5 Mistakes People Make When Looking for a Job Overseas

September 13, 2021

Have you made any of these mistakes while searching for an international job?

1. They think that they’ll find their dream job only with a Google search.

Looking for a job used to consist of talking with your neighbors to see who needed their lawn mowed OR grabbing a red pen to search through the ‘help wanted’ sections of the newspaper. Then the internet changed everything, and people moved on to Google searches to find potential jobs. Don’t make the mistake of thinking Google is the final word! There’s another new way to ‘check with your neighbor’ and search through the ‘help wanted’ section.

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network. Go beyond a Google search and interact with people using this invaluable resource. Along with this, don’t forget to talk to your personal network of people. Word of mouth and your own connections might bring opportunities you would otherwise miss. You might even want to take another step and use a recruiting service. With all of these resources available to you, stopping with a Google search is almost like going back to grabbing that red pen. It’s just the beginning.

2. They don’t tailor their CV for an international job position.

In putting together your CV for your potential employer, it’s tempting to create ONE document that you send out to any job that could even potentially work for you. You might think that if you send it out in mass quantities, your odds of getting an offer will be higher. However, being strategic in how you create your CV is much more likely to be effective in finding your dream job than the scatter approach. Remember, it’s important not to assume that you can simply dust off the resume you put together for your current job in the USA.

The qualities your potential employer may be looking for will not only vary according to the specific project but also according to the culture of the country you will move to for this international job. On your CV you might want to highlight work experiences that show your willingness to move and adapt to new situations. No matter what job you are applying for, if it is international, your flexibility in this area will be a necessity!

You may also want to think through the layout of your CV.  Do you know the country standard or specs for a CV? It’s possible that France may have a different style than Dubai, for example. Always remember to tailor your CV for each position that truly interests you. Emphasize by placement or example the experiences that fit the job you are applying for.

3. They assume that their certification is good as is.

Even though the skills needed for a particular job may be similar in another country, the certification needed may be completely different. Do some research. Make sure you look into whether your current license will allow you to work in that new environment. If not, don’t get discouraged. You may find that you simply need to be evaluated or that you need to take a certain qualifying exam.

In some cases, the re-licensing process may be as extensive as it was for you to get licensed in your home country. In this case, you need to decide if this move is worth the work it will take to get you qualified to take this international job. It may be! Just don’t make the mistake of assuming that your current qualifications will be sufficient. It’s best to avoid this kind of surprise.

4. They set unrealistic expectations.

We’ve all heard of people making huge amounts of money working internationally. One mistake you can make is to assume that this will automatically apply to you as well.  Working internationally does not guarantee a large income any more than it guarantees short work hours and an abundance of luxury and travel time. Living the dream is appealing and may even be the main reason you are applying for this international job.  However, not all international jobs are created equally.

If you are an employee, you STILL have an employer who has a say in the amount of time you work and the amount you get paid.  Like any other employee, you cannot assume time off for vacation whenever you wish - you need to request this from your employer.

Be realistic and research what others have experienced in this particular job market. Take into account the average cost of living in the country and compare it to your estimated compensation. There will likely be beautiful benefits to this job, but assuming a life of easy luxury is headed your way will set you up for disappointment.

5. They think their money will be tax-exempt in the USA.

Tax agreements vary according to country. Countries also change their tax laws so research carefully instead of assuming the money you make outside of the USA is tax-exempt. You may want to ask your potential employer what the current tax agreements are. There may be both taxes due to the IRS as well as local tax laws to follow.

Remember that no matter where you make your income, as a US citizen you need to report that income to the IRS. You need to report both your gross income and your foreign-earned income. Your gross income is anything you have made during that tax year. Your foreign-earned income is whatever you have made while living in a foreign country. Don’t forget to look for exemptions that are available to you!

You may find that your living allowance for housing and household expenses can be tax-exempt, for example. You also may get an exemption if you’ve lived in that foreign country 330 days of the year and make less than ‘x’ amount. In 2020, that amount was $107,600.  As you evaluate the compensation for your potential job, you will need to know if you need to adjust the numbers to accommodate for taxes. 

Bonus: They don’t set a realistic time frame to find a job.

Searching for any job can take time, but if a job is international, this adds multiple complications. In addition to finding a job that fits your skill set, you also need to be sure that the country you are moving to will be a fit for your family or personal needs. You also need to find out what the specific requirements are for that job.

Do you need recertification? Do you need a visa to enter? How long does it take to get a visa and are there any restrictions that will disqualify you? Will you need to become a resident of the country to work there/live most of the year there? You don’t want to apply for the “perfect job” only to realize that you are unable to travel or live there.

Another part of the picture that you need to keep in mind is that there are different time zones and work weeks that are in play as you communicate with your potential employer.  It may take more time than usual to set up a meeting to discuss the job. It may take longer for your references to be received or for deals to be negotiated. A typical job search can take three to nine weeks to complete.

Of course, this is dependent upon how quickly people get back to you regarding references or any questions you may have. Countries like Brazil which do not have very much flexibility in their hiring and firing have a longer job search process. Also, don’t be under the misconception that other countries are just begging for American people to come and work there. So instead of setting expectations for a 20-day job search, remember - finding the right job takes time.

Working overseas can be such a wonderful experience. If you run into difficulties along the way - don’t give up!  There are lots of resources available to help you.

Find an international job board, make those connections in LinkedIn, network with others on the search as well. Then, do your research about taxes & certifications so you know what to expect. Update your resume to match each job you are truly interested in and then be patient. Finding the right job may take some time but, by avoiding these common mistakes, you will be well on your way.

Curious about what it would look like to take your job global? Explore our global jobs board or connect with a coach on a 10-minute Discovery Call!

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