7 Tips for Savvy Solo Female Expats

Working as an expat is a great way to safely explore the world, especially for solo female expats. This can be the ultimate dream come true for the average, adventurous female. The expat lifestyle provides many opportunities for growth and development. At the same time, solo female expats must be savvy when they live abroad in order to avoid common dangers and pitfalls associated with this lifestyle.

I have encountered many excited prospective solo female expats who were ready for flight, yet they weren’t properly prepared for what they might encounter. As such, I am sharing some helpful tips in this post to help solo females better navigate within expat spaces.

1. Choose the Right Destination

Undoubtedly expat destinations are plentiful and replete with amazing opportunities. There are virtually no limits to where solo females can live and work if they have the right skills and credentials for the job market in a given area. However, that doesn’t mean that every place is safe for solo females to live.

When traveling alone, females are automatic targets in some countries where concepts like the “independent woman” idiom are still taboo. This means that females may find themselves in uncomfortable and dangerous situations at times. That being said, there are likewise plenty of locations where solo female expats are not only accepted, but are likewise respected and welcomed.

This ultimately means that if you are considering working abroad as a solo female, you need to do your homework. Take time to research the location that you are interested in to determine if it is a safe place in general and if it is an amicable location for solo females.

Your research should include reviewing crime and peace indices and other databases that can give you a non-biased indication of how safe an area is. Likewise, read articles and watch videos published by other expats living in the country. Particularly, consult resources published by females who are living on their own in the region.

If possible, reach out to a few expats living in the country to get their input on the day-to-day life in the country. Ask questions about safety and security. Also, ask about the cultural dynamics of females traveling and living alone in the country. Such information can prove to be very helpful in helping you select the right expat destination.

2. Be Prepared

When living abroad, preparation is always vital. You need to have all the tools, resources, and information in order to make the most out of your stay. Ensuring your safety and security as a solo female expat is no different.

When moving abroad for the first time, be sure to have enough money and all necessary documents with you. Even though you are traveling to obtain a job, you should always have enough finances available to you in the event that you have delays or difficulties with getting paid from your employer. Anything could happen that could leave you in a desperate situation.

Travel documents and money

You should likewise travel with the appropriate documentation to avoid issues with visa clearances and the like. If you don’t have the right documentation you could also face issues with securing living accommodations, getting phone service, renting a vehicle, etc. Not only can such issues spoil your journey, they can also put in you precarious situations.

3. Trust Your Intuition

As an empath, I always encourage others to trust their intuition. Oftentimes your gut will tell you when something is amiss. Listen to that small, still voice. It could save you a great deal of trouble in the long run.

If something doesn’t feel right, then it is probably not right for you. An uneasy feeling is often a telltale sign that you should take a deeper look into a situation. Don’t ignore what your gut is telling you.

I have talked to and heard stories from a number of female expats who have had intuitive insight about potentially dangerous situations. Some of them listened to their intuition, others didn’t. Usually when they didn’t they ended up encountering serious and dangerous situations. In which case, some were raped, robbed, beaten, or otherwise abused in some manner.

4. Regularly Connect with Loved Ones

Stay in communication with your loved ones on a regular basis. If you are known for checking in with your family and friends on a frequent basis, they will automatically know that something is amiss if you deviate from your normal schedule.

So if you maintain consistent contact with a few people, you will have someone who will be on alert if something happens to you. They can contact the appropriate authorities in the event that you get sick, injured, or otherwise become incapacitated. Also, if necessary they can contact the police if you are missing in action.

Likewise, staying in contact with loved ones can give you the emotional support that you need to stay afloat. I have spoken about loneliness as being a disadvantage of living abroad in a previous post. This is something that can or break your stay in a foreign country. So staying connected can be beneficial to both your physical and emotional well-being.

5. Build a Strong Network

Similar to staying in contact with loved ones, creating a network in your expat country can prove beneficial. You will likewise have people looking out for you in the event that something happens.

Typically, your colleagues will know that something is awry if you don’t show up for or report to work. This hedge will cover you during your typical workweek in certain instances, particularly if you are around the same individuals on a consistent basis.

However, if you tend to work in isolation you will definitely need to be more active in establishing a strong network. Likewise, you will want someone to look out for you on the weekends and during break periods.

6. Don’t Make Yourself a Target

Always avoid looking like a tourist or a newbie when traveling abroad. Doing so can easily make you a target for people looking to take advantage of you. So, try to avoid doing the following when living as a solo female expat:

solo female expat
  • Going out alone at night
  • Flashing money or other valuables in public
  • Giving handouts to children or beggars
  • Carrying large sums of cash
  • Walking in dark alleys or roadways
  • Drinking too much alcohol in public
  • Wearing provocative clothing or heavy make-up

Undoubtedly some of things can’t be avoided at all times, such as going out alone at night. The ultimate goal is to take as much precaution as possible. Even when you find that you can’t avoid certain activities that may put you harm’s way, exercise caution and wisdom.

