“It is a bitter-sweet thing, knowing two cultures. Once you leave your birthplace nothing is ever the same.”
These inspiring words from novelist Sarah Turnbull poetically sum up the expat experience.
Moving abroad brings adventure and independence. But it also brings challenges such as being alone, starting all over and the dreaded task of finding a job.
If you don’t have work experience, that last challenge is a real doozy. The fear of not being able to find a job might even make you question moving abroad in the first place! Your head is spinning as you try to figure out how to get a job abroad without experience.
But no worries! I’m here to explain how finding a job overseas with no experience might not be as daunting as you think. Once you land a job overseas, knowing two cultures will be a little less bitter and a little sweeter.
How to Get a Job Abroad Without Experience and Travel Like a Boss
1. Sell yourself
Highlight your high school and college achievements
Listing academic achievements is a great way to demonstrate your capability to potential employers in lieu of practical work experience.
Start off by gathering a copy of your qualifications, usually in the form of an academic transcript. These might need to be certified by a notary depending on the business norms of your desired destination.
Next, you’ll want to showcase your best scholarly work. Designers, architects, writers and the like should create an online portfolio, preferably using a free platform such as Adobe or Clippings.me.
Students enrolled in the STEM curriculum should compile their most compelling experiments. Programmers could present their best sample of bug-free code.
If possible, ask your professor to provide a written reference regarding these achievements.
Showcase your side projects
Employers love to see extracurricular activities on young candidates’ resumes. These activities demonstrate passion and drive.
Include clubs, volunteer stints, internships and supplementary courses.
Create a blog
A surefire way to build credibility without experience is to start an industry-specific blog. Once you’ve written a few posts, interact with other bloggers to build authority in your personal brand.
The whole process is surprisingly simple and requires minimal technical know-how. Best of all, a basic package with WordPress is entirely free!
Click here to join our team!
2. Learn the language
Although some international jobs are undertaken in English, being conversational in the native tongue makes you more attractive to a broader range of potential employers.
Check out FluentU to learn the language through authentic videos before your big move and during your stay.
FluentU takes a huge collection of language video clips from real-world sources—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and uses it to generate personalized language lessons for each learner.
FluentU’s enhanced video player comes with interactive captions: Click any word for an instant definition and native pronunciation.
But FluentU is about so much more than videos: You also get access to interactive flashcards and vocab lists, annotated subtitles and personalized quizzes that evolve as you learn.
Check out the full video library for free with a FluentU trial!
Once you’ve settled in, aim to immerse yourself in the local culture to further hone those linguistic skills.
3. Be realistic
Looking for overseas work in your chosen career is an admirable undertaking. However, it’s important to be realistic about the kind of position you could land without experience.
Don’t aim too high
Even the most elite college graduate is unlikely to waltz straight into a high-paying gig. Especially in a foreign job market.
Earmark entry-level positions for the best chance of success.
Don’t aim too low
Some employers list “X years of experience” as a requirement for an entry-level job. In reality, there’s almost always some flexibility involved. Even if you don’t meet those requirements, apply anyway!
Use your academic achievements and extracurricular activities to demonstrate you’re right for the job.
4. Get certified
A proper certification might be the key to landing a job overseas. Check out some of the following options:
- A Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) certification is a simple online course that allows workers to access the hospitality industry in Australia.
- A 120-hour Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certificate is internationally recognized and makes finding teaching work a breeze. This could help you become a teacher in dozens of countries if you don’t have experience teaching.
- Trade certificates for professions such as plumbers, carpenters and electricians are often mandatory.
Some certifications are useful overseas while others are not. Research your specific situation to know where you stand.
5. Understand the business culture
Resumes are written in different formats throughout the world, so tailor your CV to suit local needs.
Similarly, contacts are worth more than credentials in some cultures, meaning networking could be a fundamental part of the process.
For optimal success, research the business etiquette and cultural nuances of your new home.
6. Get your visa in check
As a foreigner with no work experience to speak of, you need to make yourself as readily employable as possible.
In my experience working abroad, potential employers have been reluctant to assist with the burdensome and bureaucratic visa sponsorship process. Granted, some jobs include visa sponsorship, such as teaching jobs in Asia. But in many cases, it helps if you take the initiative and obtain a work visa for yourself.
