Many people dream about working abroad in their industry. But they're often not sure how to do it easily, or how to attract the interest of companies who are hiring.
I was looking for a position as a Software Engineer, and I had about three calls a day from potential companies during my hiring process. Fortunately, I ended up with a lot of options to choose from.
So let me tell you a story so you can learn from the success I've had and the mistakes I've made.
In this article, I'm going to share tips regarding why and how you can take next steps in your career, especially if you are not tied to a specific location.
Strong companies with great products or services have a lot of strong candidates to choose from. But I'll show you how to establish yourself as a strong candidate as well.
Why do you want to go abroad?
If you are not sure how to answer to this question, or if your WHY is not strong enough, you will probably quit a few weeks or months after being hired.
Take your time to consider this deeply. There are multiple reasons why you might want to move and work abroad.
- You might find more work opportunities
- You might want to work in a country with less strife
- You might be able to get a higher salary in a different location
- You might feel like you'd fit in better there
- Or you might like to travel in and around that country
The reasons are many – just make sure you know yours.
It is also very helpful to know why you want to work for a specific company. Does their why match your why? Do your research to find out for sure (more about that below).
The easy way or the right way
The easy way
First, let's have a look at how to make this process easier for you. If you studied abroad, worked in a “work and travel” program, or something else similar, it should be way easier to get used to a job abroad.
You will have had deeper experience speaking other languages, traveling, meeting people of various cultures, establishing a social life from zero, and learning about different laws.
It should be even easier if you're applying for a job in the same country where you studied – or anywhere with a similar culture. It was also very helpful for me to complete the whole process with someone who similarly applied for an IT job abroad.
The right way
But in the end, it really depends on what you are looking for and why you want to go abroad.
Maybe you are looking for a big challenge instead of a safe journey. So think more about what fits your requirements and then figure out how to make it easier without sacrificing your needs. I think this is the right way to handle it.
As for me, I wanted to work directly with highly skilled and fast-learning people of different nationalities and ways of thinking. For that reason, I was focused on the diversity aspect more than on any similarities.
First things first: you need to analyze the skills required for your desired position, whether you want to work abroad or not.
Are you looking for a position that has requirements a bit out of your reach? Work on those skills for a year or two and give it a try again when you are more prepared.
Is it a position requiring high-level expertise in a certain area, a job that's not so often on the market? Make sure your skills match those requirements closely.
During the first few months you will have multiple opportunities to prove your qualifications for that position and agree on a way forward with the company.
Set ambitious goals for yourself
This is just a matter of where you are now and where you would like to get. If you want to be a part of a stronger team with higher standards than you have at the moment, then it’s good to increase your knowledge and skills before you start interviewing.
Keep in mind that some hiring processes can take 5–8 rounds and they test you from many different perspectives. So don’t forget to analyze the hiring process of each specific company.
This part can take months. During that time you can take some online courses from places like Udemy, Harvard University or Coursera.
Then you can continue with learning challenges on sites like Topcoder and HackerRank.
Finally, you can start preparing yourself with common interview questions on sites such as The Balance Careers, FlexJobs and HubSpot.
Establish your rate or ideal salary
One of the easiest ways to get a more objective review of yourself is to ask a senior ex-colleague to evaluate your performance.
It is also a good idea to test yourself using websites such as Devskiller and Codility. In that case, you might find out that you perform better than you expected and are able to score a better contract and salary during interviews.
Speaking of interviews, you will be probably asked about your salary expectations. This can be a tricky one to answer.
Many potential employees search the internet for the average salary using keywords such as “average salary of a developer in Prague”. Then they check Glassdoor, PayScale, Jobindex or Reddit, and, based on their years of experience, they try to find their value on an imaginary scale, where the lowest represents junior and the highest represents a principal developer.
It is better than nothing, but it doesn’t necessarily match your real value. Most times, you have to come up with that on your own.
Do Your Research
Quality of Life
Consider your priorities according to how long you expect to stay. I would set them differently in the case of a half-year contract versus long-term employment.
I was looking for opportunities in countries based on the following factors and values:
- Quality of life
- Work culture
- Economic growth (GDP)
- Technological level
- Traveling and nature
It takes time to analyze countries in relation to your career. However, if you are considering working abroad for a couple of years, then a few days or weeks of research can give you an incomparably higher value for long-term happiness.
To help myself figure out where would be best for me, I gathered data and put it in a spreadsheet.
The best-rated locations (Tab. 1) are based on my subjective preferences, so I would recommend making your own spreadsheet since your needs and preferences will likely be quite different.
You can find some indexes such as quality of life or costs at Numbeo, Expatistan, WorldData, and more. The indexes must be on the same scale, for example, 1–100. Then you can multiply each index based on your priority, for example, 1–3.
You should have your salary expectations prepared for all countries you plan to apply to, in local currency (both monthly and yearly), for recruiters and companies.
Both gross and net salary need to be then converted in domestic currency to calculate the profit indexes for your spreadsheet about countries comparison (Tab. 1).
Profit can be calculated by the expected net salary per month of your desired position divided by total costs per month in a specific country. Indexes of profit can be created by a comparative method.
