When we moved to Nairobi this past August is was for my husband’s career. His job change obviously resulted in a life change for both of us. It was a decision we made together, and it depended upon my having opportunities as well.
I am happy to say that my own career is on track as I have recently accepted a job offer here. While people congratulated me, they also expressed amazement at how seemingly fast and easily I found employment. That reaction is what prompted me to write this post.
In truth, it was not fast nor easy. It took several months and a great deal of effort. If you are looking to work abroad, then you should be prepared to do a number of things.
You should start your research before you move, even before you’re sure you will move. Any job search takes time. When it’s tied to a relocation, it takes even more time.
I started before I was even sure we were going to move. I looked into what kinds of opportunities I would have as well as if it was even feasible for me to work in Kenya. Luckily for me, user experience design is thriving in Nairobi.
Reach out to your network early. Who did I know in Nairobi? Who did I know that might know someone who might know someone…and so on. It takes time to reach out to your entire network and then to find new people to contact.
Put in Extra Effort
Reach out to as many people as you can. Some of the people I contacted were long shots, but I had to be willing to try every avenue. Don’t get frustrated. Even the leads that fall flat help hone down the search.
Work harder at presenting yourself long distance. I put together a ton of mini-portfolios customized for each company contacted. I couldn’t meet in person so I had to go the extra mile to present myself. (I ultimately made a private portfolio site.)
Keep time difference in mind and be flexible. In my case, this involved some early morning phone and Skype calls. Things got tricky as I started to have interviews in the midst of packing up and moving, but I managed.
It’s worth noting that if you are looking to work in the Middle East, the work week is different from that of western cultures. Offices will be closed on Fridays and also on either Thursday or Saturday, depending on how that country does weekends. You may be getting emails or calls on Saturday or Sunday.
Be Aware of Legal and Tax Issues
Can you work in that country? Would you be able to work remotely or freelance for a company back home? How hard is it to get a work permit? Will you still have to pay taxes in your home country? Will you need to be paid in a specific currency?
These are all questions you will need to answer. It will impact everything from whether or not you can work at all, to what kind of company you can work for, to how you negotiate your salary and other work arrangements. You might not get all the answers before you move. But as long as you get a start, you’ll be in good shape.
Keep At It
Starting early and putting in all that work doesn’t mean you’ll find something as soon as you arrive. Continue networking and researching once you’re in your new home. Find industry events. Stay in touch with colleagues in your home country, and in other countries, for freelance opportunities.
Find ways to do some pro bono work or even just provide some free expertise on a project. Volunteer if you can. There are lots of ways to stay active in your field and those activities can lead to employment.
All of what I wrote about takes patience and perseverance. I had my moments of doubt and reached out to friends and colleagues for support. You’ll have those moments too. But then, you’ll land something good, and you’ll find yourself explaining how you did it so “easily.”