For citizens of certain countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom, the path of least resistance is the popular Working Holiday Visa. This program is intended to allow youth, usually travelers under age 30, easy access to work and travel abroad.
7. Consider taking an interim job
Landing a well-paying gig in your chosen field takes time, especially in a strange and foreign land. In the meantime, consider taking on a low-level position to make ends meet.
When I first moved abroad in 2012, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I took a job as an English teacher and side gig as a tour guide, even though I knew I didn’t want either job to become my career.
I was able to build on my Spanish language skills, better understand the local culture and form a business network. All the while supporting myself with a modest paycheck each month!
Examples of easy-to-find jobs for foreigners include:
- Service industry gigs, such as waiting or bartending positions
- Hostel or hotel receptionist work through a website like Workaway
- Tourism industry jobs, such as tour guides or travel agents
- Farm work through WWOOF
- Work as an English teacher in certain countries
Many aspiring overseas workers are only looking to relocate for a short period of time, in which case the above jobs would be suitable for their needs.
These are also great options if you just need a paycheck and/or amenities until you find a more permanent position.
8. Look in the right places
Indeed may well be the most prominent recruitment site at home, but that’s not necessarily the case abroad. For example, SEEK is probably the best bet for people moving to New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa.
Research popular online employment marketplaces in your desired destination and check them sporadically for appropriate offerings.
Building a network with other expats is often a good strategy, especially for foreigner-friendly positions like working in hospitality or English education.
In some lesser-developed nations, many positions are still advertised in the local paper.
9. Get professional help
Intermediary recruitment agencies such as GoAbroad make life a little easier by offering paid and unpaid positions to would-be expats.
Likewise, English Teachers can get help finding work through companies like Teach Away. Don’t worry about finding the perfect school to fit your personality. Teach Away takes care of the hard work for you!
10. Consider remote work
These days, numerous jobs can be undertaken remotely. This bypasses the need to apply for work on a local level.
Research the demand in your field and sign up with platforms such as Upwork, Freelancer and Fiverr to start marketing your skills.
If you’re serious about starting on a freelance platform, check out this guide to Upwork. It breaks down all the details for you and explains how you can make your profile stand out when applying for jobs.
Common remote jobs include:
- Digital marketers, including SEO experts
- Information technology experts
- Graphic designers
After paying my dues as an English teacher, I decided to move into the remote realm as a freelance translator and writer. That was my real passion!
Initially, I struggled to land lucrative work. So I ended up taking on poorly paid gigs to build up a portfolio and a feedback score on the above platforms. Eventually, I started earning more, but it took a little time.
For this reason, most digital nomads base themselves in a country with a low cost of living until they have become established in their field.
11. Gain relevant unpaid experience
In the modern workforce, potential employees are frequently expected to have industry experience, even for entry-level positions.
How is that even possible?
Oftentimes, the only option is to sacrifice your precious time and work for free.
Plenty of companies around the world are more than happy to take on unpaid interns. Get in touch with the top enterprises in your field—preferably in the country you wish to migrate to—and inquire about available opportunities.
Another option is to check out companies that offer international internships, such as Global Experiences and StudyAbroad.
A quick word of warning! An internship isn’t helpful if you don’t have the opportunity to practice your chosen craft. Before accepting any placement, ensure you’ll be undertaking relevant tasks, not photocopying and fetching coffee all day.
Obviously, the biggest downside to an unpaid internship is the lack of monetary compensation. Don’t accept an offer if you can’t support yourself through other means.
Undergraduate students who yearn to experience life abroad could seek out a student exchange program instead.
Although it may be a little daunting at first, living and working overseas is one of the most rewarding experiences an adventurous young adult could hope for. Few things are as liberating as supporting yourself indefinitely in a new country.
Job seekers will inevitably come across ample rejection at first. Nevertheless, with the above advice for how to get a job abroad without experience and some good, old-fashioned perseverance, it won’t take too long to achieve that glorious first acceptance email.
Harry is a South American-based freelance writer who covers travel, the arts, and culture, among many other things.