Crash Course in: Working abroad

As Britain starts 2012 with an economic hangover to match the festive one, is it time to think about getting away from our benighted kingdom until the worst is over? Here are some things to consider.

by Alexander Garrett
Last Updated: 10 Nov 2015

Assess your worth. 'Employers are looking for people with good experience of working overseas or who have solid experience in their particular industry,' says Linda Taylor of Expat Network. If you don't have a track record of working abroad, think about what skills you have that may be in demand.

Are you the right stuff? Personal characteristics play a part in suitability, says the Chartered Management Institute. These include 'flexibility, willingness to learn and lack of prejudice', alongside self-reliance, language skills and qualifications. 'There is a need to be aware of and avoid stereotypical British superiority, insularity and aloofness and to be able to cope with unfamiliar people in unfamiliar surroundings,' the CMI advises.

Ask the family. The support of your partner is vital. Your spouse should always come too if you're planning to work overseas for two years or more, and some wouldn't contemplate leaving their partner behind. But unhappy 'trailing spouses' are the most common cause of people coming home early. So make sure you've squared it with your significant other before you start looking.

Follow the growth curve. You're more likely to find opportunities in a country with a growing economy, such as China and the other BRICs. 'Australia is still very busy and wanting to get people out there, particularly in construction, civil engineering, gas and mining,' says Taylor. Look out for specific projects where you have something to offer.

Get online. It's never been easier to find work overseas without the need to get on a plane. You can either use UK-based recruiters or just plug in to local job vacancies in your target market. Many companies now use interviews via Skype and similar technologies to recruit people from overseas. There's a plethora of useful websites and forums, such as Expatica.

Prepare. Learning a new language from scratch may not be practical, but you should think about the cultural adjustments you will need to make. Farnham Castle offers a programme of 'intercultural briefings' for business people.

Don't burn your bridges. Make sure you stay in touch with colleagues and contacts in the UK. And keep that subscription to your trade paper, so you stay up to date.

Think about repatriation. You should consider at the outset the terms and conditions under which you will come back. Writing for Expatica, Lynelle Barrett points out that you will have skills and experience that add to your value. 'To be content when you return home, you need to negotiate a repatriation package with your employer.'

Do say: 'The world is my oyster.'

Don't say: 'Hang on, Johnnie Foreigner, I'm on my way to the rescue!'

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