaching services to my family and friends without charging fees. I also spoke at various events related to my coaching areas. This gave me the chance to hone my skills and get some constructive feedback on how to improve.

Connect with a Career Coach

Another valuable asset in the career change process is a career coach. A career coach can point you in the right direction so that you can make the most efficient use of your time and resources. Such a professional can help you get through the challenging seasons of your career transition when you feel like giving up or when you start to feel stuck. A career coach can give you encouragement, support, and advice on may levels.

A career coach can also help you develop a stellar portfolio including industry-specific resumes and cover letters that can help get you noticed. Many career changers end up selling themselves short when they start their job search. They may play down their previous experience that is not related to the career they are transitioning into or they may not properly emphasize the new skills and traits that they have gained. This is why having someone with an objective eye is critical in the job search process.

A career coach can also help you prepare for important interviews or salary negotiations. Oftentimes career changers do not truly understand their value when they transition into a new career path. They sometimes ask for less than what they deserve because of their career path trajectory.

For instance, I have had clients who have transitioned from roles in retail management to roles that require a college degree. Oftentimes these clients feel that they should accept an entry level salary in their career field simply because they don’t have experience in the new profession. They fail to properly valuate their transferable skills in the transition so they aren’t confident enough to ask for what they truly deserve. That’s were I come in. I help them to assess their real value and prepare to them to negotiate like a pro.

Need more career coaching advice? Contact us for more assistance.

Tips for Planning a Successful Gap Year

I absolutely love the concept of a gap year. Though I didn’t take a gap year between high school and my undergraduate studies, I did have the opportunity to take a gap year before I started my doctoral studies. And, I am very grateful that I did. Taking time off provided me with the opportunity to think about and discover my true passion.

After I graduated from high school I went straight to university and then I started graduate school for my master’s degree once I completed my undergraduate studies. I changed my major several times throughout the course of my undergraduate and graduate career. I was a very focused student so I always got good grades, but I didn’t fully enjoy my studies because I was simply doing what I needed to do in order to pass my courses.

After completing my master’s degree my plan was to start my doctoral studies in the upcoming fall semester. However, I experienced some family issues that delayed my plans to start my doctorate degree at the conclusion of that summer. So, I decided to take a year off so that I could focus on my personal situation.

And I am very grateful that I did. After taking time off I had more time to self reflect and truly examine my career goals. Though I was working as a professor at the time I had never really thought about what direction I wanted my career to go in or how to achieve my long term career goals.

After taking a brief hiatus from my studies, I started my doctoral studies full force. I ended up changing my major after having the opportunity to travel to and live in Africa at the beginning of my gap year. I changed my major from information technology to public health and ended up completing my degree in four years.

When I re-started my studies I was truly focused on what I was learning. I no longer went through the motions just to get a good grade. I was wholeheartedly engaged in my educational experiences. I went over and above on almost every assignment because I wanted to know more about the subject that I was engaged in.

What is a Gap Year?

A gap year(s) is when a student takes a period of time away from his or her studies with the intention to continue studies at a later time. Gap years are usually intentional and are often taken between the transition from high school to college. However, a student may end up taking a gap year for a number of reasons including health concerns, personal/family emergencies, funding issues, mandatory military service, etc. Likewise, a student can take a gap year(s) in between undergraduate and graduate studies or during any other interval of their educational journey.

What is a Successful Gap Year

I define a successful gap year(s) as time spent defining and refining one’s career goals and objectives for maximum effectiveness. This means that when an individual enters or re-enters college or university they are focused and are able to efficiently achieve their career goals. Efficient goal achievement ultimately means that the individual is able to finish college in a timely manner and acquire effective career skills without taking too many twists and turns along the way.

What You Should Do During a Gap Year?

In order to have a successful gap year it is important to plan and execute your plan of action properly. An intentional gap year should be about exploration and adventure on many levels. It should not be an afterthought or just another year of doing mundane things. So in order for your gap year to be successful you should do the following:

Set Goals

If you have already made up in your mind to take a gap year then you should set solid and realistic goals about what you wish to accomplish during this time. Don’t let life just happen. Determine your purpose for taking a gap year and build your goals around that mission.

