Navigating Your International Job Search

Navigating Your International Job Search

A famous quote by the philosopher St. Augustine states, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” Travel allows us to experience the world by immersing ourselves in it. We broaden our knowledge and expand our horizons. As technology and globalization race forward, the world is increasingly more interconnected and accessible. And for many, the desire to experience the world extends beyond travel into living and working internationally. What better way to fully immerse yourself in a new country or continent than working there?

Job hunting globally poses its own set of challenges. There are nuances unique to individual cultures, countries and regions in the world. Understanding these subtle differences can be the key to successfully navigating your international job search.

Know Your Location

Across the globe, LinkedIn and Indeed tend to be the most popular job search sites. However, countries often have job sites specific to their region that are more focused on local job opportunities. It can be advantageous to know where to look.

When you use the leading job search sites within a specific country, you can discover job opportunities that you may not otherwise find on the larger job aggregators. Career Counsellor Anna Black, who is based in Perth, Western Australia, says that seek.com.au is used nationally, while government jobs are advertised on the government’s own website. 

In the Middle East, GulfTalent.com is the leading job site for positions in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Middle East. The UAE is viewed as an international hub for many businesses bridging East and West, says Zeta Yarwood, an Executive Career and Life Coach. Yarwood lives in Dubai, the UAE, as well as internationally. “Because of this, it has a huge expat population and receives more international job applications than many other countries,” she says. “While in some countries, you might get 100-200 applicants per role, and mostly local, in the UAE you might see as many as 4,000 from all over the world.” 

Being Proactive is Key in an International Job Search

In an increasingly competitive global job market, it can prove helpful to know your location and the regional job sites. And when you find an international job that interests you, take action and don’t wait. 

“Smart jobseekers tend to answer a job ad within the first few hours, and then call someone they know in that target company to ensure their application is at the top of the pile,” states Sonal Bahl, Career Strategist and Founder of SuperCharge. Bahl is based in Brussels, Belgium, and her clients span the globe in the US, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

“Smart job seekers also proactively do informational interviews and stay in touch,” Bahl adds. “Engaging with active job portals can be quite helpful, even for Director-level openings.”

Make Your Resume Stand Out

Another key consideration in an international job search is your resume or CV, which may look different than you’re accustomed to, depending on in which country you’re job seeking.

Bahl in Belgium says that “resumes in Europe tend to contain information that people in the US would find extraneous.” Headshots, marital status, age and home address are all not uncommmon, she says. She prefers using an American-style resume for her clients because she feels they are “simple, clean and to the point.”

The UAE follows the European approach to CVs as well. Yarwood says there is more focus on the professional experience than on education. Education and qualifications tend are usually listed at the end of a CV, but this can vary by industry. There is also a higher request for photographs on CVs in the UAE than in other parts of the world.

Yarwood also says job seekers should make sure “they are effectively communicating they understand the employer’s specific needs and showcasing their specific achievements, which demonstrate they can meet those needs.”

In Australia, Black says that many companies still rely on applicant tracking systems (ATS). “It’s so necessary to know how to play the game and not get lost in the recruitment process,” she says. “A good resume will be heavily tailored to the target role with a number of compelling and relevant achievements included. We don’t focus on career objectives, more on what we can do for the target organization.” Having a resume that stands out is paramount.

Differentiate Yourself in an International Job Search

It’s invaluable to find ways to differentiate yourself in your international job search. This includes tailoring your CV with every application.

Shub Faujdar, Job Search Strategist, Career Coach and LinkedIn Specialist based in Singapore agrees. A good resume is impact and value-focused, and “presented in a succinct way with quantifications,” she says.

“One of the issues with the majority of resumes in Singapore is that they are generic and task-focused,” Faujdar adds. “As a former recruiter, I used to feel that if I change the name of the person and the companies they have worked for, I could easily swap the resumes of people in the same function.”

Regardless of where your job search takes you internationally, a strong resume is of utmost importance. Always highlight your strengths in a way so that your resume is noticed.

Never Stop Networking

Just like in a job search in US, an international job search is sometimes as much about who you know as it is about what you know. Networking can connect you to the right contacts, get you in the door, and get you started on the right foot when job hunting.

According to a Columbia University Business School panel on job hunting in Asia, networking is highly valued and engrained in their culture. “Networking is done face-to-face in Asia so that we can get a sense of that person. It’s a culture thing. We take things slower,” says panelist Natalie Chan, Associate Director, APAC, INSEAD’s Career Development Centre in Singapore. “In Asia, it is important to take one’s time to develop the relationship and show how you can add value to the business.”

Use your resources to make those critical connections that can be impactful in your international job search. This can make the difference particularly in tight markets like the UAE. “Most people rely very heavily on job search sites and recruiters, but with so many applications per role, many find they don’t even get to speak to a recruiter,” Yarwood says. “Recruiters tend to only give jobseekers “face time” if they are confident they can place them. More and more people are focusing on building their network and trying their luck there.”

Position Yourself To Succeed

While there are a few notable differences to be mindful of when navigating your international job search, success comes with positioning yourself in a way that potential employers know your value and your drive.

Find your unique selling proposition, says Faujdar – it could be the experience you bring, the types of companies, or even geographies and languages you are familiar with. Then, create a credible brand to attract opportunities. 

“Being clear on what you want to do, and articulating WHY you want a particular role is key to standing out,” says Black. “Employers want people who know what they want and are motivated and aligned with the role they are offering. The majority are still focusing only on showing they CAN do the job, not that they really WANT to.”

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