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Five Tips for Finding Jobs as an International Worker

Five Tips for Finding Jobs as an International Worker

International workers are candidates with experience in more than one country, some having experience in many different countries. They may work in the oil and gas industry, telecom, even global FMCG companies where their work changes location every few years. Some folks may work in an MNC (Multinational Corporation) and may move from country to country as they enter new markets. Others may never leave their country of origin, but work in an MNC where the work culture is based on the foreign parent company. I get lots of connection requests on LinkedIn, many looking for work overseas or in MNCs here in Myanmar. Many are looking for advice on what to do and where to start. I can only speak to those interested in working abroad about the realities of finding those jobs. Here are a few tips to help you on your journey to the job you’ve always dreamed of.

1. Do Your Research On Foreign Worker Laws in Your Country of Choice.

If looking for work overseas, it is your responsibility to completely understand what visas you will need, what companies you can work for and for what duration. Understand that any extra work or costs a company has to pay to hire you will go against you. A hiring manager wants someone hired NOW, not after a lengthy and expensive H-1B Visa process. He will hire the local candidate before you. Lessen the impact on this by highlighting in your cover letter anything you can offer above an beyond the other potential candidates. Most companies will hire a foreign worker under two conditions:

  1. You are such a proven, valuable contributor to their organization that they want to make you a permanent offer, or feature unique and valuable experience they cannot identify in local talent;
  2. They can’t find anyone local who will work for them (their pay is less than industry norms, poor work environment or reputation, limited potential for growth, or location issues).

If #1, you may have done freelance work for them or perhaps a remote project for the company. You may have previous experience that is hard to find or you have demonstrated experience they cannot find in their local talent pool. If B, they’re desperate to solve their hiring challenge and willing to spend money to get a body in a seat. Either way, unless you have U.S. citizenship or a Green Card (Residency Status), you will always be Plan B. This is a reality many potential applicants make and “sucking up” and begging an HR person for a job won’t help you. You will cost more upfront and it will take longer to get you on board. You are a higher risk than a local candidate.

As an expat myself, most of the companies I have worked for had never hired a foreign worker. The country I live in requires sponsorship from a company registered in the country. I can only work for that one company and must leave the country within 30 days should I quit my job. When I worked in India, I had to reapply for a work permit every year (sometimes an 8-month process!!!). In Myanmar, it is every six months. I had to completely understand the process and advise the companies I have worked for that I will handle the process and give them the documentation for labor compliance. While I most likely missed out on some great opportunities because I am a foreign worker, I completely understand their views and try to mitigate their risk as much as possible.

2. Research the Companies You Are Interested in Working In.

Most MNCs are recognizable global brands. Myanmar’s market is highly attractive to marketers, with its burgeoning middle class and growing economy (estimated to grow at 7.7% this year). MNCs need people with in-country knowledge to set strategy and communications appropriate to the market. There are famous business cases, such as the McDonald’s debacle of bringing over an American menu without understanding the sensitivity of India’s Hindu population. There are also very successful cases like Unilever, whose Hindustan Unilever division managed to expand into rural markets through small unit packaging of personal care products and enabling village entrepreneurs with minimal investment to sell their line of products. Because of your understanding of the culture you grew up in, your voice matters when an MNC enters a new market. Unilever would not have been successful if not for the village-to-village research they did in-country before launch. Keep tabs on fast growing companies in expansion that may be entering your market. Follow their careers page and watch for signs they are gearing up to move into your market. Be there when they are ready to move.

3. Align Yourself to the Foreign Work Culture

Become that in-country specialist, but also invest time in understanding how the parent company operates. You want to operate in the same work culture as the parent company in order to make yourself more visible. For example, an American tech firm will operate far more casually than a German one, but you will probably be expected to work far more hours with the American firm. Adherence to process, perfection and precision may be highly valued by the German firm, while innovation may be more prized in an American firm. An American firm will want you to participate in brainstorming ideas, execute on commitments, and learn from your failures. Many traditional Indian firms don’t work that way and are far more bureaucratic with only the CEO making decisions. You will need to feel comfortable with ambiguity and tolerate risk with far less support in MNCs.