For instance, if you plan to discover your true career passion, make plans to explore different career paths that interest you. This could be in the form of doing internships or apprenticeships, interviewing professionals working in fields that interest you, or simply reading books and articles and watching videos about the career field. If you have a list of 2-3 more potential careers make a plan for exploring each career field over a given period of time.

Even if your purpose is simply to take a break from the educational environment for a while, make plans for that as well. Loafing around on the sofa for a year is probably not going to be helpful for you when you return to your studies. In fact, being apathetic during this time will probably cause you to change your mind about your studies altogether. So your break can and should be filled with exploration even if you don’t want to focus on your career during your gap year.

Travel

Traveling has traditionally been at the cornerstone of gap year experiences. In fact, this is what the average person thinks of when they hear the phrase gap year experience. While travel is not a mandatory part of a gap year, it is probably one of the effective ways to have a successful gap year experience.

Travel is an educator in and of itself. There is something about exploring new cultures and meeting people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds that has the ability to change you at your core. Travel experiences help you grow at a much faster pace than you normally would in your day-to-day life.

Gap year travel experiences don’t have to involve extensive international trips to Africa, Asia, or Europe but such destinations can certainly help broaden your perspective in tremendous ways. You can have a successful gap year experience by traveling within your state or throughout the U.S. as there are plenty of culturally diverse experiences to be had right here in the U.S. So whatever size your budget or your courage, you should make plans to travel at some point during your gap year.

Journal

Take time to journal your gap year experiences throughout the year. You can maintain a written or video journal in which you catalog your experiences and check in with yourself. A year can go by quickly and if you are not careful you can easily forget about some of the more transformative parts of your journey.

You can set a journaling schedule to make this process easier and more intuitive. You can also strategically plan journal categories to help you keep your thoughts more organized. You can even mix and match the type of journaling that you engage in. For instance, writing tends to be a more intimate process that allows you think deeply. But it can also be tedious and time consuming especially when you have a lot of thoughts to catalog.

So you can also create vlogs of your journey. This may be done to record your private innermost thoughts about something or it could be done to capture integral parts of your career exploration or travel experiences. There is no need to publish your vlogs to an online video sharing platform like YouTube, you can simply keep them stored away for your own personal use.

Journaling helps you self-reflect. You will obviously be self reflecting in the moment that you record your thoughts or experiences, but journaling is also a vital part of long-term self reflection processes. For instance, you can read your journal or watch your vlogs at the conclusion of your gap year experience to get a better sense of how you have changed and who you have become. This information will be instrumental to you as you continue your academic studies.

Need more career guidance? Contact us so we can help you.

What are the Best Countries for Expats?

Best expat countries

The other day I came across a video about the best places to live, work, or retire abroad. While this isn’t the first time that I have seen these types of lists or compilations, this video really caught my attention. I immediately started to think “is there a such thing?”.

I know that best locations exist for individual expats or retirees. However, is there truly such a thing as a best expat country for the average person? I started watching the video to determine what criteria was used to rank the countries that were on this list. Within the first few seconds the narrator indicated that the list was derived from data collected from an expat survey that’s conducted annually. I only watched enough of the video thereafter to see the top 3 ranked countries.

Afterwards I thought how misleading and misinformed these types of lists can be for the average person who is considering moving abroad. There are so many factors involved in choosing the right or “best” expat location for each individual. What appeals to one person may be the complete opposite for the next person.

Though I don’t feel that any harm was meant by the title or information presented in the video, I do think that prospective expats should focus more on what matters to them. Expats may be able to find their ideal country by exploring such lists. However, these oftentimes very short lists are in no way representative of the global population.

This is why I typically steer away from presenting the “best” type of anything posts. I even steer clear of these types of conversations during my coaching sessions. Instead, I help my clients focus on what’s important to them as an expat. I first have them complete a comprehensive expat profile survey so that I can gain a better understanding of their overall personality. Then, I have a 60 minute meeting with them so that we can discuss their survey results in more depth. Finally, I customize a list of expat countries that I feel are suitable to their needs and desires.

