Increasing numbers of people are spending time working in another country, whether this is for a few days or weeks, a few months or for several years or even permanently. As the global economy develops and businesses increasingly operate across national boundaries, so too is the work force becoming increasingly mobile. People are being posted abroad by their employers more frequently, whether just for a few days to attend a meeting or conference, for a few months to fulfil a particular contract or on a more permanent basis.

Who Should Work Abroad?

Working abroad is an option for everyone. EU and EEA nationals have the automatic right to seek employment in any other Member State of the EU/EEA. Beyond the EU there may be no automatic right to enter a country for work, but many countries do welcome workers from abroad, particularly when they have skills shortages.

Working abroad gives you the opportunity to discover another culture and acquire real fluency in another language.

Experience of working in another country is likely to be highly valuable for future career prospects as both multicultural understanding and linguistic skills will be increasingly important to employers. This is because UK employers have an increasing amount of links with organisations in Europe and therefore need increasingly employees with experience of working in another country.

Is it the Right Option?

Working in another country isn’t for everybody. If you are considering working abroad you need to think about the following issues:

Benefits

Working in another country offers a range of benefits:

  • Get better language skills: Learn a new language or really improve your skills in a language you already speak.
  • Learn new job skills: Learn to think in different ways and approach subjects in a different way.
  • CV experience: Gain experience to enhance your future job prospects. As links between the UK and Europe grow, UK employers are increasingly valuing foreign experience.
  • ‘Life’ experience: Become a part of a different culture – this is often a maturing influence

 

Possible Barriers

There are a number of potential issues to consider:

  • Language: If you work in another country it is likely that you will need to learn another language. If you are not prepared to make the effort to speak the language well then your work may suffer and you will not make the most of your experience.
  • Culture shock: Other countries are different and while this can be the best part of working abroad, it can also be a problem. You might find yourself having difficulties adjusting to a new way of life and working. You might also find yourself isolated because of a lack of language skills.
  • Qualifications: Are your qualifications going to recognised abroad?

 

Preparation

You must remember that it is not an easy task to find work in another country. It is very important therefore to plan ahead. Looking for work in another country can be a complex and time consuming process and therefore the importance of preparation cannot be overestimated. Unemployment rates are generally high in Europe  and so for this reason alone it can be difficult to look for work in other countries in Europe. This average figure does of course hide great variations within countries, regions and industries. For example the unemployment rate in Spain in February 2014 was 25.6%. This compares with equivalent figures in the Netherlands of 7.3% and 5.1% in Germany. When considering the rest of the world the ranges in unemployment are even greater.

Your preparation should include producing a CV and a letter of application in the relevant language, which you can use when reply to a job advert, to send to employers directly or which can be left with an employer after a visit. Before producing the CV it is also important to check that qualifications are compared with local qualifications and that the CV is written as far as possible in the way that CVs are written locally.

Your preparation should also include finding out as much information as possible about the industry or occupation in the country. Are there likely to be vacancies? What is the current labour market situation in the industry? Will UK qualifications for the job be acceptable? Will further training be necessary?

Working Abroad as a Long Term Aim

In many cases due to the differences between systems of Education and Employment, in particular countries, it is not always advisable or appropriate for an individual to look for work at a particular time. One example is that graduates from UK Universities wishing to apply for jobs in Europe may find that because of the different structure of degrees in other European countries that they may require further work experience and/or qualifications in order to compete in the European labour market. Due to these differences it is more common that those with experience may find it easier to find work in another country than those recently out of education. The exceptions to this are those with qualifications in subjects such as engineering or construction (with relevant language skills who are likely to find it easier to transfer into the labour market outside of their own country.

It may be necessary sometimes when looking for work in another country to take a job at a lower level than would be available in the UK. In cases where someone particularly wants to work in their chosen country it will be easier for them to initially accept a position below their normal capabilities and then when in the country spend a longer period of time looking for work. For example, it may be easier to find work in a bar or restaurant or Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) in order to be able to stay in a country long enough to be able to devote more time to searching for a job which is more appropriate to an individual’s skills and qualifications.