How I Landed a Job in a Foreign Country (and How You Can Too)

How I Landed a Job in a Foreign Country (and How You Can Too)

I moved from New York to Hong Kong almost two years ago without any local Chinese connections and only a simple “m̀hgòi” in my Cantonese arsenal (“thank you” in Cantonese). Many of my friends, past colleagues, and coaching clients often ask how (and why) I landed a job in a foreign country so I wanted to share my tips here.

I’m here to tell you: you can do it. Yes, you. Wherever you want to live and work in the world, you can make it happen. Sure, some countries and types of jobs will be more difficult to attain than others but nothing new and exciting comes easy. You have to put in the work and believe that it will work out!

Here is a step by step guide to landing a job abroad:

1. Choose the city that is the best fit for you both personally and professionally

If you already know in your heart which city you’d like to work in, kindly proceed to Step 2.

I landed on Hong Kong as my ideal work destination after 2 months traveling around Asia. The diversity, bright lights, and char siu fan (bbq pork) at every corner had me convinced that this was the city for me.

You can read all about the different cities but nothing compares to actually being there. I recommend you to fly out to the cities you are considering and get a feel for the culture, people, and working life. You’ll know when you found the right city.

While you do this, keep in mind the industry and type of roles you are most interested in. The city that best matches your personal preference and professional skill sets is the one for you.

2. Put yourself in the shoes of a recruiter and tailor your CV to specific roles

So you’re set on your new city and now just need to find that right job. Before you start refreshing LinkedIn and spamming the Easy Apply button, take a step back and put your best recruiter hat on.

All recruiters have one primary goal – to find the best talent for their teams and get them as seamlessly as they can. While you may have a good CV, speed and ease will not be on your side. As a candidate from a foreign country, recruiters now have to consider visas, relocation costs, language requirements, and on and on.

Thus, you need to take your CV to the next level. Highlight the key skills and experience that are directly applicable to that specific role, not just general comments that can be used for any job or company. 6 seconds is all you get with your CV so you got to make them count.

3. Act as if you live in that country

A simple but effective hack is to change the location of your CV and LinkedIn profile to that of your desired location. Most recruiters will automatically reject CVs that have a foreign country listed at the top. Navigate this by changing your location on your CV and explaining your situation during the interview process. Recruiters are more empathetic when they hear your story in person or through the phone.

4. Do NOT apply through LinkedIn or on company portals

I will be releasing an in-depth article on this in the coming weeks but I wanted to touch on this topic here. For almost all situations, do NOT apply through a company portal or use LinkedIn’s Easy Apply button. I know it’s tempting but you are doing yourself a disservice by hitting that blue button.

Instead, search on LinkedIn and reach out to recruiters and hiring managers for the specific role you are interested in. In your LinkedIn DMs, ask them for a casual phone call or coffee chat (if you happen to be in the city already). Don’t sell yourself from the start, instead shift the conversation to them: give feedback on a recent blog post, discuss their company’s newest product, congratulate them on hitting a big milestone, etc. This is 100x times more effective than applying through any portal.

5) Pitch a global move internally

Your best friend in this whole process is your network.

If you enjoy working for your current company and have a strong track record there, look at relocation opportunities internally. Initiate conversations with your manager and HR to see if a move is possible to one of your global offices. Better yet, come prepared with a thorough business case and list out the strategic and financial benefits to your company from this move. In addition to targeting your manager and HR, present your proposal to senior stakeholders as well as they will ultimately make the final decision in most cases. Come prepared with a deck, memo, spreadsheets, and/or whatever else you need to tell a convincing story.

6) Tap into your network for new opportunities

If you are looking for a fresh start instead, you should tap into your network and initiate phone calls with connections who may be able to help. Consider contacting university alumni, gym buddies, childhood friends, distant relatives, or any other groups you are affiliated with.

Also, reach out to connections that are currently living and working in your target city. I am still very grateful for James Williams who responded to a cold LinkedIn message I sent to him even before we met in person. He connected me with some great connections when I was visiting Hong Kong and helped me find a job within weeks. Find yourself a friend like James!

7) Make that jump

And finally, my last tip in this article is to just go for it. We have so much information available at our fingertips now that at times we simply forget to take action. There will be a million other articles or posts telling you to do this or that or something completely different. But in reality, if you really want to get that global experience and work abroad, you just have to trust your gut and make that jump.

As Will Smith said in this video:

On the other side of your maximum fear, are all of the best things in life.

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I’d love to hear from you next! What other tips would you add to this list?

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