7. Don’t Trust Everyone

Everyone is not going to look out for your best interest regardless of your location. So you have to keep in mind that you can’t trust everyone. Take your time to get to know people before inviting them into your personal space.

Don’t invite strangers or people you barely know into your living quarters. Don’t give out your home or work address to too many people. Likewise, be cautious about spending time with people in private spaces or closed environments. This includes both male and female friends and business professionals.

This is one of the most common mistakes that I see solo female expats make. Female friends and business professionals often appear non-threatening. However, such individuals can be just as dangerous as anyone else. Sometimes such individuals prey on women who live alone because they know that they are easy targets. And they know that women living alone are more apt to trust them inside their personal spaces.

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.

Should I Continue to Prepare to Teach Abroad in the Midst of COVID?

Teaching abroad

I received this message from one of my career coaching clients the other day:

As you already know I have my CV and cover letter prepared to apply for a few positions in S. Korea. However, I was about to start the apostille process last month before this coronavirus situation. I was planning to do the process myself since I had plenty of time to finish it by the application deadline.

However, I go [sic] off track when I started preparing to teach remotely at my current school. I still want to teach abroad if it is a possibility any time son [sic]. Do you think I should continue to prepare to teach abroad in the midst of COVID? I don’t want to waste my time or money if I can’t get a teaching position in S. Korea.

My short answer to this question is “yes”. If you are preparing to teach abroad and this is still your desire even in the midst of this situation, you should continue to prepare for the process. There is a strong likelihood that travel restrictions may not allow expat teachers to begin positions in the upcoming fall term.

However, once the global economy is reopened a large number of expat teachers will be needed to start around January 2021. Chances are schools will be hiring more than double the usual amount of expat teachers during this time. As such, if you meet all other qualifications and have your paperwork ready to go you will have a better chance of getting hired.

Preparing for an expat journey generally requires a bit of groundwork in terms of obtaining passports, visas, and official documents. There is also an additional step that requires expats to get certain documents authenticated by institutional, regional, and national authorities. This process can take some time even in the regular course of business. However, there are currently significant delays in many government processes that could delay this process even further. So my advice is to start or continue the process now.

Working and living abroad also requires a certain level of mental and emotional preparedness. This aspect of preparedness is amplified by the current situation. You really need to consider the many possibilities that may be involved in an international move post COVID-19. You need to prepare yourself and your loved ones (those travelling with you and those staying behind) for the impact of this virus on the economic, social, and political climate in other parts of the world.

Chances are you are going to get a great deal of resistance from your family and friends about moving abroad now more than ever. You will need to have the mental fortitude to press forward if you truly desire to teach abroad in the coming months or years. So you need to properly prepare yourself for this aspect of your journey as well.

One last piece of advice I have is to not quit your current job. If you are among those who were blessed to maintain your current job and income during this crisis try to stick it out as long as possible. There is already a high level of uncertainty right now – adding additional challenges to the situation is not in your best interest.

Effective Cover Letter Writing for Expat Job Opportunities

Like resumes, writing cover letters for expats job posts is not completely different from cover letter writing for domestic positions. However, the process is not the exact same either. This is why you need to be mindful of what you include in your cover letter as it could be a critical factor in getting a job offer.

Discuss Your Relocation Strategy

The first element of the cover letter is the introduction. In this section job applicants typically introduce themselves to the employer outlining their qualifications, what position they are applying for, and how they heard about the position and/or the organization. This standard information should be included in expat cover letters as well.

Additionally, prospective expat employees should go a step further and discuss their relocation strategy. This section should include the where, why, and when you anticipate moving abroad. You should let the employer know what regions you are seeking employment in so that they have a general idea of the type of country you wish to live in. This may seem obvious because you are applying to work in that country, but it is not.

I, like many other expats, was very open to working in various regions of the world when I first started my expat journey. I was wet behind the ears and didn’t know the difference between living in Brazil or Saudi Arabia. I knew that they were on the opposite end of the globe and that one was a religious country. But, I truly didn’t understand the discrepancies in the immigration process or living conditions prior to my overseas journeys. All I knew is that I was ready to move abroad.

While I am now thoroughly educated about the differences in various expat locations, I am still quite open to calling many areas of the world home. I have met dozens of expats that share the same sentiment. Thus, as a previous expat hiring manager I am fully aware that every country is not the right fit for every expat. So I was highly appreciative when prospective expats outlined the regions of the world they were most interested in working in.