It is important to keep in mind that we are all individuals with different personalities that can and do shape what best meets our needs. Therefore, it is necessary to approach your expat journey with these objectives in mind. You should effectively “know thyself”. Take some inventory of your own likes and dislikes, and needs and desires. Then, focus on the countries that readily offer the things that are conductive to your wants and desires.

Need more help planning your expat journey? Contact us so that we can get you on the right track.

Should I Cut My Locs to Get a Job?

Locs and the Job Search

As a three-time loc wearer who recently cut my below-the-shoulder length locs in favor of an Afro, I have grappled with this question a number of times throughout my career. For me, my hair is more than something that sits on my head – it is statement of who I am. Yes, I have missed out on a few job opportunities because of my locs, but these situations did not deter my sense of self-determination none-the-less.

I know that I speak from a very privileged space as my educational background and experience have probably opened more doors for me than my hair has closed. Also, I worked in higher education when I first locked my hair. This is an occupational field that tends to embrace and promote culture and diversity more so than some other industries.

Likewise, I speak from a space of cultural-pride and strong familiar support. As an African American woman, I am very aware and proud of my cultural heritage. I also have very supportive immediate and extended family members who have always encouraged me throughout my natural hair and loc journey.

That being said, I know that everyone doesn’t have some of the same luxuries that I have had in terms of making a decision between my hairstyle and a prospective job. Conversely, I have heard many stories about individuals who had to cut or hide their locs in order to get and maintain employment. And I think that this is absolutely absurd and malicious on many levels.

But, the question is not about how I feel about the situation. The question is about what should be done when a job-seeker is presented with such a situation. And the answer is, “it depends”.

What Does Hair Mean to You?

Locs are generally ostracized in the workplace because they are deemed to be distracting. This is similar to someone wearing blue, purple, or orange hair color. Though, I disagree with this sentiment because locs are natural, cultural, and in some cases spiritual unlike these eccentric hair colors. Nevertheless if you conform to this viewpoint, you might want to consider cutting your locs in order to find gainful employment.

While many culturally-aware loc and other natural hair wearers tend to want to fight the cause, we have to keep in mind that locs are just a hairstyle for some people. Every loc-wearer of African heritage doesn’t have the same level of cultural or spiritual connection to their hair. In fact, a number of people opt for temporary loc extensions in order to experiment with the style rather than as a badge of cultural pride. In which case cutting your locs in exchange for gainful employment is okay once you are not violating your own principles.

On the other hand, if you value your locs as a significant part of your culture and heritage then you may want to continue to cultivate them. Not only will you be able to maintain your sense of cultural pride, you will also be able to maintain your dignity and integrity. If you opt to keep your hair in favor of oppressive and unjust employment practices, you win the game for both you and the next generation.

That is definitely what I choose do for the last 14 years of my career. It wasn’t always easy, but it was worth it. I am actually grateful for any job opportunities that I missed out on because of my locs. Because I feel as though I would have been miserable in such work spaces. I probably would have been perpetually exhausted trying to always prove my value and worth because of my hair and my heritage.

Likewise, I held onto my locs a little longer than I planned to because I wanted to cut them off about 4 months before I did this past April. When I felt that it was time to cut my locs off in January, the case about the student who was being forced to cut his locs in order to graduate from high school was brought to the forefront. At that point I decided to keep my locs a little longer as a statement of solidarity for him and other youths who may be experiencing similar situations.

Dreadlocks and the workforce

I wanted other young people to see that you can wear locs and be professional at the same time. Though I ultimately decided to cut my locs this past March for personal reasons, I still stand by my principles on matters such as this.

What are Your Economic Options?

One thing that you can always accuse me of being is a realist. While I have many ideas about the way the world should be, I also know that the majority of us live in a world that requires us to be gainfully employed in order to survive. Except when it comes to occupations that specifically employ or emphasize such principles, cultural pride and spirituality don’t usually pay the bills.

So sometimes you have to make hard decisions when it comes to your principles and values versus your livelihood. That’s not to say that you must compromise in order to live a fruitful, prosperous life because there are many options when it comes to economic stability.

