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How to Network for Jobs Abroad

Creating Contacts is the Key to Finding Work Overseas

Networking for international jobs
Networking is very often the best way to find international jobs.
This guide is targeted to people who seek their first international job. Most of the examples will be taken from the nonprofit, journalism, and educational sectors, although the principles apply to business and government as well. The tips can be used to find short-term or long-term assignments, and will be helpful for recent college graduates, mid-career professionals, and retired people eager for new adventures. We’ll cover virtual networking as well as in person strategies. Happy networking!

We have broken up the guide into the following key sections:

  1. Introduction to Networking: Beyond Business Cards

  2. Clarify Your Networking Goals: Your International Job Search Statement

  3. Who to Contact about Jobs Abroad: Getting to the Bullseye, The Person Who Can Hire You

  4. Once You Have Identified the Bullseye: Reaching Out to Get Hired Abroad

  5. Case Studies in Success: True Stories of Networking for International Employment

  6. Ethical Networking: The Ten Commandments of Reaching Out in a Principled Way

  7. International Networking for Shy People

  8. Networking Resources for International Jobs

Part 1: Introduction to International Networking: Beyond Business Cards

Networking. Argh.

The term conjures an image of standing around at reception with your name tag peeling off your shirt, making awkward small talk with people you don’t like, and trying to get their business cards so you can use them to rise up the ladder of your chosen career.

Can we banish that image?

In a more principled world, networking simply means expanding your group of friends, and deepening your relationships with existing friends.

And networking is vital for finding a job overseas.

Here’s why: In the U.S., fewer than half of job openings are announced publicly. In most other countries, the fraction is even smaller.

Question: How can you possibly find out about job openings that are not public?

Answer: By knowing the people who actually know about the openings. That is, by having a strong, dynamic, supportive, active, and well-connected network.

The following series of articles will help you build your international network in a principled and effective way, with the goal of helping you find a job in your field. You can do so without hoarding business cards or annoying people.

My background is mostly in the nonprofit and educational sectors, which is where I will offer my examples, but the techniques I share will generally apply to governmental, business, and other job sectors as well. Many of the tips also apply to networking for domestic jobs.

I will assume that you are already using some of the other basic job-hunting strategies, such as searching online listings at Idealist, Craigslist, organizations you want to work for, and your alumni career center. Searching these resources will help you get a sense of what is out there, but it might not get you a job. Successful job hunters usually use more than one technique to find jobs, according to career expert, Dick Bolles. (See Dick’s What Color Is Your Parachute? 2017: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers, aka “The Job Hunter’s Bible” for more information on different techniques and their rate of success.)

I will also assume that you have some skills to offer—you have a college degree or equivalent experience and preferably have done at least some volunteer work, an internship, or a job in your field.

Finally, I will assume you are willing to work hard. Finding a job is a full time job. Your hard work will pay off.

A special word for my introverted readers: I feel your pain. The idea of networking can arouse a special fear and loathing in people who are shy or find it tiring to meet new people. I will share tips that will work for you—as well as your more extroverted friends.

Let’s begin by clarifying your international job search goals.

Part 2: Clarify Your Networking Goals: Your International Job Search Statement

Building a network for your international job search is most effective when you have clarity about your ideal job.

Some people try to broaden their chances by saying “I will take any international job anywhere.” This strategy backfires for two reasons:

1. You won’t really take any job anywhere, will you? Nanny for triplets in Tripoli? Public relations officer for an oil company that just had a spill in the Amazon? Land mine detonator in rural Afghanistan?  Probably not.

2. People who want to help you will be stuck if you don’t give them some guidance about what you want to do and where you want to work.

So save your time and others by adding focus to your job search... and to your networking.

I suggest creating an International Job Search Statement, a document of a page or less that clarifies

  • Where you want to work (city, country or region)
  • The field you want to work in
  • The type of organization where you want to work (such as nonprofit, school, or business)
  • What you offer potential employers (including technical skills, soft skills, and language skills)
  • Your timeline
  • Your salary requirements
  • Other relevant information

You will then draw from this document when you start your networking.

