Looking for work in another country isn’t an easy task and the recent economic downturn has only made it harder. Our digital world has made the world seem much smaller, but the reality of moving around it for work is often the opposite; the dream of working in another country can often seem far away.

I recently received a CV from a young Serbian woman seeking a position in marketing here in Brussels. Recently graduated and with a few years’ work experience in economics, she now wants to reach out and work in another country to get international experience. I’ve done such a move myself on a few occasions and highly recommend it.

Unfortunately she has several obstacles in her way. However, there are things we can all do to help increase our chances of finding work abroad.

Watch your language

Obviously it’s important that your CV doesn’t have any typos and grammatical errors. However, working in another country can often mean living with another language. If you’re writing your CV in a language other than your mother tongue, get the text checked by a native speaker. Don’t know any native speakers? Get to an online forum and ask for help to edit your text.

Do your homework on the country’s work environment

Someone apparently told the Serbian woman that it would be easier to get a marketing job in a multinational as the work would be in English. Her CV Profile states that she’s looking for an opening position in Marketing. Unfortunately she’s no experience in the domain, her written English isn’t good enough to do copywriting and she doesn’t know Adobe InDesign. If a potential employer had read past the quirky English in the CV, they’d have given up at this stage. Few companies will hire a beginner who needs work papers. They can hire locally.

It can be a risky decision to do a career change when looking for work in a country where you need work papers but don’t have any practical experience to offer in your new career direction. Get as much experience as you can before seeking work in another country. You need something to sell!

Research the job market and types of companies in the country that interest you. The Serb was fluent in several languages but only in one (English) of the three important languages for working in Brussels (French and Dutch also matter). Realistically she may have a better chance of finding work in Germany as companies there may be more commercially active in the Balkan region than companies based in Belgium. So her knowledge of that regional market could perhaps be a selling point to a German company. Understand what the market is looking for.

The challenge to get work papers

The unfortunate reality is that work papers can be hard to get. Few companies will hire you directly from another country without first meeting you. You will increase the chance of finding work by going to your desired country for a month or more (the longer the better) and making as many face-to-face contacts as possible to hunt down that opportunity made for you. It can take time to knock on all those doors and follow up leads. Simply mailing out CVs isn’t enough.

When a company wants to hire someone from outside the EU (which is 28 countries), they need to be able to show the authorities that they couldn’t find someone in the country suitable for the job on offer. Another condition prospective employers may need to meet could be the minimum salary level that they can offer. In Belgium, for example, it is currently nearly 40,000 euros ($54,000) a year for a skilled position (salary reference). In other words, you won’t get work papers to do a low paid job. You need skills and experience.

It’s hard looking for work in another country, particularly if you’re not based there and will need work papers. It takes determination and focus to chase a dream and make it happen.

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