Instead of a searching for integrity-compromising employment opportunities, you can start your own business. I know a number of loc wearers who did just that. They decided to start their own business rather than cut their hair to get a job. Most of them ended up being appreciative of lost employment opportunities because those situations forced them to find a more viable solution.

Another alternative is to seek employment in an industry or company that embraces cultural diversity. While more and more corporations are promoting cultural diversity within the workplace, some industries consistently embrace this concept on a broad scale.

Dreadlocks and the workforce

Here is a list of professions that may be more conducive for loc wearers:

  • Artistry
  • Writers
  • Fashion
  • Athletics
  • Education
  • Culinary art
  • Entertainment
  • Performing arts

As you see, loc wearers have options when it comes to their hair versus gainful employment. There is rarely a time when cutting your hair is the only choice that you have. Making the decision to keep your locs may require you to make some hard decisions like starting your own business or changing careers. The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to sacrifice your hair for finances.

Need additional career coaching assistance? Contact us so that we can help you.

10 Things to Consider When Choosing an Expat Country

Choosing an Expat Country

There are many things to think about when choosing an expat country. After living as an expat in three different countries there are many things that I wish I had considered before moving abroad. Although I tremendously enjoyed my experiences, I think very differently about moving abroad at this stage in my life. In fact, I have been diligently contemplating my next move overseas for quite some time now. Though I don’t plan to move right away I have started planning key aspects of my next expat journey.

Here are some things that I consider important when choosing an expat country:

Cost of Living

This is always at the top of my list. I like to live a comfortable life no matter where I am. So I choose destinations that will afford me the comfort level that I desire. It is important for me to move somewhere with a reasonable cost of living. I like having enough disposable income so that I can enjoy my leisure time.

Of course this is not the case for everybody. For some, the basics is more than enough as long as they are in their dream destination. And this is perfectly fine. But either way, cost of living is a very important factor in choosing an expat location. Cost of living impacts your overall quality of life in any given location. So you need to consider your budget and your living situation before heading to you expat destination.

As I have shared before in other posts, I lived in the Middle East for most of my time abroad. The cost of living in this part of the world is similar to that of areas like New York, California, and Hawaii. However, all of my accommodation and transportation expenses were covered by my employer. Thus, the cost of living did not adversely impact my standard of living. Therefore, I had more disposable income to enjoy my preferred standard of living.

Healthcare

If you have health issues that require special treatment or services you need to ensure that this is available in your desired expat country. If you are otherwise healthy and generally only need routine health screenings this concern is not as urgent. However, you should investigate the availability of preventative, acute, and emergency care services before you move abroad. Getting the right care when you need it can literally be a matter of life and death.

Health insurance is another factor, especially in high income countries where healthcare provision is absorbent. Employers generally cover such expenses for expats. However, you may need to supplement your policy so that you can access private care when needed.

Climate and Weather

Every time I think about this dynamic I recall a story about an African student who studied abroad in America. He was from West Africa where the climate is tropical and warm during most of the year. His study abroad trip was scheduled in December and his flight was set to arrive in Pennsylvania.

December is considered the dry season in his country of origin. The temperatures in that region are generally in the mid to high 70’s in December. So he packed his luggage and dressed accordingly. After arriving in Pennsylvania in shorts and a light jacket he encountered a very unpleasant surprise. He was cold, shivering, and did not have an appropriate change of clothes. Fortunately a stranger came to his rescue and gave him a jacket. Needless to say he learned a very important lesson that day.

Likewise, I tell this story so that prospective expats who have never traveled abroad can learn a valuable lesson. The climate and temperature is not the same all around the world. It is important to think about what type of weather you enjoy when choosing an expat country. You could be pleasantly surprised or deeply disappointed by the climate and weather in a given locale.

Religion

If you are religious you need to consider how you will practice your faith while living abroad. Some countries are more conducive to and/or tolerant of certain religious practices and belief systems than others. In general expat-heavy countries usually tolerate religious freedom among its expat population. But even in the most tolerant nations, there may not be many places for expats of diverse religions to worship.

