Today’s guest post is by Troy Erstling of BrainGain.co
For the last two years, I have been helping people find job opportunities abroad, and there’s a definitive trend in mistakes people make that lead to frustration, time wasted, and companies turning you away. These are often easy mistakes to avoid, so I’ve decided to outline the most common mistakes people make when looking for jobs abroad.
1) Salary Expectations – One of the most common issues that I see when dealing with candidates who want to work abroad is coming in with too aggressive of salary expectations. It’s not uncommon to see someone who says “I’m making 80k/year in the US” and believe that is the salary they should get if they were to relocate to a different country. The fact is, whatever salary you are earning in your home country will not transfer over to any other country. This reigns true for both developed and developing countries. It’s ok to start with this as a baseline, but if you expect to earn the same money in every country you are in for a rude awakening.
I also see people who immediately turn down an offer because of a low perceived value of a salary, not taking into considerations the cost of living in the country that they are applying to. For example, when I got my first job teaching English in South Korea, they offered me about $24,000USD. When I said this salary to friends and family, they looked at me like I would be making pennies and “just doing it for the experience”. What they didn’t take into consideration however, is that the cost of living in South Korea is about $1000 USD/month, meaning that I would be able to SAVE $1000 USD/month. When I walked away from my job in Korea I had around $10k in savings, and was able to take three extended trips (~7 days) to Thailand, Taiwan, and the Philippines all while working.
My technique? Instead of looking at salaries from the perspective of total yearly income, look at it from the perspective of desired monthly savings. If you want to save $500USD/month, tell this to the company instead of what you were making back home. You can then take your desired monthly savings, research what average cost of living is like in a country, and then add the two together to come up with the salary you want to earn. This can be applied to any country in the world, regardless of if it’s more or less expensive than where you are currently living.
So in the end, if you see a role on a job board that says the salary is much lower than what you’re currently making, don’t take it at face value and immediately rule it out. Do some digging to see what cost of living that country has, and then see if it’s still as unreasonable as you thought it was.
2) Not researching visas: Another common mistake that I see is not researching which countries you will be able to obtain a visa in, and what demand companies in these countries even have for foreign employees.
As a general rule of thumb, if you’re from the US it will be very difficult for you to get a visa anywhere in Europe or South America. I commonly see applicants who want to work in the UK/EU, and spend months looking for jobs in these countries, only to get turned down time and time again because the company won’t sponsor their visa. Save yourself the time and effort and realize you will have a very hard time finding a job in these countries, even if you have 5-10 years of experience under your belt.
Emerging market countries are a bit more lenient with obtaining a visa. They will also be excited to see your resume because of talent deficiencies in local markets. Being a native english speaker is enough to get your foot in the door, purely because you can speak (Sales + Business Development), and write (Content Writing, Blogging, Social Media Marketing) well in English.
Solid Loophole: Instead of trying to obtain a Work/Employment visa, research what the regulations are for a Business Visa. While regulations are very strict for Employment visas (high minimum salaries, specific skill sets), for a business visa there is usually no minimum salary. Instead of coming in as an employee, you can come in as a consultant. You might not be able to be paid in that country, but if the company has a foreign registered office somewhere in the US/UK/Singapore, you can get paid into your home country instead (which also has some nice tax breaks). Companies are also often unaware of these laws, so if you tell them this information they are often pleasantly surprised.
Fun fact: Ireland, France, Australia, and Singapore all offer a “working holiday visa” if you are from the US and between the ages of 21-30.
3) Assuming the company will pay for your airfare: Candidates often come in with the assumption that if they get a job, the company will pay for their flight to/from a country. I rarely see this happen. The fact is, you’re the one who is looking to work in their country, and business will go on without you whether or not you take the position. Come in with the expectation that you will most likely have to pay for your own flight.
One thing that I have seen work well – getting the company to pay for your flight and then have them take it out of your paycheck in monthly installments. If the upfront costs of relocation are too much for you, and you can afford to have the company take out $100/month from your paycheck, this is a solid option I have seen companies respond well to. Another option that works well is negotiating for a return flight upon successful completion of your contract. This creates the incentive to make sure that you finish your contract and don’t leave early, which makes companies less anxious about seeing you quit after 6 months because you want to travel.
4) Not researching the country you are applying in: Companies aren’t there to tell you about why it’s great living in their country, things to do, places to go, cost of living, etc. Don’t waste valuable interview time asking questions about what life is like in that country. Do your research beforehand and show that you not only understand what life is like, but that you also have a genuine interest in moving to that country.
This will also help you get the job, because it shows that you have the right mindset. Illustrating that you have studied the local language (or taken steps to), and why you’re in love with their country will create the expectation you are likely to accept the position if offered. Hiring managers really respect this in applicants, but if they see the opposite, it’s an immediate turn-off.
5) Assuming the company will find you housing: Similarly to flights, unless the company has hired a lot of foreigners in the past or they are a large corporate, they probably won’t be there to help you in finding your own housing. You will most likely have to find your own place to stay, so come in with these expectations.
What you can do however, is to try and see if they will offer you two weeks paid housing in a temporary place of stay while you search for a place to live. Companies are generally open to this and it’s fair to both sides, and also gives you some breathing room.
Deposits: Housing deposits can also largely affect your upfront costs of relocation. Similarly to handling flights, you can ask the company if they will pay your deposit for you and then pay it back over time. I’ve seen mixed responses on this one, but it’s possible and companies are generally receptive to the option.
6) Not asking these questions up-front: Too many times I have seen someone get to the final stage of an interview (and be very excited about a potential job offer) only to have it all dissolve in the blink of an eye. Often, it’s because the company can’t handle a visa, or salary expectations aren’t on the same page. Make sure that you discuss these questions as early as possible in the interview process to make sure everyone is aligned. There’s nothing worse than spending a month talking to a company about how you’re going to help their business, only to have it all disappear. Discuss all of this before you get to roles and responsibilities, because it’s not worth investing your time in an interview if you’re not all on the same page.
That’s it! Avoid these common mistakes and you’re that much closer to landing yourself the job of your dreams in the country of your dreams!
Did this article help you? Tell us what you think in the comments below, and I’m happy to help!
Troy Erstling has lived and worked abroad for the last 7 years in Argentina, Korea, India and now Malaysia. Troy is the Founder of BrainGain.co, a platform connecting people to international work opportunities. When he’s not helping people find a job outside of their home country, he can be found meditating, writing poetry, or reading books somewhere on the beach. 🙂