When I first went looking for companies in India and Myanmar that might be able to leverage my experience, I focused on marketing myself to companies that relied heavily on American revenue. I positioned myself as someone with familiarity (not understanding) with the local culture who could invest time in developing teams in the American business mindset, generating more traffic and revenue from American sources. I also positioned myself as someone with contacts in American venture capital. These two points made me attractive for the organization that hired me. Your cover letter is key.

Ensure you market your strengths and unique experiences that would make you interesting and memorable enough for the hiring manager to want to meet you.

4. Authenticity is Key

Never lie on your resume/CV. Do not cut and paste someone else’s resume as your own, even if they do the same work. I’ve received resumes from people with several different fonts and writing styles. Simply copying a line and googling it, I found where the original resume came from; this has caused many people from never getting an interview with me. I’ve received designer samples that were pulled down from web sites WITH THE WATERMARKS STILL ON THEM. I’ve interviewed job hoppers and when questioned, responded with, “How do you think I got to 1.5 lakh rupees a month?”. Why would I hire these people? Why would anybody?

MNCs will do proper background checks, calling previous employers and your schools. They may do credit checks and drug tests. MNCs expect your ethics to match theirs, which means being honest. Use your honesty, especially in a situation like seeking advice. In your cover letter, explain your ambitions and how your background meets company goals. Show how you have created value at other organizations and explain how that experience can translate to their company.

Another critical point — PROOFREAD your resume carefully. Have two other people review and provide you with feedback. Simplify to one font — Arial or Times Roman will be fine for anyone other than a designer. Test the English. Is it written in British or American English? If you spell words in British English, an American hiring manager will view it as a mistake and assume you are uneducated. For realz. Unprofessionally designed and written resumes will never see a hiring manager and you will never see a job offer. Be safe and create one with both sets of spellings for British and American firms.

5. Develop Quality Connections Online

If you have no such experience or just starting out, try identifying hiring managers within the organization and ask them for advice, not jobs. People aren’t going to give perfect strangers a job, but they may be much more open to giving you advice and perhaps share the contact information of a person who can actually help you within the organization. They may be able to refer you to alternative organizations, professional groups, and industry news and job web sites where you can network. Consider every online contact you make as a job interview and conduct yourself accordingly. An ex-colleague once told me:

Don’t post anything online that you would not say in front of your grandmother in a court of law.

This is true in the case of hiring managers as well. As part of their due diligence on you, they may google your name and see what comes up. Carefully check the top 100 responses. There are web sites out there that can help you manage your online reputation to ensure what shows up is the professional you, and not the sex offender with the same name. Those pictures of you doing keg stands with your bros probably won’t help either. Ladies (and some gents), selfies in your underwear only work if your last name is Kardashian. Bad mouthing your current boss or company will significantly count against you. No one wants to hire someone who publicly badmouths the company they work for.

Authenticity works both ways. Companies spend fortunes defending their brand but there are plenty of ways to find out more about the inner workings of these companies online. Glassdoor and Indeed are two sites that showcase employee reviews, questions asked at interviews, etc. They can tell you whether the company in your sights is worth your time and effort. It could indicate that your dream could actually be a toxic workplace nightmare.

Using sites like LinkedIn are great for professional networking, but look also to more niche sites in your area of interest, say, Marketing or Software Development. Connect with speakers at conferences and other thought leaders. Be aware that their time is precious, so don’t spam them with pleas for jobs. Connecting with lower level employees can give you insight into how they got their jobs, what the interview process was like and what they think they did differently that got them the job. They may call you up or email you when they hear of an opening if you consistently stay in contact and develop a relationship. Make quality connections and treat them as such. Quality connections will be there for you throughout your career.

Finding the job of your dreams takes a lot more work than people think. Persistence is key. How have you managed to accomplish this? Please share your experiences in the comments below.


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