Note: If you are really unclear about what you want and can’t come up with a Job Search Statement, you can build a different sort of network—a group of friends and mentors to help you get to know yourself and explore different career possibilities. I won’t focus on this type of network, but would direct you to Resources section of this guide for suggestions.

Sample Job Search Statement for an International Job

I’d like to find a job or paid internship in Central America, preferably in Costa Rica.

I would like to work in the environmental field. My background is in environmental education but I could also work in environmental research, advocacy, or conservation.

My written and spoken Spanish is fluent. I studied abroad in Ecuador, traveled in Spain this past summer, and have taken three upper level Spanish classes.

I will be available to start work overseas after I graduate on May 15 this year. I would like to find an opportunity for a year or more, but I would be open to a shorter-term assignment.

My skills and experiences include

  • Strong writing skills in Spanish and English.
  • Volunteer work in an outdoor education program that worked with K-12 students in a US National Park.
  • An internship doing research about indigenous plants for a local nonprofit in San Francisco.
  • Strong computer skills including the MS Office Suite and website design.

    In terms of salary or stipend, I have saved enough to fly to Central American but I need to earn enough for room, board, and spending money. I will take care of my own shots and emergency medical insurance.

You can start by cutting and pasting the example above, then substituting the country and field where you want to work, as well as your specific skills and salary requirements. Make sure your goals are reasonable. The (hypothetical) young woman who wrote the box above could probably get a paid internship in a national forest or a job as an environmental education teacher at a private school. But getting a high level management job at an international organization in Costa Rica would probably not be realistic for her until she gets more experience.

In this economy, some tips to assess if your goals are realistic:

  • Make sure you have some experience in the field you want to work in. If you don’t, start by gaining experience by volunteering locally. See www.idealist.org or www.volunteermatch.org to find options.
  • Check the economy in the country and region you want to volunteer. If the economy has been on a downturn and unemployment is high, you’ll have to be more flexible, maybe considering an internship or service job such as waitressing, rather than a professional job. Teaching jobs are often easier to find than other sectors. As of this writing, countries like Greece will be more challenging than China. But even in Europe, there are thousands of jobs, you just have to know how to find them. See Resources (link) for how to research economic and other realities in the country where you want to work.

Once you’ve drafted a Job Search Statement, consider showing it to a supportive friend or mentor who can help you polish it. The career center of your alma mater may have someone who could look at it for you and help you clarify any parts of the Job Search Statement that you are unclear about.

Ok, you have your International Job Search Statement? Now, you’re ready to start building your network to help you get that dream job.

Part 3: Who to Contact about International Jobs: Getting to the Person Who Can Hire You

Once you have clarified your goals for your job search, you’ll want to divide your contacts into three groups: Bulleyes, Bows, and Arrows, and the Field.

When you start out, most of your contacts will be in the Field. I will show you strategies find the Bulleyes. But first let’s clarify who is who.

Who

Explanation

Examples

Your Action

Bulls eyes

The people who have the power to hire you.

  • A park director in Costa Rica.
  • The HR manager at a large nonprofit organization with offices in South Africa.
  • A recruiter for a school that needs teachers in China.

Send a resume with a fabulous cover letter asking for a job—even if there are no announced openings. Follow up with a call in a few days.

Bows and Arrow

The people who know Bulleyes and can connect you.

  • A professor who lead a study abroad trip to Costa Rica.
  • An employee of a large nonprofit organization in South Africa.
  • A friend of a friend who taught in China.

Meet in person (or call) to learn from them and see if they can connect you with the Bulleye.

The Field

Everyone else: Your contacts who might know Bows, Arrows, and Bulleyes

The four F’s

  • Friends
  • Family
  • Faculty
  • Faith community

The two W’s

  • Work
  • Web

The two S’s

  • Schools
  • Service clubs

Email, social networking, and informal chats

Each of these types of contacts requires a different action. Let’s start in the field, because that’s where most people start their networking.

