Ask a professional

Ellen O'BrienYou’re thinking of applying for a role overseas but the research that lies ahead may seem daunting. What will make you attractive to overseas employers and what aspects of living and working abroad should you consider before taking the plunge?

The University’s International Careers Adviser Ellen O’Brien gives her advice on how to tackle the challenges and ensure you’re as prepared as possible for life overseas.

What are the career benefits of working overseas?

Working overseas can give you a level of cultural awareness and a global perspective that you may not find if you stay in employment in your home country. This is becoming increasingly important as there are so many global businesses and emerging economies that offer a wealth of employment opportunities. But they are looking for employees who can successfully demonstrate cultural competencies and tackle potentially uncomfortable cultural situations – working overseas can certainly help provide that experience.

What are the best ways to go about looking for work abroad?

There are so many resources out there, particularly online, that people can go to for information and advice. It largely depends on what you want to do. For example, if you know you want to work in retail management in China, and know that Tesco is establishing a supermarket presence there, the best option is to apply to Tesco’s UK headquarters or look at their overseas opportunities on the website.

Otherwise, I’d say read up on and do as much research as you can, because you’ll need to demonstrate to potential employers that you understand not just their business, but also their country’s culture, economy, and how they work within their specific sector. There are plenty of international recruitment agencies that can help, as well as resources such as that give you access to a large number of the world’s newspapers. 

What should people do to make their CVs attractive to potential overseas employers?

You should always look at what they are asking for and demonstrate how your skills match those requirements. Beyond that, you should show your knowledge of local languages if applicable and that you are conscious of their cultural nuances, particularly in a business capacity. They will be looking to find out whether you’re capable of performing the role and settling into the company and country quickly and easily.

Are there countries or regions that are looking for certain sectors or skill sets at present?

Yes. For example, Africa’s developing countries have a strong demand for construction, civil engineering, IT and utilities skills; whereas India and China are keen for manufacturing and IT roles. On the whole, science and technology skills are widely sought after.

Are there any challenges to consider before taking the decision to go abroad?

You should always research the standard of living beforehand, as that can vary from country to country. Also be prepared for a culture shock and do your research into cultural sensitivities and taboos. The best piece of advice I can give is perhaps that you should be patient – it does take time to adapt to living in a new country, so be aware that you may struggle with certain aspects of overseas living. But the benefits in terms of your personal development will far outweigh any initial discomfort.

It’s also always a good idea to keep in touch with your colleagues from University wherever possible, particularly those from different cultures to your own, as you never know when their knowledge and advice may come in handy.

For further reading and advice on working abroad, please visit the Gradlink UK website.