Choosing the right expat country

For instance, the UAE is a Muslim nation full of mosques and other artifacts related to this religion. As an expat, you are free to adhere to any belief system as long as you don’t proselytize in the country. Even though people are free to practice whatever faith they believe in there are few places of worship dedicated to other faith systems such as Christianity or Hinduism. Usually practitioners of other belief systems congregate in malls, lounges, and other make-shift places of worship to conduct their religious services.

While you can practice your religion in some countries, you may not have easy access to a similar community of believers. Even more, it may be forbidden to practice your belief system in certain countries that don’t embrace religious tolerance. So you definitely need to do some research in this area if religion is important to you.

Entertainment

After the initial excitement of your move has worn off you are going to need a viable source of entertainment. Everyone is different so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to this issue. You may be fine with taking nature walks or going to the beach every weekend. Or, you may enjoy regular trips to the theater and performing arts shows. There are so many entertainment options that are suitable for different types of individuals.

So you need to think about what entertainment choices are important to you. You also need to research the types of entertainment that are available in the expat country. Depending on your purpose for moving abroad the availability of entertainment choices could make or break your expat experience.

Safety

This consideration if self-explanatory. Understanding safety elements in a given location is vital to your overall well-being. This is especially the case for solo female travelers. In general, international employers will ensure that their expat employees live and work in a safe area. However, they generally don’t control your comings and goings outside of work hours. Therefore, you need to be aware of the general dangers common in the locale.

Transportation

Transportation is a major factor when moving abroad. In some countries you won’t be able to buy, lease, rent, or drive a vehicle as a foreigner. In other areas public transportation may not be easily accessible so you. Either way you need to think about the cost and availability of transportation options when moving abroad.

During my various expat journeys my family and I had a driver everywhere we lived. However, we also had our own vehicle so I drove myself around on occasion. While I enjoyed having a driver I also like the freedom and independence that comes with the ability to drive.

Communication

Chances are when you first move abroad you are going to want to communicate with your loved ones back home. Unless you are using a free calling app your phone bill can get quite expensive. So you definitely need to factor in the cost of communicating with loved ones abroad.

While calling apps are viable options in some regions, they are not in other areas. Some countries block calling apps. Other countries have such poor internet connectivity that it is difficult to rely on calling apps.

Another important facet of international communication is time zone differences. Your family and friends may be 8 hours or more behind the time that you are on. This means that you will have to plan your phone calls very carefully.

Family

If you are moving with family members then you definitely need to consider their needs and desires when selecting an expat country. They may have preferences on the type of terrain, climate, weather, entertainment choices, etc. that they like as well. Choosing a destination that you all agree on will make the journey more enjoyable.

If you are traveling with children you need to plan for their education. You need to consider which options are available to them, especially in the early phases of the move. It is not uncommon for new expats families to have trouble getting their children enrolled in school at first. This is especially the case for those who arrive within a couple of weeks prior to the start of school. It can also be complicated for those who arrive in the middle of a school term.

Also if you are travelling with family you need to determine if your employer will pay for their relocation expenses. Some expat employers pay for round trip plane tickets for you and your family members to arrive in the country. They also give you annual round trip tickets (or cash in lieu) to travel back home every year. This is a great perk as it makes travel less expensive for your entire family.

On the other hand, there are some employers who only pay for employee travel. Even worse, some don’t reimburse for transportation to and from the country at all. This can make your journey a lot more expensive. So do your research to determine if moving to a specific country is a viable option for your family.

Proximity to Home

The last consideration that I want to share is the destination’s proximity to your home base. This may or may not present a problem for you. Some people desire to be closer to home so that they can have easier access to their sick or elderly loved ones. This way if they have to make an emergency trip it won’t take too long or be too costly. Other people want to be as far away from their home base as possible for a number of reasons.

Need more help planning your expat journey? Contact us so that we can assist you.

The Reality of Working Virtually

Reality of working virtually

An overwhelmingly remote workforce has become part of our everyday reality. As such, many people have come to understand what it truly means to work virtually or remotely. Yet, quite a few envious onlookers waiting for a chance to nab the first beach corner are still not aware of what it really means to work virtually.

