Thursday, 14 August 2014

How to move abroad, part 1: getting an English-speaking job

A couple of weeks ago, I took a holiday in Cinque Terre.

The houses were painted peach and salmon, the sea was turquoise and the sky was blue. Getting there took just a couple of hours from my home in Milan.

Vernazza in Cinque Terre

However, I used to be like you.

When I lived in London, I'd go abroad each year and have a sublime time in the sunshine for a fortnight. But that would be it. For the other 50 weeks, I'd fester under murky English skies.

I daydreamed of moving abroad for years. Then I made it happen.

Now I live a door away from the best pizzeria I've ever been to and a street from (allegedly) the best gelateria in the world.

As wonderful as living abroad is, if you want to do it too, you'll need to make a living. This is your guide to finding an English-speaking job in a non-English-speaking country.

1) Young (wo)man, there's no need to feel down

Are you young? Poor you. If not, you can skip this point.

Let's face it: if you're a recent graduate, getting a decent job in this economic climate is only marginally likelier than going to the moon. Plus, you'll be saddled with your student debt for decades. And you're almost certainly a narcissist who takes selfies and worries about how many likes they get on Instagram. It's not your fault; it's society.


You now have two choices: feel sorry for yourself or get a job abroad and have an amazing time.

Take the latter option. The world is set up for people your age to emigrate. You can start by getting a TEFL certificate or looking at sites like You won't regret it.

Seriously though, stop with the selfies, you fatuous scamp.

2) Your missing link?

Now we've dealt with the whippersnappers, what about the rest of us?

I dislike LinkedIn because it encourages tedious self-promoters and has a crappy attitude to your data but for finding office-based jobs abroad, it's essential.

That's the first time I've used bold on this site other than for headings; that's how much I mean it. Maaaan.

LinkedIn matters because it has more English-speaking jobs abroad than anyone else. Log on, click 'Jobs' then 'Advanced search.' Enter the details of the country and role you want, and save the search so new results are emailed to you. That's how I got my current job.

3) Going native 

English-speaking jobs being advertised on foreign websites that are otherwise written in the native language is a thing.

I learned this from a close friend who introduced me to Skywalker, which is a Greek job site and nothing to do with lightsabers.

Could Skywalker be your magic wand? 

Although the site is written in Greek, it has a handful of job listings in English. This is surprisingly common in Europe.

You just need to find the biggest job website(s) for the country you want to move to, work out where the keywords search box is and type "English" or the job title that interests you.
If no suitable jobs are available now, keep trying. No-one said emigration is easy.

4) Get a transfer

Do you work for a multinational? If you do, you may be able to get a transfer to one of their foreign offices. Obviously.

5) Fly solo

Your new office?

Are you struggling to find the opportunities you want abroad? Do you want to stick it to the man? Then why not become your own boss?

Maybe you fear ending up lonely and destitute, traipsing foreign alleys with your ambitions mangled and your belly empty. That possibility exists. But hey ho, you can always come back if freelancing doesn't work out, and if it does it'll be great.

An obvious disadvantage of working for yourself is that it can be lonely. Adapting to a foreign country isn't easy and as a freelancer, you'll miss out on the camaraderie of being in a team. However, if you have friends in the place you're going plus a strong dose of bloody-mindedness and enough business contacts to get work, it's not insurmountable. Also, you can always office share.

For many people, freelancing abroad is a terrible idea. For a select group, it's the perfect solution.

5) All hands on spec

When I was looking for a job, I Googled English-language publishers abroad and wrote a bunch of on spec applications to interesting looking ones. About half of them replied and three ended up offering me jobs. 

I turned the opportunities down ultimately because they weren't right for me, but this shows what happens if you...

6) Put the work in 

After I got my current job and announced I was moving abroad, several people said they wanted to do something similar and told me how lucky I was.

I smiled politely while thinking "What utter balls."

Before I was offered my current job, I didn't take a day off from job hunting in three months. I searched for jobs seven days a week and sent two to three job applications per week without fail.

Moving abroad is mostly a wonderful experience, but it takes a lot of hard work. This is a good thing – emigration shouldn't be undertaken without commitment.

It's not all plane sailing

The right way for you to get a job might not be in the list above. There are so many variables (where you want to go, what you do, etc) that giving general advice has its limits. You might find it useful to read a job site specific to your industry, or you might decide to take a career break and travel before emigrating permanently.

Ultimately, if a move abroad is right for you, once you've worked up the courage you'll keep trying, no matter how long it takes.

In the meantime, if you've got any questions or advice of your own on getting a job abroad, you can add a comment below.

A dopo...

How to move abroad, part 2: how to live abroad

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Cinque Terre photo: "Spezia vernazza" by Idéfix at nl.wikipedia - Transfered from nl.wikipedia. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
Lightsaber photo: By DancingPhilosopher (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Laptop on beach photo: Wojciech Kowalski.
Departures photo: By Jacob Axford (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons