Employment abroad


In a recent survey conducted by the "Maison des Français", 89% of expatriates (of those participating to the survey) had a job. As dual career couples are concerned, more than two thirds were said to work. Those results, besides their being considering only French expatriates, are rather encouraging. But they shouldn't hide the reality which is that working abroad is not an easy business, especially in times of ecomic difficulties. It is highly recommandates to expatriation candidates to make in depth job market research, prior to discard everything and set up on expatriation.

Whenever possible, it is obviously much more preferable to leave with a job in hand or with serious prospects. Betting on rapid success in looking for a job locally is hazardous and drives more than often to frustrating prematurated come back. There are no one best way though and, depending on applicants personality, their family situation and their field of expertise, lots of scenarii can be envisaged.

Getting out of crowded paths

Expatriation provides with an extraordinary opportunity to go out from one's usual career track, and consider trying for some time a new profession, a new environment for one's expertise, or a freelance activity. The key element is to identify and take advantage of the unique local opportunities. In the new environment, your most attractive skills can be different than the usual you had been building your career on. Expatriation can be a time for turning back to hobbies, old fields of passion or put aside business venture ideas, as foundations for new ventures and challenges.

Golden rules

  • Be open to opportunities
  • Adapt the job search to local context
  • Adapt job search tools (CV, cover letter) to the standards of the host country.
  • Dedicate enough time to networking
  • Start the job search as soon as possible
  • Get information on local job market and visa constraints
  • Clarify your professional project
  • Identify your strentghs and weaknesses as regard to your project implementation
  • Work on your weaknesses
  • Make a plan
  • Consider a long enough framework for your search
  • Stay focused
  • Take care of yourself and spend enough time getting comfortable in your new location.

Your motivations

Looking for a job can be related to various motivations: professional, career, financial, social, occupational.... It is key to understand what they are essentially, in order to focus on sheer objectives and enlarge the array of possibilities.

When looking for a job, one should take a few moment and step back, considering why, in his/her current situation, he or she wants to resume a professional activity. The risk of not understanding one's own motivation are either to remain too global in the job search or to underestimate one's needs. One can waste his/her energy or miss real opportunities, just because he/she doesn't actually know what he/she is looking for.

Take a few minutes to consider the following question: what is my primary need in looking for a job?

Am I primarily motivated by :

  • financial consideration? Is my income key to meet both ends or to balance the family budget? Is the fact of earning my life a condition for feeling autonomous?...
  • maintaining social bonds that only a job can offer? work place is indeed a unique place for social interactions and a vector for integration, especially abroad.
  • my profession- the need and/or desire to exert it?
  • career: how to boost my career? How to avoid CV holes,...?
  • skills development opportunities?
  • status?

Of course, your choices can be of various natures. the question is not to put your job search in a category box. The aim is to distinguish what is truly essential from what is not.

A job overseas, what for?

Depending on your answers and on the local job market, you will enjoy a panel of solutions that might well add other options, such as creating your own job (freelance activity), volunteering or registering to training sessions. 


Constraints & opportunities

If you have the choice, try to find a country that is not only attractive but also providing job opportunities for yourself as well as, should the situation arise, for your spouse.

If not, concentrate on the country's particular opportunities.

Do I have the right to work?

Within the European Union, community citizen have the right to circulate, work and do business in whatever place of the Union territory. Apart from this particular situation, working abroad usually require a visa. It is always possible to start with a touristic visa for starting a local job search, counting on quick job search and the possibility to obtain the adequate visa once the job obtained. But in many cases, this very job searching activity is illegal, the situation is insecure and a matter of worry for potential employers who would rather recruit people for whom they will have no red tape to proceed with. Being granted a spousal visa doesn't equate with being allowed to work. spouses willing to work usually have to go through the process either to obtain a specific work authorization or to get their own work visa. do not automatically get in the same time a right to work. 

Specific regulations are also to be considered. Some activities are restricted by conditions of diploma, status or nationality.

Last but not least, there are geographical constraints that should be taken into account right away. If located on a life base, in the middle of a desert, chances are that it will be difficult to find a job locally in your particular field of expertise.

Is the country's language a difficulty?

If you are looking for a job in a country with a local or business language different from your mother tongue, it is essential to check that your command of the language is god enough. If not, you will have either to focus your search on specific area where language will not be a handicap, or to invest in developping your language skills.

Are there specific job opportunities?

Ideally, you should be capable to find a job in your own field of expertise. But your expertise can be non transferable, or job opportunities may be scarce. In that case, the most important driver for your implementing a career move should be the buoyancy of selected jobs and professions. Most career specialists underline the necessity for any job applicant to start from the marlet needs and then develop the appropriate skills for the job.

What is my competitive edge over locals?

This the good news. In addition to your usual skils (those that you were spontaneously highlighting in your home country), you can now count on skills that, although not particularly valuable in your country, are treated like golden nuggets on expatriation.: your mother tongue, the familiarity you have with your culture of origin, its political institutions, its economic environment?... This unique advantage can open new opportunities either in your own specialty or in totally different fields.

A few examples :

  • a french journalist living in Russia, became Marketing Director for a large cosmetics firm.
  • A french engineer, living in Saudi Arabia, became a TV presentator.
  • A swedish Marketing executive, developped her own coaching and cross cultural training activity in France.

Your career track

Describe your career track:

Try to revisit each step of your career track from your first job up to now. You can help yourself with all kind of documents that you would have kept: do not limitate to headlines (job title) but describe the activities, tasks and projects that you have realized.

Whenever possible, try to remember how you felt in each step (images, emotions, sensations…). Write the reasons that motivated each career move.

Draw your curb of satisfaction:

At each career stage, explain the ups and downs of your motivation with a graphic. Try to emphasize what equated to summits (high motivation) or valleys (low motivation). Comment on each of them. Each piece of comment will provide you with additional perspective that will be useful for your career choices in the future.

Describe your profession

Try to do it as spontaneously and down to earth as possible. Assess the prequisites for that profession in terms of experience, knowmedge, personality ...

Your project

The professional project is at the heart of the job search. When one is unsure of his/her objectives, it is better to save a moment for stepping back and go through an elaborate process to build a powerful project.

More on professional project: use the tutorial votre projet professionnel.

Resume- CV

The resume or CV must be adapted to the expatriation country's standards. A powerful resume is supported by a clear project and an easily readable presentation.

The CV must be driven by an ambition

Which message do you want to convey? Which career track do you want to emphasize? A powerful CV starts with clearly indicating what you are looking for and the particular skills, you have developped, that can support this project. Try to focus on concrete elements and realizations according to the cultural habits that prevail: do not hesitate to talk about results and figures in the United States, remain cautious in less individualistic countries such as Japan or France.

CV format

A CV should not exceed 2 pages. Information can either be presented in chronological order(France...) or the opposite (last job first as in the United States). You may choose between both presentations depending on what you want to communicate: the most important information in the first part of the document, which is the most likely to be read.  Be careful in the United States not to mention your age, origin, sex or family situation. Be aware that more than often, CV are first screened by computer selection softwares. Prior to have a chance to be read by a recruiter, your Cv has to engage in a multiple hurdles race where it can be eliminated, regardless of its originality and of your uniqueness, based on the application of predetermined criteria. The first rule is thus to present a CV which is compatible with such an automatic process. The second is to make sure that all key pieces of information are presented in a way they will be recognized by the computer and succesfully matched with the selection criteria..

  • You can graciously check online your CV IT compatibility on the jobetic.net website: test de votre CV en ligne (in French).

Your CV in 5 steps

Writing your Cv represents a key stage in the job search process. Where to start? how to take the country's specifics into account? What primarily appears as a pensum may also become a pleasant and useful exercise, an opportunity to clarify your ideas and to throw light on the best aspects of your career track. A 5 steps guided visit of the art of writing a powerful resume.

1rst step : get started. 

Create a word page or take a notepad. Start in describing, using just a few words, the kind of job you are looking for. Don't worry at this stage about the way you formulate it. If you have several projects, write them down. You will still have the opportunity, later in the process, to refine the writing and should the necessity arise, to write several resumes, adapted to each of your professional objectives.

If you feel awkward in formulating your project you can flip through job ads on a newspaper or check postings on a job website. You can also look, on the internet, for standard job descriptions.If you find it difficult at this stage to clarify your project, leave it aside for the moment. Maybe the inventory of your career stages, at the next step, will provide you with ample suggestions on what you feel capable of doing and moreover what you want to do. If you are experiencing the famous white page syndrom, it might be useful to consider going through the process of a professional assessment. The exercise is key for the pertinence of your future CV, which will only inherit its strength from its being focused on one objective.

2nd step : jot down your ideas on paper.

Make a list of your academic degrees, mentionning dates, university or college attended, and the diploma obtained. Remember that, as a foreigner, the degrees you got as well as the university you attended may not be known in the host country. Avoid remarks that are only understandable by the happy few. Indicate the equivalences of your diplomas when you know them, if not transcript the name of the diploma in its original language. Make a list of all experiences, from the oldest to the most recent one. clearly indicate the dates for each position, the name of the job, responsibilities assigned,. Do not concentrate yet on finding the appropriate wording. just list the items one after another. List all your skills using keywords that you'll be able to mention on the upper part of the CV, immediately after the professional project. Concentrate on hard skills, such as project management, rather than on soft skills ("hard working") Minf for all keywords to be related to actual concrete aspects, representative of your profession. These keywords are supposed to help a recruiter, not to say a selection software, check taht you have the required skills. Mention your hobbies, activities in which you are being involved out of the professional sphere, if it makes sense with your professional project. It is perfectly imaginable that you have develop skills that can be of much interest for your future projects. Take care in remaining selective and specific: if you love Cinema, explain to what extent this passion is a trademark for yourself and related to a set of skills for your projects.

3rd step : sort out, organize and reformulate.

Go back to the presentation of your qualifications, skills and extra-professional activities. Sort them out and keep only those that are useful and actively support your project. Make the format choice (chronological or anti-chronological order) depending on what is the best suited for conveying your message. On peut privilégier une présentation chronologique, ou thématique. Mind to describe every activity with action verbs, prefering results to assigned responsibilities: Launch an internal magazine rather than editorial responsibility. Be concrete et give as much quantitative information as possible: Management of cross cultural team with 6 engineers rather than team management.

You are entirely free to select the information you choose to present or not. You should concentrate on your strengths and message if you want key ideas to be easyly identifiable.

4th  Step : formatting.

The CV should not exceed 2 pages. the inner structure can be variable depending on what suits your project the best. In its classical form, the resume presents your contact information, professional project, academic background and extra curricular/professional activities. You can decide in starting your resume with a statement summarizing key elements of your profile. As the layout itself is concerned, choose simplicity (a single policy of characters, Headings in strong, a single color), and make sure key information is well presented and easy to read.

If your resume at this stage is too long, ask someone to help you get rid of non pertinent items. You will get a skeleton that will be clearer and likely to better lay stress on the dynamic of your background. Don't hesitate to enrich it once again, but refrain from using copy/paste.

5th step : read it over, have someone reread it.

Your resume must absolutely be exempt from any mistake or bug. Read it over and ask someone to reread it, especially when the document is written in a foreign language. Ask your friends for thir comments and suggestions. Be ready to adapt your CV whenever it is needed.

Smart letters

Cover letter

The cover letter remains a must. Internet and e-mail usage for sending applications online may have masked the necessity for applicants to write a smart coverletter to recruiters, but the exercize remains an essential way to emphasize and explain one's career track, skills and professional project. It is often considered a proof of basic courtesy and motivation in a time where applicants may send tons of application without always checking their relevance with the position posted.
The cover letter should be short in order for it to be rapidly read by recruiters. It's main objectives are to make the connection between the job and the application, and to highlight the most important information. For more details, it should drive back to the resume. 
If you send your cover letter via e-mail, mind to integrate it in the body of the message ( while also sending it as an attachment). The recruiter will thus be able to read the letter without going though the fuss of opening the attachment: experience shows that he seldom does so or does it with difficulty (for example when using a blackberry).

The letter is classically organized in 3 parts:

  • An introduction: your motivation for applying to the job; your understanding of it's main caracteristics.
  • Sales argument: your strengths regarding the job, in terms of skills and personal qualities. Do not hesitate, whenever possible, to provide the reader with concrete information: facts, figures, realizations.
  • A conclusion: your desire to meet the recruiter, a simple courtesy formula.

The follow up letter

In phases of intense networking or interviews, follow up letters ( which can be done by e-mail) are not only a matter of courtesy but rather of efficiency.

A follow up letter should be simply written and well structured. It works as a reminder, a few days after an interview, of the main elements of the discussion you've had with the recruiter. In itself, a follow up letter is indicative of your organization and inter-relations skills. It can efficiently reinforce your image and maintain vivid the remembrance of your qualities and motivation. 


Your pitch

The pitch, or elevator speech, refers to a brief yet powerful presentation of yourself that you can deliver anytime you get the opportunity to do so.

Let's just imagine your dream job. Your future boss is here, waiting next to you for the elevator to carry him to his office at the top of a business tower. You step in the elevator's cabin together. You have this unique opportunity to catch his attention and sell your project to him in less than a minute. What do you tell him. Do the test with a stop watch, 60 seconds elapse very rapidly.
Odds are very low that you should ever have the opportunity to be interviewed in an elevator. It is nevertheless essential to have prepared a presentation script in order to make such a presentation in 1 to 3 minutes. Insist on the 2 to 3 points (not more), you would like your auditor to remember. Make sure your message is clear and concrete.

If looking for a job in the US, be aware that the selection process actually works at each stage. A first call is not only a way to connect and fix an appointment, it is a way to check basic relevance of your application to the selection criteria and can rapidly lead to a dead end if your answers are not convincing enough.