In the Field: Telling Everyone You Know About Your Job Search

In the field, you should find easy ways to spread the news of your job search to as many people as possible.

I favor an online approach: Email combined with Facebook work is fine for most of us, combined with informal chats with people you see regularly.

For these folks, you just need to tell them the basics and ask if they have ideas for you. Go back to the Job Search Statement and adapt it for this purpose. Here’s an example:

Subject: Know anyone who has been to Costa Rica?

Hi Friends,

I’d like to find a job or paid internship in Central America, preferably in Costa Rica, starting in May. I would like to work in the environmental field. Do you know anyone who has been to Costa Rica, including anyone who has worked, traveled, volunteered, or studied there? If so, would you kindly reply to this email and copy that person, or pass on his or her name and contact information.

Thanks!

Ronnie

Think carefully about whom to send this email to. You probably know more people than you realize. With the advent of Facebook, tracking down past contacts is easier than ever. I suggest using the “Four F’s and Two W’s” to guide your brainstorming about who to contact. You can personalize the email as needed.

Your Field of Four F’s and Two W’s: Friends, Family, Faculty, Faith, Work, and Web

Friends

Of course you should contact your current group of buddies. Then go mentally back to your elementary, junior high, and high school friends. Think about college roommates, friends from camp, and summer jobs—anyone who would like to hear from you, and might like to help you find your dream job.

Family

Don’t be shy about letting family know about your job search. Dig deep into the family tree, including second cousins, relatives by marriage, and distant relatives you find on sites such as ancestry.com. If you have an unusual last name, Facebook may turn up cousins in far flung places.

Faculty

Even if you graduated long ago, your professors still want to hear from you.  They will be happy that you remember them and (if true) that your desire to go overseas was influenced by their classes. Think of language professors, regional or development studies, even history and literature. Professors tend to be connected internationally to others in their discipline. You can even contact professors who did not teach you if you think they may be well connected in the country where you want to work.

Faith

Your local congregation or national affiliates may have members or employees who have travelled to the country where you want to go. Ask the leader of the congregation or the chair of the social action committee to forward your message to the email list or to contacts at the denomination’s national office. If you’re an atheist, try the local Ethical Humanist Society.

Work

Unless you are conducting a stealth search, you’ll probably find your co-workers to be very helpful in your job search, since they each have their own contacts in your area of expertise. Chose 2-3 colleagues who you think might be most helpful, and get together for coffee or after work to share your dream and get their suggestions.

Web

You might be surprised to find that “cold calls” to people you find through the web can be an effective way to build your network. I suggest reaching out to expats and/or Peace Corps volunteers in the country where you want to work; find them by searching for blogs. You can use Facebook or LinkedIn to contact them; be sure to use the individual message feature, and personalize the message. Don’t use the default or try to friend someone you have not met without sending a personal message first.

Jeanette, I saw your blog and really liked the post about how hard it has been to learn Urdu. I seek work in the NGO sector in India. Would you be willing to tell me how you found your job and share any tips for finding jobs there?

If your network still seems a bit thin, consider the two S’s: School and Service Clubs:

Schools. Contact the alumni department at your university and request help connecting with alum in your field or country of choice.

Service or skills clubs. My favorites are Rotary (often very internationally minded people), Optimist International, Toastmasters, or Jaycees. In most locations, it’s easy to find a local chapter and you will find a welcome reception.

Part 4: Contacts who Can Connect You with the People with the Power to Hire

Once you reach out to a large number of contacts in the field, you’ll start getting suggestions of people who might know of jobs overseas.

Now it’s time to develop your contact management system. I favor a Google Documents spreadsheet, using categories like the following

Name

Organization and Contact Info

Who Referred Me?

Details

Actions and Communications

Professor Carmelino

University of New Mexico
Carmelino@unmx.edu

Sandra did study abroad with him

Sandra says he is very helpful and has lots of experience and contacts in Costa Rica.