Even more, I was extremely grateful when they explained why they wanted to live in these locations. Some had familiar or cultural ties to the regions, some liked tropical weather or desert terrain, some had previously visited the locations, some were adventure seekers, and the list goes on. Whatever your reasons are for wanting to work abroad, you should spell them out in your cover letter in a positive and diplomatic manner.

It is also helpful to provide a general timeline of when you can or wish to move. This information is very important to expat employers, especially if you have a restricted schedule. Most employers expect that you will need or want to adhere to your current employer’s notification period. However, notification periods vary greatly and some may not be conducive to the employer’s needs. While this question may be presented in an interview process later on, it could save you and the employer a great deal of time if you spell this out in your cover letter.

Your relocation strategy is important in conveying to employers that you have truly thought carefully about moving abroad. It let’s them know that you didn’t just wake up that morning with an epiphany that you need to roam the world in order to find yourself. As I mentioned before in a previous post, international employers are looking to hire stable expats who will stay the course. Turnover is typically 3-5 times more expensive for employers who hire expats than those who hire local workers. So employers who frequently hire expats try to avoid flighty employees as much as possible.

Detail Your Experience

An expat cover letter is similar to any other cover letter in this regard. Cover letter writing is about expressing the depth of your knowledge, skills, and abilities in greater detail. It is not meant to be a summary of your resume. Instead, it is meant to be a platform where you can showcase your portfolio by explaining the what, when, where, who, and how of your experience.

For instance, if you are a teacher you can and should use your cover letter to detail innovative pedagogy that you have implemented and the respective outcomes. You should give a brief explanation of the pedagogy if it is not widely known or used in the country in which you are seeking employment. Express when and how you implemented the approach and a give a few details about the student demographics (grade, age range, sex, etc.). Finally detail the results of the techniques that you used. This will give more clarity about your skill sets and the unique skills that you can bring to the organization.

Convey Cultural Relevance

You should also try to convey how your experiences and credentials are culturally relevant to the region in which you are seeking employment. If the employer is seeking candidates to teach or otherwise incorporate components of the English language in their organization, you should expound on your ability to do just that.

If the organization is looking for someone who can easily adapt to knowledge and processes of the culture in the expat country, you should display how you can transfer your skills to be culturally viable in the country. The ultimate goal is to show that you understand that you may have to adapt to meet the demands of living in a different country.

Exercise Humility

By some cultural standards around the world, Americans are considered haughty in our job seeking approach (and in other regards). What we deem as “selling ourselves” is often interpreted as bragging in other parts of the world. We are taught to focus on how our strengths and accomplishments are an asset to the organization in the cover letter writing process. However, in some regions of the world it is better to not focus on yourself and instead focus on what you can do for the organization in a not-so-self-centered way.

You are in essence still relaying what you have to offer to the organization but with an emphasis on how the company can enhance and benefit from your skill set. It is important to focus on the company’s strengths and humbly indicate how you can be an asset to the organization. This is opposite of the American way of focusing on the candidate’s strengths in a way that indicates that the company should be grateful to have them as a prospective candidate for the position.

Let’s say that you are a flight attendant applying to work for an international airline that just won an award for being the best global brand in the industry for the past three years in a row. If the culture of the country tends to be more humble, it will behoove you to focus on the airline’s accomplishments rather than your own when drafting your cover letter. You may want to shape your cover letter to include something similar to the following language:

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to apply to work for an organization that has won best global airline brand for the past three consecutive years. This is a major feet in the airline industry and I am sure that your employees are proud to work for such a innovative and forward-thinking air carrier. I would likewise be grateful and very humbled if I could utilize the skills that I have learned working as an flight attendant over the past five years to contribute to the continuous growth and development of your airline.

In this example, the writer prioritizes the airline’s accomplishments and shows how the accolades can benefit prospective employees instead of the other way around. However, the writer also indicates her experience as a flight attendant without shining the spotlight on herself. Once she has established the proper rapport, she can continuously and humbly inject her knowledge, skills, and abilities in the cover letter.

It is important to be mindful of the culture in which you are interacting with to determine the level of humility you should use in the cover letter writing process. As with other aspects of expat job seeking, the culture of the land will play a big role in how you approach the overall process. As I have said time and time again, you must do your research to determine what is appropriate for the region which you are seeking expat employment.

Still need more ideas on how to craft your expat cover letter? Contact us so that we can help guide you in the right direction.

Effective Resume Writing for Expat Job Opportunities

Effective Resume Writing for Expat Jobs

Thinking about working abroad, but don’t know what to put on your resume or how to format it properly? Don’t worry because you are in good company. Most prospective first-time expat are in the dark when it comes to writing an effective resume or curriculum vitae that will get them noticed and ultimately get them an offer letter.

