Welcome to 2019! Is this it? The year you finally take on that dream of living and working in another country? Three years ago, when I decided I wanted to pursue working abroad opportunities in Germany, I had no idea how to start. How do you get a job abroad? The answer was simple: you network.
How I Used Linkedin to Get a Job Abroad
Networking is one of those buzzwords that’s become basically meaningless. We all know what it means, but how do you do it? In my case (and what I advise all people looking for work abroad), I used a combined strategy of word-of-mouth, on-the-ground, and digital connection-building to get myself out there. The main tool? You guessed it—Linkedin.
Develop your profile
I’m betting you have a Linkedin account, but are you using it as well as you could? The first thing you want to do is check that your account is complete and robust. Don’t just list your positions, give them some detail. Potential connections will be seeing this before your CV, so you want to show off a little. Use active words throughout to give your profile a sense of purpose and drive—things like: accelerated, reorganized, managed, learned. Tout your accomplishments, but also include your day-to-day tasks. Most HR teams have an added sensitivity when looking at international candidates—they don’t want you to move your life overseas and then be unhappy (or worse, bored) at the new job. Including your daily tasks will help show that you’re an all-around player who can do the daily stuff necessary to succeed.
Now is also the time to ask for recommendations. Hit up your network to add some positive vibes to your profile. The recommendations, which should come from contacts relevant to the industry you’re looking for abroad, don’t have to be long—a summary about what you did and the style you did in should work just fine. When you ask for your recommendation, be sure to mention that you are looking at working abroad.
Spread the word
In fact, spread the fact that you’re looking to work abroad far and wide. You don’t need to be obnoxious about it, but make sure people know this is something you want to do. People will come out of the woodwork with all kinds of surprising referrals. And even if the person you’re being referred to isn’t in your industry or seemingly relevant to your job search, that person has a whole network of contacts you can tap into too. Start making a list of people to reach out to or introductions to follow up on.
Play six-degrees of separation, and you’ll be amazed who know whom.
Simultaneously, do your own research. Are there companies you really want to work for? People you really want to work with? I work in advertising, so my strategy was to identify agencies that would be interesting to me, and creatives I’d love to work for. While I included HR and recruiters in my initial touchpoints, I specifically targeted creative directors (so, hiring managers for the specific team I wanted to work on) and fellow creatives (who might be looking for partners) because I knew that my industry relies a lot on internal referrals. Oftentimes, companies have a referral bonus policy, making it potentially lucrative for non-HR team members to help you out. Plus getting that internal referral will likely help you jump the stack of other resumes submitted through the more traditional portals.
Feel out and follow up
With your list of researched contacts and network referrals, now’s the time to get back onto Linkedin. Connect with everyone on your list, and send out your first feelers and follow-ups. These should be simple and to-the-point—greet them, introduce yourself, give a 1-sentence max summary of your background, and ask for what you want. Asking for what you want is the trickiest part—typically we’re not used to being so direct. So, what do you want? It depends on the type of connection.
- If you’re contacting HR or recruiters, you might ask for a Skype session to introduce yourself, the chance to send in your resume, or if there are open positions on their team.
- If you’re contacting internal referrals, you might tout specific projects that are relevant to them and ask for a chance to explain more via video or audio chat, or ask if they have interest in your special skill set.
- If you’re reaching out to people indirectly-related to your job search (maybe they live in the city you want to work in, or are marginally relevant to your industry), you might ask questions about living in that place, and if that person has further contacts that might be relevant to you.
Be aware that you won’t hear back from a lot of people. Which means you need to contact a lot of people to make sure you do hear back from some. Don’t get dispirited if people aren’t messaging you back, or if they aren’t the most encouraging about your search. I was told multiple times but multiple creative directors and HR reps that German advertising agencies aren’t looking for native-English copywriters—but in the end, I wound up with two competing offers. It’s going to take some hard work and hustle to get what you want—but that’s nothing to be afraid of.
Get on the ground
If you have the resources to travel to the city you want to work in and be there in person, use your Linkedin connections to facilitate actual meetings. Reach out in advance to let relevant contacts know the precise dates you’ll be in town. Try to accommodate everyone, even if they’re not on the top of your list. If you get the chance to tour an office or meet on-site, take it—even suggest it! Otherwise meeting for coffee, lunch, or a drink is a great way to try to open some doors. One thing you should definitely do, especially if you are meeting in person, is research the work cultures of your potential new country. Do they dress conservatively? Address each other formally? Shake hands? Meeting in person can have a lot of advantages, but there’s a lot of potential for cultural missteps as well. Do your homework and come prepared.
One thing you should definitely do, especially if you are meeting in person, is research the work cultures of your potential new country.
When you’re back at home, make sure you follow up with a thank you message. One thing I noticed on my search was how genuinely concerned everyone was that I was going to like Hamburg. Consider mentioning your (favorable) impressions of the city, as well as the company, and reiterate again your interest in working there.
If you can’t afford to travel there in person, don’t worry—I have plenty of friends who got their jobs abroad without doing a scouting mission beforehand. Just keep working those connections however you can, and when you have the chance, try to get phone or video calls to make a personal impression.
Supplement with local resources
One last thing to be aware of: while many countries and professionals use Linkedin, there might also be a country-specific network for you to tap into. For example, many Germans (especially the HR teams) are on Xing, which is the German equivalent of Linkedin. I made a profile on Xing and used it for outreach to people who weren’t on Linkedin, it was just more challenging because the interface was all in a foreign language. Thank god for Google translate—a phrase you’ll definitely be repeating once you’ve secured that job and moved abroad.
The main thing I took away from my search was that it’s not easy to get a job abroad, but it’s not hard either. All the tools and resources are out there for you. All you have to do is have the persistence to get what you want. Whether you intend to move overseas for a year or two, or you want to really settle abroad, I can tell you that living and working abroad is one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. So, in the words of Hunter S. Thompson, Buy the ticket. Take the ride. It’s your year, baby.