Wrote email Feb 20. Follow up by visiting during office hours on Feb 28 if he does not respond.

Use any system you like, but make sure you have a system.

Each of the people on the Bow and Arrow list deserves a personalized approach. Call the person or write an individualized email that mentions how you got in contact with them, what you seek, and what you think they might offer.

Subject: Seeking contact with environmental NGOs in Costa Rica

Dear Professor Carmelino,

My friend Sandra Eggert suggested I contact you. She participated in your study abroad trip last summer.

I am seeking to work in Costa Rica in the environmental field. I will graduate in May with a BA in Spanish. My resume is attached for your information.

Sandra thought you could put me in touch with some individuals who work for environmental NGOs in Costa Rica. I would be so grateful if you could pass on any suggestions. I would appreciate your ideas by email, or if it is easier, I will stop by during your office during office hours on Feb 28.

Many thanks,

Ronnie Carpintero

For someone your age, a more informal approach would work:

Script for call or text:

Hi Jake, this is Tommy. I am looking for environmental work in Central America. I know you did your study abroad in Nicaragua and I’m hoping you have time to get a cup of coffee and let me ask you some questions. Would next Tuesday at 2 p.m. work for you?

How to Reach Out to Get Hired for Jobs Overseas

Eventually, you will get contact info for people who have the power to hire, or what is often called a "Bullseye."

Name

Organization and Contact Info

Who Referred Me?

Details

Actions and Communications

Sra. Portabella

Parque de las Monanas, Costa Rica

Prof. Caramelo

She hires park rangers, interns, and other staff at the park. She leads tour for Caramelo’s study abroad students.

Email cover letter and resume in Spanish then call.

Sr. Cardinez

Mariposas Global

Prof. Caramelo

He is the director and makes all hiring decisions. Has hired U.S. graduate students in the past.

Email cover letter and resume in Spanish then call.

For each Bullseye contact, you should have a personalized strategy. In general, I suggest an email followed up by a call (check local time zones and load up your Skype account). Before you write the email, do as much research as you can on the person you are writing to. Here’s a sample:

(This following letter would be sent in Spanish of course.)

Dear Sr. Cardinez,

Greetings. I am writing to you on the recommendation of Professor Carmelino, who sends his regards to you from our cold campus in northern Ohio.

I am a dedicated environmentalist and I seek to work in Costa Rica. Professor Carmelino has informed me about the mission of your organization. I am interested in both your broad mission of protecting butterfly diversity, and your strategy of youth education programs. As you can see from my attached resume, I have extensive experience with conservation efforts and teaching.

It would be a delight to have the opportunity to work with you at Mariposas Global. I will call you next Thursday to see if you might have any opportunities to put my skills to use in forwarding your mission.

With many thanks,

Isaac Minter-Smith

Here’s the vital thing to remember about the Bullseye approach: You will probably have to contact several people before you get an offer. My rule of thumb is that if you reach out to 10 people, you’ll probably get an offer. Remember, each of these contacts is labor intensive. The key is to not take rejection personally. Think of each “NO” as a stepping stone to cross the river to get to a “YES.” Each time someone says, “Sorry, we do not have a position for you,” thank the person very politely for considering you (or responding to you), and move on to the next.

I also encourage you to be flexible. Never put your salary requirements in your initial letter to a Bullseye. If you are offered an unpaid internship, don’t immediately say no. Ask questions such as

  • “Could the organization assist me in finding a place I could live for free, such as a local family that wants to practice English skills (or needs a few hours of childcare a day)”
  • “Could you assist me in finding paid work I could do on the side, such as tutoring?”

The “unpaid” internship might end up being a better deal than a paid job at the level of a local teacher, for example.

Part 5: Case Studies for Success: Using Networking to Find a Job

I think real world examples speak louder than theory when finding a job. Here are a few true stories of Networking for International Work.