I felt the same way before my first expat experience. I remember scavenging the internet for tips, suggestions, and examples of expat resumes to get insight on how to write a job-getting CV. I learned a great deal from watching videos, reading blog posts, and even reaching out to some people in the expat community. Fortunately, my efforts paid off.

I have learned a lot since then, especially through having the opportunity to serve on hiring committees whose main goal was to recruit expat workers. So I decided to share a few tricks of trade for those who are interested in writing an effective resume to land an expat position.

Clarity and Breadth

The first thing I recommend is ensuring that your resume or CV is clear. The hiring organization or hiring manager should not have to guess what type of job did, where you worked, or how long you worked there. This should go without saying because this is a general rule for resume writing. However, it becomes even more important when you are trying to capture the attention of someone who may not have any experience or knowledge of how things work in your home country.

Don’t assume that just because you put that you were a teacher in your home country that the hiring manager understands what your job entailed. Yes, the basic foundation of teaching is generally applicable worldwide. However, there are many different teaching curricula and different types of teacher qualifications even within the same country. Therefore, it is best for you to spell this out clearly on your resume or CV.

For instance, all of your experience may be in the U.S. so you assume that the hiring manager knows that your experience is in American-style teaching curriculum. However, there are international schools in the U.S. and the names of the schools are not always indicative of the type of curricula that is taught in the school. Therefore, it is incumbent upon you to note what type of curriculum you have experience with in order to advance your chances of being hiring.

Another important factor is breadth of information. You need to include additional information about where you worked or gained your education and credentials on your resume. It is very important to include the country information on your CV even if all of your education and experience is from the same country.

Everyone is not familiar with the cities and states in your home country – this includes the U.S. Thus, stating you worked in Omaha, Nebraska doesn’t tell a hiring manager from Victoria, Seychelles much about your international experience even if you list your nationality as American on your resume. Including country information gives the employer context in relation to your level of international experience.

The same guidelines apply to outlining your job duties. Potential expats usually need to add depth to this section as to give the employer a more comprehensive understanding of their knowledge, skills, and abilities. I typically suggest job candidates include about 3-5 bullet points under each job, especially if they work in a generalist role. However, I usually suggest that international job seekers include about 8-10 job duties and tasks that provide substantial context and detail.

Few hiring managers or committees are going to take the effort to interview you if the information you provide on your resume is not clear or detailed enough. It is not uncommon for hiring managers to receive hundreds of applications for one post seeking multiple candidates. So the resumes that are clear and have depth of information will usually get shortlisted first.

Demographic Details

International employers may also ask for more demographic details about prospective candidates than what is typical or legal to ask for in some countries. This is inclusive of a candidate’s age, date of birth, marital status, religion, etc. It is common practice to ask for this type of information in some expat countries.

Asking for such demographic data is not illegal in every country. Therefore, you need to be prepared to provide this information if you are vying to get an expat job offer in certain regions of the world. Failure to provide such details may disqualify you for the role. So think twice about neglecting to provide it on your resume or skipping these questions on a job application.

International Experience

Another important aspect of an expat resume is the inclusion of any international experience that may have been gained in the past. This is not necessarily exclusive to paid positions that you have held in other countries. It could be study or volunteer abroad activities that you performed in the past. Oftentimes evidence of immersive experiences abroad (excluding vacations) are a plus on expat resumes.

International employers who frequently hire expats like to see that prospective expats have substantive international exposure, though this is not a requirement for the average expat position. As I mentioned in my previous post, expat employers want to ensure that you are not going to bail as soon as you experience a little conflict or trivial difficulties. Someone with a proven track record of satisfying the components involved in working, studying, and/or volunteering abroad is usually an asset to an expat employer.

So if you have immersive international exposure, you should include it on your resume or CV. Doing so will most likely increase your chances of securing an expat position.

However, there is a caveat to this general guideline. Some international employers do not accept expat workers who have lived in or visited certain countries that are dealing with civil unrest or countries whose residents are banned from entering the nation. This caveat can be a bit tricky so you will definitely need to do your research before providing all work, study, and volunteer abroad experiences on your resume.

This can easily be done by conducting an internet search to determine the allies and enemies of your expat country of choice. If a nation that you have worked, studied, or volunteered in is on their enemy list I suggest leaving that experience off of your resume. The same applies to countries that are experiencing major civil unrest that could be a threat to the expat nation in which you to work in.

Not having immersive international experience doesn’t necessarily exclude you from being a viable expat candidate. So don’t feel that you are out of the game if you don’t have international exposure and are seeking expat employment. Though I will suggest that you try to gain international exposure by either studying or volunteering abroad. These are great ways to “get your feet wet”.

