5 Tips To Getting A Job Abroad

I ventured abroad to Nicaragua my junior year of college for a two month internship at the prison where I would teach English and gather personal narratives for a human rights organization. It was the beginning of a journey that would challenge my assumptions and lead to a life of international endeavors.

Seeking employment abroad is an exciting prospect. It requires creative and adaptive intelligence and invites individuals to be the architects of their own experience. If this inspires you, what follows is a primer; which will help you turn your ideas, skills and passion into an international career.

1. It All Starts With An Itch

The project you choose to pursue must excite you. If not, your motivation and performance will wane steadily once the initial novelty of the job fades. Conversely, if there is a question, a problem or a project that pulls you out of bed each morning, you have a keeper. Begin writing down these inspirations, but avoid editing your inspiration list based on what you think you “should” or are “expected” to do. The point is to identify what makes you feel alive.

2. Come Prepared

Attitudinal focus may sound trite, yet it can be a game changer. Remember, it is challenge that you crave. The notion that comfort equates to happiness is a trap. Focusing on variables within your control will allow you to frame and respond to experiences in the most productive and beneficial manner. This emphasis is particularly salient in an international context where the script and stage are often drastically different than the modus operandi you are accustomed to. Here are a few key practices to foster: cultivate a positive mental approach; strive toward flexibility; don’t take things personally; and don’t make assumptions. The aim is to develop resiliency; the ability to recover from or adjust easily to change. The goal is to train your brain to anticipate, and not overreact, to unexpected stress (a defining attribute of elite athletes). These skills can be honed through various and minimally time-consuming daily practices, such as meditation and yoga – practices embraced by Navy Seals and Buddhist monks alike.

3. Share Your Desire

Immediately after college, I returned to Central America, yet soon found myself out of cash, back home and crashing with my parents. Although I am naturally shy, I couldn’t let my passions fizzle. So I began reaching out to my network of friends, family, teachers, business owners, neighbors and that guy in the coffee shop reading a book on ‘Java Trekking.’ Four months later, I was leading a group of high schoolers on an 8 week trip in Costa Rica – I didn’t even know that was a job!

4. Go To The Well

As a study abroad alum, you are connected to vital resources: your home institution and study abroad provider. Most providers prefer hiring successful alums for international posts and in-country offices are a hub for networking. In my experience, country specific contacts are happy to assist in furthering alums’ career goals as are professors who focus on the region of your interest.

5. Tailor And Execute Your Approach

Begin researching organizations that match your interests. If opportunities aren’t available, consider developing or collaborating on a project in the States through crowdsourcing via Kickstarter, FundMyTravel, or Indiegogo. Or, depending on your flexibility, save-up then offer your services as an intern, which can lead to eventual employment.

If you’re brave, sometimes the best way to gain traction is to pursue leads once in-country. Consider teaching English part-time for financial stability while you do so. An unintended perk – the relationships developed offer an avenue for cultural exchange and serve as a powerful mechanism to build rapport within a community.

Finally, web-based remote employment opportunities are growing. Last summer, I met a woman volunteering on a coffee cooperative in the outskirts of Antigua, Guatemala. She spent the morning learning the craft of shade grown coffee and practicing Spanish with local farmers, while fulfilling her employment responsibilities in the afternoon.

Wake up and grab your cup of ambition!

Matthew-ShameyAuthor: Matthew Shamey

Shamey graduated with a B.A. in Political Science from Grinnell College. He is the Assistant Director of Global Education at Hampshire College where he primarily oversees the inbound student and scholar exchange program coupled with advising Hampshire students on international opportunities. He has studied, worked, volunteered and trekked throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Matthew enjoys spending his free time in his salsa garden and running.

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