Barriers to Entry
It is also very important to check what barriers to entry might exist. You should also know the local laws. I would like to highlight some of these areas that might be surprising.
- Visa requirements
- Sponsorship requirements
- Language barrier
- Invalid driver's license
- Pension missed due to short stay
- Unpaid vacation days for the first year
- Problems with opening a bank account
- Higher costs of healthcare for new citizens
- Amount of taxes and the difficulty of submitting a tax return
As for these highlights, I would like to mention some specific use cases.
For example, imagine you are hired by a German company. You might have to rely on English (based on requirements), but all of your co-workers speak German, even if it is against the company’s policy. This is related to the national diversity of the company.
When I lived in America, Finland, or Norway, it always took a couple of months to get a Social Security number. Having this document can often make your life easier. For example, Nabobil in Norway is an application that lets you rent cars more comfortably and cheaply.
Also, even if you are using Revolut or a similar application for money exchange, it can still cost a lot over a short period.
And perhaps tax returns seem unimportant compared to other issues. But if you've ever spent an entire week in the Netherlands working on taxes, then you know how expensive that can be in terms of a half-year contract.
Compare your priorities to those of the company. Is it a fast-growing team? What's the average salary? Do you think you'd fit into the company culture?
All of the above and more are worth considering, but you should decide which ones are important to you and your goals.
For example, I asked myself the following questions:
- How I can help at this company? What are their expectations?
- How fast I can learn there? What is the seniority level of people whom
I will be working directly with?
- What projects I will be working on? What technologies are they using for what issues?
- What is their average estimation of project development in terms of time? How accurate are these project estimations? How many users use the application?
You can also use multiple strategies to apply for jobs. For example, you can submit applications to a large number of companies to increase your options. In such a case it is a good idea to track your applications (Tab. 2).
I used to note basic information since I was dealing with a lot of different companies.
But perhaps you are quite picky and you don’t want to apply to a long list of companies.
In that case, first try to gain enough experience in your current position and show evidence of your results. If you don't stand out, large and desirable companies most likely won’t notice your application.
The Interview Process
Many people compare going on job interviews to dating. If you go on a first date after a couple of years away from the dating scene, you probably won’t be very confident. You'll be tense, and the whole date will be unpleasant.
It's the same with job interviews. Schedule your first interviews with companies where you would like to work – and then schedule those where you would love to work.
Also, your interview experience partly depends on the position for which you apply. For salespeople, it might be as big of a deal, since they've developed soft skills over time. It's just about presenting themselves like they've done multiple times before.
But what about developers who feel confident presenting their coding skills, but not at presenting themselves during the personal interview?
It would be unfortunate to realize that you spent half a year improving your technical knowledge, but forgot to practice answering questions such as: “Tell me about yourself.”
In the case of huge companies, it's a great sign if you get to the end of the hiring process – those last rounds of interviews which are mostly conducted in person at the office.
Even if you do not pass the interview, you might manage to set up multiple interviews during a single business trip. At the interviews for other companies, you would usually have to proceed with other steps before the physical interview, but now you can make a good first impression and raise your chances against the other candidates by visiting them.
Dealing with Recruiters
Some recruiters try to force developers to be hired for positions unrelated to their field and needs. They might just spam you just based on your social media profile headings, unfortunately.
But there are also those who actually read your expectations in your cover letter and offer something relevant.
Even if you don't get a job or choose a particular company, it is useful to keep contact with your recruiter. Especially if you decide to change jobs in the future or look for something abroad, you can contact multiple HR specialists and get additional help.
Most likely it won’t cost you anything, and as such you have nothing to lose. Just keep this in mind before deciding not to respond to relevant professional offers.
Getting a Competitive offer
Even if you get a final offer from one company, you still have the prospect of getting more offers from other companies. Have you heard the term competitive offer? In terms of the hiring process, it works as follows:
You complete your interview for a position with another company, where you get a higher salary offer. But it is not your favorite company. So you send the original email with the offer to the company of your choice to see if you can leverage a better salary (or whatever it is you want).
Sometimes this can result in better benefits or more money, and you usually have nothing to lose by sharing this request.
You don't need to commit to working abroad for the rest of your life. Just try it out, and if it doesn't work you can always take a step back. That's why the trial period at work exists.
I've heard many stories, such as "I was scared when I was younger and now I have too many commitments" – so don't miss out.
Now let's summarize the process one more time to see that it's not rocket science.
- Decide why you want to work abroad
- Consider the requirements in relation to countries based on length of stay and prioritize them.
- Find the places where you want to go by comparing the requirements and do deeper research with a focus on laws and restrictions.
- Prepare for interviews by boosting your soft skills and hard skills.
- Research companies and apply.
- Send competitive offers and get what you deserve!
Just keep in mind that this process can take months. During that time you can take some online courses from places like Udemy, Harvard University or Coursera to add to your skillset.
If you need some advice on boosting your learning skills, you can check out my other article about How to Succeed in Your Studies.
If you liked this article, you can check out my other stories here.
Cover photo by Nomadic Julien on Unsplash.