Not only will such opportunities possibly enhance your chances of securing expat employment opportunities, they will also give you a chance to test the waters. Such experiences give you the chance to see if living abroad is really for you before you embark on a more extensive journey that could involve uprooting your entire life.

Are you stuck trying to figure out what to include on your expat resume or CV? Contact us so that we can assist you in writing an effective, expat job-winning opportunity!

4 Disadvantages of Working Abroad

While there are many benefits to working abroad, there are likewise some disadvantages to making such a career move. I thoroughly enjoyed my experiences living and working abroad but there were likewise some aspects of the process that were a little more complicated. I say complicated as I truly don’t consider them to be completely disadvantageous because of the lessons that I learned while living and working abroad. However, I do feel that it is incumbent upon me to present a balanced picture of what living abroad can entail.

With that being said, here is a list of some of the main disadvantages that I and other expats have experienced while working abroad.

Being Homesick and Lonely

Being homesick comes with the territory of being out of your comfort zone in relation to living abroad. You will most likely miss your family and friends if you had close connections to them in your home country. This is inevitable and generally can not be avoided. There are tools and resources that you can use to stay in touch like video calls, email, letters, and the like, but there is nothing like being in the presence of the people that you love and care for.

I emphasize this point because it is often the number one factor that causes people to give up, pack their bags, and go back home. A number of work abroad adventures are short-lived because people start to get lonely for their family and familiar surroundings. However, those who stick it out usually enjoy a very fruitful and adventurous expatriate life.

I experienced a degree of homesickness when I first moved to Africa. It wasn’t so much for my family and friends (though I missed them) – it was primarily for my local cuisine. I was very fortunate to move with my husband and two children during all of my expatriate journeys. So I had constant companions.

About two years prior to moving abroad, we had moved from my home state of Georgia and my husband had been living out of his home state for more than 10 years. So we were already used to communicating with our extended family and long-time friends via phone, text, and email (this was before video calling was so proliferative). Not being around them was not that big of a deal for us though we did miss the face-to-face interaction from time to time.

However, after the honeymoon phase of our first living abroad experience which lasted about three months in West Africa, we were overdue for some American cuisine. The food options were very limited in the country that we were in, which was very different from the areas that we had lived in in America. We were so used to endless food variety that we did not realize how spoiled and privileged we were in regards to food choice and food security.

Fortunately we got through this phase after a few months and became accustomed to satiating our cravings for American-style food variety by eating at the local Lebanese, India, Asian, and American-inspired restaurants on a bi-weekly basis. Keep in mind that these options were very limited. We also had the maid try her hand at American-style cuisine from time to time. Though this was difficult because the ingredients weren’t always readily available and they were heavily overpriced when they were in stock at the nearby international markets.

We had similar issues in relation to purchasing clothing and apparel, electronics, and most other “luxuries” that we had taken for granted in the U.S. Thus, we had a number of instances of homesickness during our first year in West Africa. But we stuck it out because the benefits of living there far outweighed the costs.

Language and Cultural Barriers

Language and cultural differences are commonplace once you leave American soil. This is even the case when traveling to other English-speaking countries because there are many variations of the English language. However, I can say that West Africa spoiled me in this regard. We lived in Liberia, which was colonized by freed slaves from America. This means that English is their official language and their culture is very much aligned to American culture. Of course, there are different tribal dialects spoken and cultural differences but this excited me more than anything else.

The UAE was a different ball game. Not only is Arabic the official language of the country (English is the lingua franca), but there are countless other languages spoken by other expats which makes communication difficult, to say the least. Not only was understanding foreign languages difficult, being mindful of cultural differences was also challenging. You have to constantly be on guard about how something you say or do may be perceived by someone of a different culture. This can be tiresome and overwhelming at times.

But, it can also be rewarding to learn about new cultures and even develop new languages skills if you stay the course. This will make you an asset to any employer as you will develop and grow in vital soft skills that are cherished by many organizations and businesses.

Job Security and Stability

While working abroad has many economic perks and benefits, the financial aspects of such endeavors can likewise be disheartening at times. The goal of many of the higher paying, expat-friendly countries is to eventually develop a home-grown workforce to replace the vast majority of their expat workforce. This means that job insecurity is par for the course in such regions of the world.

It is commonplace for expats to be living the life of luxury for a number of years and then suddenly be informed that they will no longer be needed the following year. This is effectively the life of an expat worker regardless of their education, credentials, or other qualifications. In fact, it is more common for higher level expats to be replaced than laborers and migrant workers in such instances.

Job instability is another concern for expats working in more insecure areas of the world that often experience civil unrest. Multinational companies and non-governmental organizations may temporarily disband during such occurrences, which can leave expat workers displaced momentarily.

