Working in a foreign country is a unique and wonderful experience. It provides insights into a country that isn’t your own. It exposes you to a different culture. And it allows you to learn a new language, meet new people, and get a new perspective on the world. It’s an experience not many people get a chance to have. But, as a traveler, you have a better opportunity to take advantage of this than most other people.
Traveling costs money, even if you are a budget traveler or a backpacker. And sometimes we don’t have the money to travel like we want. Sometimes we just don’t have any money. And other times, we fall in love with one place and just don’t want to leave it. No matter what your circumstances are, working overseas can be a great way to solve your money problems and allow you to live abroad.
However, working overseas is not always as easy as just flying to someplace and finding a job like you would back in your home country. There are visa issues, work permits, and language barriers to think about. Moreover, there are other logistical questions, like where do you look for a job, and what kind of work can you expect to find? For backpackers and young travelers, there are typically two routes to follow: become an English teacher, or join a working holiday scheme. (Or you can become a writer and get paid to travel!)
Teaching English is one of the most popular options for people wanting to work overseas. Jobs are very abundant, the pay is great, the work is easy, and the benefits are good, too. The only downside is that these jobs are only open to native English speakers. If you are interested in teaching English overseas, check out my series on teaching English for more detail. I’ve been an English teacher in two different countries, and have really enjoyed the experience. You can also find more information about teaching and traveling here.
Working holiday schemes allow people under the age of 30 to work abroad. These programs tend to be used mostly by gap-year travelers, students, or young adult backpackers. Most of the countries that offer these programs are English-speaking Commonwealth countries such as Canada, England, New Zealand, and Australia. The visa application process is pretty simple, and the visas are usually issued for one year. Typically, the visa comes with the stipulation that you can’t work in one place for more than six months. (However, this rule is not always followed.)
Most of the working holiday jobs you can find are typically service or low-wage office jobs. Most people become office assistants, laborers, bartenders, or waiters. The pay is never great, but it’s enough to live off of and usually will give you a little extra money to save for traveling. You won’t get rich off these jobs, but they will keep you traveling a bit longer.
Note: These visas need to be applied for in your home country.
For those who want to work abroad but aren’t interested in any of the above, finding work is a bit harder – but not impossible. For older travelers or travelers with a skill or master’s degree, you probably want a better paying job relating to your skill set. You can find them, but it takes a lot more time. In the European Union, visa rules require companies to give job preference to people within the EU. In Asia, most companies want a foreigner to be able to speak the local language. Finding “good” jobs requires more work and a lot of networking. Be prepared to wait months for a job in some cases. Though, if you are going to an English-speaking country or are in a profession like nursing, it can be a bit easier to find work.
Some steps you can take to find a job overseas:
- Search job boards before you leave.
- Contact expat groups before you leave.
- Bring copies of your resume, recommendations, and any other professional certificates.
- Get a business card.
- Go to as many networking events as possible.
- Apply for jobs from local job boards.
You can find good jobs, but it is not easy, especially in today’s economy. But tough is not impossible. If you try hard enough, you can find one. Here are some resources for finding jobs overseas:
Council on International Educational Exchange Work Abroad Program – It offers short-term work permits for Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Ireland, Canada, and Costa Rica for students and recent graduates. The Council helps students obtain elusive work permits and offers advice and support, but it is your responsibility to find a job.
Alliances Abroad – Guarantees paid work placement before your departure and organizes accommodations.
BUNAC – Offers work abroad programs in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.
InterExchange – Another nonprofit organization that offers a variety of programs such as paid agricultural work in Norway and Australia; au pair placements in France, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands; volunteering in Costa Rica, Peru, India or South Africa; and English teaching in Spain. Open to anyone.
Peace Corps – A U.S. governmental program that places people around the world. Open only to U.S. citizens. Volunteers get a stipend and money at the end of their contract. The program also helps pay off student loans.
Whether you are going to teach English, wait tables, bartend, sit in an office, work at a hostel, or find a high paying job in your field, working overseas is something that will change you forever. Living in a different country is a unique experience not many people get to have. It’s an experience that teaches you a lot about yourself and your perceptions of the world. At the end of the day, that is what travel is about – learning about yourself and the world. This is just one more way to do so.
If you aren’t looking to work overseas and want to volunteer, you can view this article for more information.