Being able to work remotely is an excellent job perk. This type of work environment allows employees to stay home and care for loved ones or travel the world. But the reality is that working from home is certainly not a day at the beach (at least not for the average worker).

Instead working from home requires hard work, dedication, focus, and excellent time-management skills. These traits are not inherent in every worker. This means that everyone won’t be as effective in a virtual work environment regardless of the benefits that can be derived from working in such a setting. Therefore, if you are considering working remotely take a look at some of the pros and cons of virtual work environments below before you commit to such a work environment.

Advantages of Virtual Work Environments

Flexible hours

Many virtual working situations come with the added benefit of scheduling flexibility. While workers are still required to maintain a set amount of hours, they sometimes have the ability to work during variable hours of the day. The is an excellent benefit for individuals who have other obligations that they may have to tend to during regular business hours.

Location Independence

Oftentimes working virtually comes with location independence. This means that you aren’t tied to a specific geographical location when it comes to fulfilling your work duties. You can work from home, which can be down the street, across the country, or on the other side of the world. This gives employees the freedom to travel whenever they desire.

Increased productivity

Many employees have reported that they are more productive when they work virtually. They don’t have to deal with the constant interruptions or distractions that are inherent in many workplace environments. They can also work the way they want to work, which means that they can plug in their earphones or blast their music in the background.

Virtual employees don’t have to change locations to attend meetings and they can take breaks at times that are convenient for them. They also don’t have to spend hours driving to and from work each day. This means that they can get more work done and often the quality of their work improves because of these factors.

Financial Savings

Not having to drive back and forth to work also has other benefits which includes saving money on transportation costs. Virtual workers don’t have to spend as much money on gas, vehicle maintenance, public transportation fare, etc. for work-related purposes. Virtual employees can also save on their wardrobe budget, laundry and dry cleaning, dining out (lunch), etc.

Disadvantages of Virtual Work Environments

Work-Life Balance Challenges

Working virtually also comes with its share of challenges. When you work virtually your office is in your home, which means that there is no true separation from home and work. Even if you have a dedicated office in your home, work is literally only a few feet away from your home life.

This can be daunting for workaholics who find it hard to separate themselves from their work. Or, it can simply be unnerving for individuals who prefer a solid division between their work and home life. It’s very easy to find yourself putting the last touches on that project in the midnight hour or responding to emails three hours after you have officially completed your workday. If you find that you are overworking yourself you can easily experience burnout.

Time Management Difficulties

On the opposite end, individuals with poor time management skills can find that working from home is quite challenging. If you are a procrastinator or have challenges working independently, you may quickly find yourself in the unemployment line when you work virtually. You must have sound time management skills in order to be able to successfully work in a virtual environment, otherwise you may not be an ideal candidate to work in this type of setting.

Communication Issues

While technology is great and has many benefits, it is also subject to error. Virtual meetings are the norm in virtual work environments but they can be easily stalled or completely interrupted when technology issues ensue.

Also, miscommunication can easily occur with written communication which is also the norm in the virtual work environment. Most work environments rely on email communication to a heavy degree in today’s workforce. This reliance is doubled or tripled in some cases when it comes to working remotely. As such, email messages can be easily misinterpreted causing conflict or complications among employees.

Another challenge with email communication is that it can get overwhelming. As previously stated, email communication tends to be overused or excessive in virtual work environments. This means that many emails may go unread or half read if they consume too much of an employee’s day.

Lack of Community

The workplace presents a great opportunity to meet and interact with people throughout the day. When you work from home you usually only interact with your colleagues on an ad hoc basis. In which case the majority of your day is spent in isolation unless you have a public facing job that requires you to interact with internal and/or external customers on a regular basis.

Even then, these tend to be one-off situations that don’t satisfy an individual’s need for lasting, meaningful relationships. Thus, working from home can led to isolation and loneliness especially for introverted individuals who already find it difficult to make meaningful social connections.

Summary

So there you have it. Working virtually, similar to other work settings, has both pros and cons. Some individuals easily thrive in remote work environments while others may not be as successful. Either way is not an indication of who you are as a person. It is simply a matter of your personal preference and aptitude.

Need more help navigating your career options? Contact us and we will gladly assist you.