While such occurrences are becoming more commonplace as the work abroad landscape changes, prospective expats should not fear. Instead, they should enter such endeavors with the right mindset. You can easily save money and pay off debt within a year or so and experience a number of the many other benefits that working abroad affords if you have a proper plan of action.

If you land a high-paying gig that comes with accommodations, utilities, transportation, etc. you can easily save and pay off debt. Of course this requires discipline and hard work. If your goal for working abroad is to experience financial freedom, you need to act accordingly. This way if you do lose your job due to any of the above-mentioned reasons you will be financially free and less concerned about your economic or living situation.

Working and Living Conditions

Similar to cultural differences, the working and living conditions in other countries can be drastically different than those in your home country. You may choose to work in a country where 12-14 hour work days are expected. Whereas you may be used to 8-hour work days. You may be interested in moving to a country where minimalist living spaces of about 300 square feet are the norm. Whereas you may be used to living in a country where the average apartment size is 941 square feet.

What most westerners need to consider is that about three-fourths of the world live and work quite differently than we do. In many developing and underdeveloped countries the majority of the population lives in extreme poverty with frequent power outages, high rates of infectious disease, low literary rates, unsanitary living conditions, etc. Life is often slow and laid back in these regions of the world. Advanced technology capabilities are not as common and the people generally live very humble existences.

That’s certainly not to say that life in these parts of the world is all bad. However, it is different – very different, especially for the local population. Expats who choose to work in such regions typically have a better standard of living even in the most austere living environments. Yet, they are taxed with having to see other people live in such situations which can take a burden on a individual’s emotional and mental health.

Summary

The information presented in this post was not meant to discourage you from seeking international employment. Though, is was meant to make you aware of some of the challenges involved in living such a lifestyle. I have personally encountered each of these scenarios during my work abroad experiences but I enjoyed many benefits as well.

I share my journey with you to let you know that though working abroad can be rewarding there are things that you need to be mindful of when considering this option. You need to be fully prepared for the journey that lies ahead.

Need more help planning or deciding on a work abroad career? Contact us so that we can help guide you in the right direction.

4 Advantages of Working Abroad

Advantages of Working Abroad

Yes, that’s a picture of the UAE which is one of the most opulent and desired expat destinations in the world! It is also a place where I lived and worked for three years during my career as an expatiate professor. Additionally, it is one of the many places where I learned first-hand the below-mentioned benefits of working abroad.

So, if you are thinking about pursuing a career as an expat in the UAE or any other country, keep reading to find out why you should get started planning your journey right away!

Professional Development

The ability to grow and develop as a professional is hands-down one of the greatest benefits of working abroad. Beyond salary and perks (which I will discuss next), the growth opportunities that working abroad can afford you are priceless. This is why I consider it to be the number one benefit of working abroad.

International work experience looks great on your resume or curriculum vitae. It provides you with a wealth of knowledge, skills, and abilities that are highly sought after by employers. Diversity, language skills, adaptability, flexibility, etc. are common skills that expat workers often bring to the employment table. Many employers are fully aware of these benefits, which is why they often prefer candidates with international work experience.

I was very fortunate to work in diverse environments with very talented and skilled people during my time abroad. I learned countless lessons from these individuals that I have continued to carry with me as I transition into different roles and spaces. The people and experiences that I encountered expanded my worldview and my understanding of how the world operates in such a profound way. I can truly say that I am a completely different person now than I was before I moved abroad.

Many expats that I know or learn about share the same sentiments. Working in a different country with a uniquely distinct culture has the ability to help you develop at a much faster pace. I am sure that much of it has to do with you being forced to rapidly adapt to change and learn new processes. Developing these soft skills along with the functional skills that you gain in the work environment will aid you in many ways in your professional and personal life.

Salary and Benefits

Many people consider working abroad for this one advantage alone. It’s no secret that a number of overseas employers pay top dollar and give the most generous perks to professional level expat workers. This is not a myth.

I worked in two Middle Eastern countries that typically pay some of the highest expat salaries around world. My salary increased by 22% when I first started working in the Middle East. Like many other expats in the country, I received housing, utility, and transportation allowances, and health insurance benefits. I also received cash in lieu of tickets to return home every year for my entire family of four. Additionally, I received 8-weeks of paid vacation annually along with paid national holiday time off. And these are just the main perks that I received when working abroad.

As I mentioned in my previous article, international employers are willing to pay top dollar for top talent. Many of the wealthier countries like the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Switzerland, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, etc. are known for paying some of the best expat salaries and offering some of the best perks.

No doubt working abroad can allow you to save, pay off debt, and travel the world if you secure the right position. I can attest to the fact that all of these perks are absolutely real.

