Six things to look for in your first international job role

When you’re planning to uproot and move your life abroad for work, it’s important to be sure that the position you take isn’t simply ‘a good opportunity’.

When you’re looking for your first international job role, establish whether the organisations you’re considering are truly great employers, and whether they offer favourable employment contracts.

Just as it’s crucial that any new role ticks certain boxes in terms of what you want to be doing and where you want to be doing it, you should also pay close attention to the small print. 

Will your prospective employer be assisting you in your relocation, and what benefits can they offer to expat employees?

If you’re not sure how to narrow down your search to the best of the bunch, here are six things to look for in your first international job role.

1) Support with relocation

You might not take it for granted, but reputable employers should assist you throughout the relocation process. There’s a lot to think about when you’re moving abroad, from obtaining the right visa to securing somewhere to live, and the more assistance you can get with that, the simpler your upheaval will be.

Some companies will even pay for the packaging and shipping of your belongings, and offer temporary housing stipends to help you settle in. At the very least, confirm that your new employer will actively help to arrange your working visa.

Other relatively common forms of assistance offered are assistance in selling your existing home, if needed, and signposting for job search assistance for your spouse.

It’s also important to look into the typical cost of living in your planned new destination. A wage that looks great compared to your existing location might not go as far in another country, so be clear on exactly how your compensation will measure up to your everyday spending.

2) Employee perks and benefits

Just as relocation assistance varies from employer to employer, so do employee perks and benefits offered.

Many such details are more a ‘nice to have’ than a necessity, but the range of benefits a potential employer provides can be a good indicator of how much they value and support their staff. They can also cover valuable items you would otherwise need to budget for.

If you’re moving to a country like Germany or Switzerland, where health insurance is compulsory, you’ll need to confirm in advance whether your employer provides global health cover for expat employees. If you’re moving to the USA it’s likely your employer will provide some kind of health plan, while in the UEA it is a legal requirement that they do so.

From discount gym memberships and cycle to work schemes, right through to home and contents insurance, health cover and other important admin, be clear on what an employer can offer you to make your life that little bit easier.

3) Temporary or permanent employment?

This might be a bit of a no-brainer, but moving abroad is no small feat, and you should establish whether a temporary or permanent position is the right one for you. If you know you want to stick around for the long run, but find the perfect role being advertised as temporary, find out whether there is any opportunity to become a permanent employee if it goes well. 

Equally, if you’re only looking to take a year out, it’s wise to avoid upsetting employers later down the line by applying for permanent roles. Instead, seek out fixed-term and temporary contracts that meet your needs.

If you are going to work in Canada, you may also need to get confirmation that the employer has the permission of hiring employees from foreign countries. For making the employment process legal, the company must meet LMIA requirements first of all, which means to prove to their government that the workforce they are seeking, can’t be found in Canada.

4) Opportunities for progression and development

As well as the opportunity to stick around long-term if desired, research any opportunities for career progression and professional development. When you’re relocating internationally for work, it’s good to know what the future might hold; can you expect to achieve promotions and pay rises within your first year or two, and are there opportunities for upskilling and ongoing training?

Think about what is important to you and where you hope to be within a year or two of starting a new career, and factor that into your final decision. If you know you’d like to work in other countries in the future, consider whether an employer who will assist you in one relocation will also have opportunities for others.

5) A good track record

Websites like Glassdoor and Great Place To Work have made it easier than ever before to find out how current and former employees view the companies whose vacancies you might be applying for. 

As well as searching for prospective employers online, to find any recent updates that might be insightful, check out reviews from people who have worked there. This can help you to figure out what’s great and what’s not-so-great about a company you’re interested in working with. 

When you’re doing your research, it’s also advisable to look at things like the company’s clients, mission statement and latest news. With a little digging you can find out if there have ever been any controversies, as well as whether the business has received plenty of accolades and praise.

6) The right company culture 

Finally, look for a role with a business where you feel you’ll fit in well with the company culture. This is true regardless of whether you’re moving internationally or not, but when you’re settling into a new life overseas, having a workplace where you really feel you fit in can make a big difference.

Homesickness is a natural part of life abroad, especially in the early days, and this can be exacerbated by spending your working days at a company where you don’t feel you fully fit in with the culture. It can make a new role feel more like a job and less like a career.

Whether you feel you’ll flourish in a laid-back startup environment or a fast-paced business setting, seek out potential positions with companies that are right for you, rather than simply looking at anything available in the location you have your eye on.

Make sure your overseas job is the perfect fit

There is no right or wrong method to finding your first job abroad, but there are ways to make the move easier, and to feel confident that the role you’ve chosen is the right one for you.

By considering the points above, you can start to get a clear view of which vacancy will be the best fit – and ensure that your first international position is a great one.

Photo by Jad Limcaco