International Jobs - Overview
Thinking about living and working in a foreign country? There are many, many options to choose from, but quite a few restrictions, too. So you'll need to think carefully about the options and recognize that the path you had imagined may be much more round-about than what you originally hoped for.
Overview - why go abroad?
A few organizing principles
Visas and work permits
Options for working abroad
A few good websites
OVERVIEW - WHY GO ABROAD?
Before you dive into the process of looking for work abroad, ask yourself what you want to gain from your experience. Are you looking for:
- A fun time exploring a new country and culture?
- A life-changing experience?
- A full-time service opportunity in a developing country?
- An opportunity to improve your language skills?
- A way to make some cash to fund some travel?
- An experience that will provide some preparation for an international career?
- If your main goals are to improve your language skills and have a good time, maybe working at that Left Bank restaurant would serve you better than an internship working with Americans at the U.S. Embassy in Paris.
- On the other hand, if your goal is to begin an international career, perhaps the State Department internship is better suited to your interests. Many Americans start their international careers with a job or internship at an international organization in the U.S.
- If you are hoping to save money for study or travel abroad, you may be better off finding paid work in this country, and then traveling later. Contrary to the myths about making lots of money working abroad, most short-term jobs in foreign countries will allow you to cover your living expenses and not much more.
- Consider all your options. For example, paid work in developing countries is rare, but "volunteering" with a service agency could provide you with your housing and your food, and perhaps a small stipend to cover your living expenses.
Careers abroad - It is important to understand that, without first establishing a career in the U.S, it is extremely difficult to land a career position abroad. But we do offer a brief discussion of the various paths to professional, career-oriented jobs abroad (see below), and most of the opportunities discussed on our various international pages (internships, short-term paid work, volunteering, and teaching abroad) can serve as building blocks to an international career.
Timing - the widest range of options is available to you while you are a student or soon after you graduate. Many programs are designed specifically for undergraduate and graduate students and for recent graduates
A FEW ORGANIZING PRINCIPLES
1. Keep a notebook, preferably a three-ring binder, in which you can place website printouts, photocopies of book pages, and your own notes.
- Why keep a notebook? Your international job search is likely to involve a lot of research and many different possibilities. Without a notebook (or an organized filing system), you'll end up with piles of pages floating around everywhere.
2. Ask for help. Books and the Internet offer great resources, but there will be plenty of times when you need advice and details, or you'll just want to bounce some ideas off somebody.
- Ask for help at the BC Career Center.
- Speak with representatives of any organization with which you are considering participation.
- Ask trusted friends and family for encouragement.
3. Don't rely solely on the Internet for information. There are some great resources online, but there are also plenty of books that offer much more detail and depth than you'll find anywhere on the Web. Visit the BC Career Resource Library at 38 Commonwealth Avenue to view many of these resources.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of finding work abroad is arranging for a work permit visa. While short-term tourists often do not need a visa, and a student visa is obtained relatively easily, work permit visas are issued only to employers who have offered you a job. And in order to offer you a job, an employer must prove to the appropriate government agency that they have made a concerted effort to find someone within their country who can perform the job.
This is an expensive process for the employer, so most will not offer a job to a foreigner who does not already hold a work permit visa. And the penalties for hiring someone without a work permit can be severe. Though Americans do sometimes work "under the table" in foreign countries, we cannot recommend this option, as the penalties can be severe, including serious fines and even expulsion from the country.
OPTIONS FOR WORKING ABROAD
- In a select few countries where work permits are easily obtainable through U.S.-based agencies, short-term jobs are relatively easy to find - Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Depending on the country, work permits are available for three to six months (up to a full year in New Zealand).
- A number of U.S. and international exchange organizations offer work experiences abroad, though you must usually pay a fee up front for training, placement and/or health insurance.
- Most volunteer positions lasting more than a few months will provide you with housing, meals and a stipend to cover your expenses.
- Volunteering can be an excellent way to gain experience abroad. Opportunities are plentiful, and some volunteer opportunities will provide greater challenges and opportunities for professional growth than your average entry-level job in the U.S.
- Though most long-term volunteer opportunities abroad (over six months) are in developing nations, there are plenty of shorter-term opportunities all over the world, though you may have to pay a fee to participate in the shorter programs.
- Tremendous opportunities exist for teaching English around the world. If teaching is something you enjoy, this can be a great way to live and work abroad.
- The easiest places to find jobs teaching English abroad are Asia, Latin America and the former Soviet republics. The toughest place to find these jobs is in Western Europe.
- Your students will usually be business people, seeking to improve their English language skills for the workplace.
- For those with U.S. teacher certification and some teaching experience, abundant opportunities exist to teach in K-12 schools around the world..
- Even for those without certification or experience, some possibilities do exist, particularly in developing nations.
- A number of organizations and U.S. universities offer internship experiences abroad, often as part of a study abroad program. You must usually pay a fairly significant fee up front to participate in these programs.
- Some international internships are open to American students, mostly in the areas of government and international relations. Most of these interships are unpaid.
- Very difficult to obtain without having previously established a professional career in the U.S.
- With persistence and/or excellent connections in their country of choice, graduating students and recent alumni are sometimes able to land a professional job in a foreign country.
A FEW GOOD WEBSITES
A few excellent websites provide extensive overviews and resources for working abroad. These include:
Excellent resource for exploring possibilities. Includes a wide range of articles on working in specific countries or at specific jobs.
Dickinson College - International Job Search
Includes 10 Myths About the International Job Search and Succeeding in the International Job Market.
European Career Fair (ECF)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Cambridge, MA