Networking Opportunities

When you work abroad, you often have the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. Even if you work in a homogeneous country, you will still be able to interact with locals and a hand-full of foreigners who may serve as great networking connections for you. Either way, you will meet people that you generally would not come in contact with if you were living in your home country. These connections can serve you well in many ways during your time overseas and beyond.

I still have connections in every country that I lived in and even a few countries that I visited while living abroad. Most of them are amazing friendships that I cherish deeply. However, some of them serve in dual capacities as friends and career connections as these are people that I can call on for references, job opportunities, or business partnerships.

Personal Growth

Working abroad will also aid you in your personal life beyond your career. It gives you a chance to dig deeper into self-discovery, self-improvement, and oftentimes self-actualization. Being abroad somehow gives you the opportunity to look at yourself in a whole new way.

Expats often begin to deeply connect with themselves on a higher level than they ever did before their international journeys. This is irrespective of a person’s age or stage in life. Having to rapidly adapt to change, learn the nuisances of a new culture, and possibly a new language forces you to gain a better understanding of who you are, what you want to be, and where you want to go. It’s like being a baby all over again, but with the benefit of having a higher depth of understanding at your disposal while trying to navigate your way through new terrain.

I think part of this has do with being removed from the regular distractions encountered in your normal, day-to-day life. Once you get settled in a new country, you often have to find different ways to entertain yourself and make new friends. This is not always easy at first, especially if you move to a rural area or to a place where your native language is not widely spoken.

Living in West Africa, which was my first international working experience, was a major catalyst in my personal development. I didn’t have issues with the language as English is the official language of the country I lived in. However, I had many issues with finding amenable sources of entertainment and quality friendships.

This forced me to spend quite a bit of time in meditation and introspection, which was necessary for my soul and spirit. My journey of self-discovery catapulted to a much higher level during this time in my life. Even after my three years in the country I continued to purposely take out quality time to focus on self-discovery and self-improvement as I transitioned to two different countries over a five-year span.

This experience was not unique to me. Many of my expat peers indicated to me that they had had similar experiences. They were amazed at how much living abroad helped them grow and understand themselves so much better in such a short span of time. Would we have achieved the same results living in our home countries? Probably so. However, I think it would have happened at a much slower pace. And I think my progress would have been shallower in comparison to the way I think and interact with myself and others at this stage in my life.

Considering working abroad, contact us so that we can assist you in getting started on your journey.

Tips to Help You Prepare for Your Work Abroad Journey

Preparing to Work Abroad

I get a rush of excitement every time I have an opportunity to coach a client who is interested in working abroad. This is one of my specialty areas as I have over nine years of experience working abroad in three countries outside of the U.S. in the education and public health sectors. Though I now live and work in the states, I still get goose bumps when I think about my overseas experiences and what they have done to shape my professional and personal life.

I often get many questions about working abroad including how to prepare for the journey, how to get jobs, what it’s like living in a different country, etc. So I decided to do a series on working abroad so that those who are seriously interested in such opportunities can have a better understanding of what it takes to procure and maintain overseas employment opportunities.

In this post I outline preparation tips and suggestions that anyone interested in working abroad should be aware of before they begin their journey. In later posts I will discuss the pros and cons of working abroad, resume writing, interview skills, and salary and benefit considerations for work abroad jobs. I will also present a premier post about teaching abroad since this is a very popular international career field that I get the most questions about.

Education and Experience

It should go without saying that you need to be qualified for any work abroad post. Most legitimate and well-paying work abroad experiences require applicants to have a degree of some sort. In the areas that I worked in, a master’s degree or higher was the standard. However, a number of overseas employers will accept expatriate workers with a bachelor’s degree as well. The level of education that is required is typically on par with what you would be expected to have in your home country for the same position.

While expatriate jobs for non-degree holders are available overseas, the pay is typically much lower than what most westerners can make in their home country doing the same job. These types of positions are typically reserved for skilled laborers from developing or underdeveloped regions of the world. Thus, the higher your education the better, especially when it relates to getting higher level positions and better pay.

Experience is also a key factor when it comes to securing overseas employment. Most overseas employers will require you to have significant experience in your field before they will even consider you for many professional positions. At minimum, you should have at least three years of job-related experience for most expatriate positions.

Few overseas employers want someone who is fresh out of college with little to no work experience. Instead, they are looking to hire overseas candidates from advanced countries because they want someone who is highly skilled in their trade. Their goal is to capitalize off of your experience in order to help their organization and country prosper.

The rare exception to this rule is in the English-as-a-Second-Language career field. Many overseas employers definitely prefer experienced candidates for this role, however, some will accept new college graduates who are native-English speakers and have a strong grasp of the language.

My main point is to ensure that you are aware of the criteria that most overseas employers look for when hiring expatriate workers. So if you are on the hunt for an international job and don’t have the right qualifications be prepared to receive either no or less-than-stellar job offers.

