People who want to live abroad and speak English as their first language (or even a close second) have some great options available to them. Fun, fascinating, challenging, paid work. What could be better?
You don´t have to teach English full time, either. Why not combine a few of these jobs and make your career more humanitarian by volunteering a little or helping support a local NGO or other organization as a translator or interpreter? To really immerse yourself in another culture and get a sense of what life is like outside the U.S. (or Europe, or wherever you currently live) — without having to give up a steady paycheck — consider one of these five options.
Taking a chance on a job abroad can bring numerous benefits. International experience can make your resume more impressive, demonstrating your ability to adapt to new situations, communicate with diverse groups of people and solve problems, and countless other sneaky benefits you may not have considered.
Fluency in another language often also translates into a higher salary. California, for example, offers some workers who regularly use a second language in their work a “bilingual pay differential” of $100 per month.
Finally, a number of industries and companies are increasingly demanding international experience among those seeking top executive positions due to the increased level of skills learned while abroad. Of the biggest 1,000 public and private companies in the U.S., 40% of CFOs had worked abroad, reported the Wall Street Journal in 2015.
The opportunities available vary, from highly competitive Foreign Service postings with the U.S. State Department to short-term jobs working in bars and restaurants. Here´s what you need to know to get one of these coveted positions.
1. Become an international aid worker
Many people dream of heading abroad and doing humanitarian work. Opportunities are available with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as well as major international organizations like the UN, Amnesty International, the Red Cross, and Doctors Without Borders.
Some jobs may involve hands-on aid work, like disaster response or assisting refugees. But organizations also need people with experience in accounting, communications, IT, human resources, management and foreign languages, according to the London School of Economics.
Unsurprisingly, the more specialized and in-demand your skills are, the easier it will be for you to find a job—which is important in these competitive sorts of industries. Having technical skills will increase your chances of getting employed. This could be something like physiotherapy, education, health, engineering or construction. The sector does not need more international development undergraduates, says Weh Yeoh, founder of global development organization WhyDev, told The Guardian.
If you’re truly interested in a career in international aid or development, you’ll need to prepare yourself due to the highly competitive nature of this field. There are simply people from all over the world applying for the same job, so consider an internship or volunteer work abroad so you can gain field experience that could eventually materialize into permanent employment, suggests Idealist. Demonstrated interest or experience in a particular country, region, or issue may also be helpful in securing a position, because it´s easier to stand out from the crowd.
2. Join the Foreign Service
The U.S. government offers a number of opportunities for citizens interested in working abroad, and the best known are the Foreign Service postings through the Department of State. They are available at more than 270 embassies, consulates, and diplomatic missions around the world. While many people in the Foreign Service work in typical diplomatic roles as consular or political officers, the State Department also sometimes hires health care workers, construction engineers, IT specialists and people from other professions, so keep your eyes open for these opportunities.
Though a job with the Foreign Service may seem glamorous, it comes with many challenges: Foreign Service officers must be ready to move anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice and may end up stationed in dangerous or remote areas. While some postings allow you to bring your family with you, that’s not always possible. So if you´re single and have a clear legal record, this could be the perfect job for you. The application process is competitive and involves multiple written and oral assessments.
In addition to jobs with the State Department, international job postings are available through USAID, Department of Defense, the CIA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the CDC, and other government agencies.
3. Work for a Global Company
Getting a job with a big company with overseas offices could eventually lead to a position abroad, especially if you play your cards right and plan for that from the outset.
Forty-seven percent of companies surveyed by Brookfield Global Relocation Services increased the number of employees that they had serving overseas in 2013. The top destinations included China, the U.K., Singapore, and Germany.
If your employer transfers you overseas, they will typically handle details such as obtaining proper visas and work permits, as well as providing assistance with relocation, which is often extremely handy.
But even with all that support, international moves can be challenging, both personally and financially. The rewards can also be great. You may have to deal with currency fluctuations, setting up foreign bank accounts, paying foreign taxes, and other nasties, but once you learn how the system works, it´s often no more challenging than at home. If your spouse moves abroad with you, he or she may not be able to work. If you have children, they will have to make adjustments too. Moving abroad for some time can be a great experience for children, as they may eventually speak two languages and enjoy lots of other benefits, like great weather and two sets of friends.
For those who are interested in working in another country but lack the experience or skills needed for other positions, teaching English abroad is a common and fun choice.
Of 884 expat Americans surveyed by Migration Policy Institute in 2011, 20% worked in education (often teaching English or teaching other subjects in English at international schools or the like). For those with no other way of getting there, spending a year or two teaching abroad can be a way to get valuable experience and make you more competitive for other international positions.
In many cases, you’ll need to have at least a bachelor’s degree to get a job teaching English abroad. Having a TESL or TESOL certificate can also make you a more competitive candidate and prepare you well for the work. The number of positions – and the amount they pay – varies significantly based on region and country. Generally, jobs in Western Europe are harder to get, while more positions are available in the Middle East and Asia (funnily enough! Wouldn´t you rather go to Thailand than Germany, for example?).
Some foreign governments sponsor programs that bring native English speakers to their countries to teach. Among these are Japan and Korea. The Council on International Educational Exchange offers teaching opportunities in China, Mexico, Spain, Vietnam, and many other countries.
5. Participate in a work exchange program
In order to work legally in another country, you typically need a work permit or visa, which can be difficult or complicated to obtain on your own, even with hired help. Participating in a work exchange program is one way to get help securing a short-term visa and finding a job—then when you´ve settled in, you can go your own way.
BUNAC, one of the oldest and best-known of these programs, helps people between the ages of 18 and 35 get work visas and find temporary paying jobs in Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand—often in restaurants, bars, offices, and the agricultural industry. InterExchange connects people with au pair jobs and other work abroad opportunities in Australia, France, the Netherlands, Germany, and lots of other countries. The Centre d’Echanges Internationaux has a job placement program for people under 30 looking for work in France, and is well worth checking out.
There are so many jobs available abroad. It may be difficult to know where to start looking! Choose a couple of countries that interest you and start there. And if you need any help putting together a compelling personal statement that will blow the competition out of the water, get in touch!