International Development Job in Guatemala Found through a Friend of a Friend of a Friend

Katrina Mason moved to Guatemala to conduct her job search in country. Before moving, she contacted an old friend and told him “I'm moving to Guatemala and looking for a position.  Do you know anyone that might be of any help?”  He referred her to a friend in Guatemala. Upon arrival, Katrina met with that woman and told her she wanted to work in the field of international development. She introduced Katrina to several people, including the Director for the International Organization for Migration. Katrina met with him just to discuss her goals and experience; he liked her and soon she was interviewing for a consultancy position. Keys to Katrina’s success were willingness to conduct informational interviews and excellent follow-up and organizational skills.

Journalism Job in India Found Through Study Abroad Contact

Andrew Hudson, a graduate of Pitzer college, participated in a study abroad program in northern India. While there, he met Pema Wangchuk, the publisher of an English language paper in the Indian state of Sikkum. After graduating, he emailed Wangchuk (and others) to inquire about openings. Wangchuk ended up offering him a job.

Hudson tells his story in the Chronicle in Higher Education.

Teaching Job in China Found Through Web Networking and Skype

Leah Kavalec wanted to teach English in China, but she was careful not to just choose the first program she found. She started with extensive research on the top teach abroad sites. Then she emailed her resume and a customized cover letter for various jobs she found at www.eslcafe.com and www.esljobs.com. As offers started to come in, she used Skype to follow up and weed out jobs that offered low pay or exploitative conditions. Ultimately, she found a recruiter who connected her with a job in Shenyang, China.

See other examples of finding a job overseas in my article on Finding Your First Paid Job Overseas: Five Proven Strategies to Find International Employment.

Part 6: Ethical Networking for Jobs Overseas: The Ten Commandments of Reaching Out in a Principled Way

Have you ever attended an event and been victimized by a Greedy Grabby networker? That’s the person who introduces himself, grabs your business card, and leaves seconds later unless he thinks you can be a rung on his stepladder to success.

Don’t be a Greedy Grabber. Conduct your networking with integrity and a spirit of generosity.

Here are some tips for ethical networking, many cultivated from the supportive community that Keith Ferrazzi has generated around his books, including Never Eat Alone.

I. Build Your Network as a Two Way Street. Be eager to help others in your network. Ask a friend who is conducting a job search how you can be helpful. Email an article of interest to someone you just met. Connect two people in your network to each other. Don’t be a network hoarder; be generous with your contacts and the good karma will fill the universe and return to you.

II. Stay Organized. Find a system to stay on top of your connections and to dos. A spiral bound notebook works well, or Google Docs spreadsheet, or a contact management system such as Jibber Jobber. Not little scraps of paper and the backs of napkins.

III. Thank People Regularly, Deeply and Sincerely. Handwritten thank you cards are the best, but even a short email can express your gratitude. Put a little extra thought into your "thank yous" to let people know how much you truly appreciate them and their help.

IV. Accept No With Grace. Some folks can’t help you or honestly don’t have time. Some places you apply for a job will reject you. It’s part of the cosmic law. The correct response to “No” is “Thank you” as in “Thank you for considering my application. I am sorry I did not get the position but I am grateful we had the chance to meet. I hope we’ll get a chance to connect again and work together in another context.”

V. Don’t Be a Pest. Don’t email the same person every day. Once a week is tolerable. After two tries, wait a week and call. If you still get no response, move on.

VI. Do Your Homework (and Don’t Be Lazy). When you plan a meeting or an email with a new contact, research that person. Find out as much as you can from what’s on the internet, so you can target your question and use his/her time wisely.

VII. Be Prepared. For all your phone calls and meetings, take the time to write out an agenda and some questions. Bring pen and paper to write up notes, as well as a copy of your resume, and, ideally, a sample of work that demonstrates your relevant skills.

VIII. Value the People and Process. Don’t just think of each contact as a means to an end. Learn from all the people you meet, even those who might never find you a job. Demonstrate an attitude of curiosity, interest, and gratitude towards all.