Passports and Visas

If you meet the education and experience qualifications for the overseas positions that you desire, I suggest that you work on obtaining your passport. It is best to have your passport early in the job search process rather than waiting until you get a job offer. Many overseas employers will request a copy of your passport as part of the application process. Failure to provide it even with the highest level qualifications may disqualify you from being shortlisted.

Employers need to see a copy of your passport for a number of reasons. First, they need to ensure that you will be able to travel out of your home country if you are offered a position. Second, they need to ensure that you can leave your country in timely manner to start your new position if you are offered the job. Third, they need your passport for work visa processing purposes which I will discuss next.

Obtaining a work visa is not something that you need to do prior to securing international employment. But, you do need to ensure that you have the necessary elements in place for acquiring a work visa prior to getting an overseas appointment. Work visa criteria vary from country to country and it can vary based on the passport country of the applicant.

This is why you need to do your homework to determine what’s needed to obtain a work visa for the country you are interested in working in. Most often, passport copies and photos, vaccination records, health checks and health records, and national background checks are in order for some of the most stringent work visa processes.

Once you conduct proper research to determine what is needed to obtain a work visa in your country of interest, I recommend getting the required elements as soon as possible. It is always to your benefit to be over-prepared because sometimes hiring processes can occur fairly quickly and you may have to be in the country within a few weeks after being offered a position.

One thing that you should wait on acquiring is the national background check, though. You should wait until you get a job offer to perform this since it is usually only valid for about six months once the work visa application process begins. However, if you have any concerns about your record then you may want to do a preliminary check to be on the safe side.

Qualification Certification

Another very important part of securing an international employment opportunity is document certification. Before I mentioned the importance of proper education and experience which is paramount to securing a coveted international job. However, beyond having these qualifications you must prove that they are legitimate which requires certification from the country of origin.

You may hear or see different terms such as apostille or attestation in relation to this process depending on which country you are seeking employment in. These terms basically refer to a certification process for official documents. This certification process requires you to get documents such as diplomas, degrees, certificates, transcripts, marriage and birth certificates, adoption records, national background checks, etc. notarized and authenticated by a state and/or national authority.

This process is very important and can make or break a job offer. Even if you are offered a position, if your documents are not properly certified the employer may not be able to procure a work visa for you. This is why I recommend starting the process as early as possible because it can take anywhere from four to six weeks or longer depending on a number of factors.

You can do it yourself or contract with a service provider to help you with this process. I have done it both ways and it took about four weeks on average either way. You can save quite a bit of money if you do it yourself but doing so takes quite a bit of leg work. If you use a service provider you will pay extra fees in addition to the standard government processing fees, but you will also save yourself a lot of time and stress trying to oversee every step of the process.

I can’t say that either method has any major risks or benefits over the other aside from the cost and labor factors. It’s truly a matter of what works for you at the time. The most important thing is to get started as early as possible to avoid missing out on exciting overseas career opportunities.

Cultural Awareness

The last tip is about being aware of the culture that you plan to live and work within. Oftentimes people want to work abroad for the adventure and the opportunity to explore a unique culture. However, many fail to seek out what this truly means before embarking on their journey.

Working abroad is not like being in your home country – there will most likely be many cultural differences and nuisances that you may not be prepared to deal with once in a different country. This is why it is imperative to do research in this area.

Preparing to Work Abroad

First, understanding the culture of your country of choice may make the hiring process go a lot smoother for you. You will probably be able to answer interview questions more efficiently if you understand how the culture operates. It is standard practice for interviewers to ask questions about the job and cultural relevance during the interview process. I was asked questions about how I would navigate in a different culture during the interview process for every overseas job post that I held. I was fully prepared to answer these questions because I had done my homework.

You should never assume that you will be able to operate the exact same way in a country that is culturally distinct from your own as you do in your home country. Living abroad can and does often require a great deal of adjustment, which recruiters want to ensure that you are ready to deal with.

Second, if you get a job offer you will be able to integrate into your new position much easier. Having a moderate level of cultural awareness can help you navigate your environment much more efficiently. You will understand what is and what is not acceptable – potentially avoiding costly mistakes.

Third, not being prepared to encounter and properly adjust to a different culture will probably lead to much personal disappointment. While working abroad I saw a number of people leave within three to six months of arriving because they could not easily adjust. This was usually due to a number of reasons inclusive of language barriers, living conditions, food choices, personality differences, home sickness, etc. Most often they weren’t prepared to cope because they had not done their research. A little research can go a long way in helping to prepare for the journey ahead.

Are you thinking about working abroad? Contact us so that we can assist you in getting started on your journey.