IX. Be Honest. Make sure your resume contains no exaggerations or misrepresentations. In emails and interviews, be clear about your technical and language skills and their limits. Don’t promise to follow up if you won’t.

X. Pay it Forward. After you successfully find a job overseas, be willing to share your time to help the next person who is looking.

Part 7: International Networking for Shy People and Introverts

In recent decades, networking in the US has become associated with the extroverted personality of the stereotypical corporate executive.

But recent research has demonstrated that introverts have invaluable skills in cultivating meaningful relationships inside and outside the workplace.

In addition, most cultures outside the US value the style of introverts and the relationships they build. Extroverts can be seen as ego-centric and self promotional. I’ve observed this pattern across various cultures. In Mexico, for example, humilde (humble/self-effacing) is a high compliment in most contexts.  The Brits I know seem to treasure the soft-spoken intellectual over the louder “take action first” types. And various cultures, from Vietnam to rural Zambia, are based on a quiet commitment to the collective good, not the supersonic boom of outgoing and assertive individuals.

Therefore, shy people and introverts should not think that international networking is out of reach. Au contraire, introverts have many advantages over extroverts in building mutually supportive relationships. Of the techniques mentioned in other sections of this series, here are top techniques that work well for shy people:

  • Maximize connections with people you already know. Rather than starting with cold calls and new contacts, aim to re-connect with people you already know who have international experience.
  • Emphasize quality of relationships, not quantity. Rather than trying to reach out to dozens of new people, cultivating a deeper connection with just a few may be more rewarding… and more helpful in finding a job.
  • Reach out through email and internet. If calling people intimidates you, and meeting with people drains you, you can organize your job search around internet research and email outreach.

Resources for introverts

Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected by Devora Zack

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Part 8: Networking Resources for International Jobs

Social networking for international jobs
Social networking and contact with the web is becoming more important daily to find work at home and abroad..

Polishing Your Networking Skills

Many of my tips about ethical networking were derived from networking guru Keith Ferrazi and his  online community. In addition, I highly recommend his email list and blog. Keith’s books include Never Eat Alone and Who’s Got Your Back; his email list is free to join and his online community is vibrant and supportive. www.keithferrazzi.com.

Toastmasters International.
Of the service clubs mentioned in this series, I find Toastmasters to be especially encouraging and helpful...and you’ll improve your speaking skills while you meet others.

Rotary
Your local rotary club is a wonderful way to meet other leaders in your community and provide community service at the same time. Rotary has a strong international network and commitment to international understanding and development.

Making Contacts in the Country Where You Want to Work

TransistionsAbroad.com lets you search by region and country for tips about teaching and other exciting work and volunteer opportunities.

Toastmasters and Rotary, mentioned above, have chapters in countries around the world.

Idealist.org can be used to search for nonprofit organizations and schools overseas, as well as volunteer opportunities that will help you get connected to the local community.

I could direct you to dozens of other resources for networking in specific countries, but luckily for you (and me) someone else has already done so. Going Global has country by country content. Check with your alma mater to see if you qualify for full access to the Going Global site, otherwise, you’ll find useful information for free, and might consider investing in a country report for about $20. These reports give you tons of details including visa issues and local service clubs you can join. GG is stronger for the corporate sector than for nonprofits, but still, you’ll find the resources helpful.

Clarifying Your Job Search Goals

Some of us start a job search and realize we need to rethink our career. Yes, I’ve been there. My favorite guide for clarifying career is What Color Is Your Parachute? 2017: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by the amazing Dick Bolles.

Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live by Martha Beck.

If you find that you can’t find just one thing that works for you, read Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher.

And if are in a mid-career change, you may like Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life by James Hollis.

If you know of additional resources for international job networking, or seek another type of resource, please use the comment field at the end of this article.

Happy networking!

Related Topics
International Careers
Jobs Abroad
 Related Articles
Finding Your First Paid Job Overseas: Five Proven Strategies to Find International Work
Leveraging Your Volunteer Experience To Find Paid Work Abroad
 
 
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