“Americans who travel abroad for the first time are often shocked to discover that, despite all the progress that has been made in the last 30 years, many foreign people still speak in foreign languages” – Dave Barry
As the job search lingers on without success and the trailer walls seem to close in on us, a la Edgar Allen Poe’s story The Pit and the Pendulum, I cast my thoughts outside of my job search box. If I can’t find something locally we will have to move. If we are going to move, why limit ourselves? Why not do what some other unemployed Americans are doing? Look abroad! After all, story after story on outsourcing tells us that is where the jobs are going and some studies indicate that the chances of landing a job are far better overseas.
A recent Employment Outlook Survey by Manpower Inc. shows employers in 25 of 35 countries and territories surveyed expect some positive hiring activity in the first quarter, and that employment prospects are most favorable in India, Brazil, Singapore, Taiwan, Costa Rica, Australia, Peru and Hong Kong. In the US employers are more optimistic than three months ago, but are still forecasting the weakest first-quarter hiring pace since 1982.
In another survey, of the nearly 30,000 people Manpower contacted, 79% of candidates were willing to relocate for work, and nearly one third were willing to move anywhere in the world. Forty percent were willing to make that move permanently.
Wow. That’s a lot of people willing to leave the country for a job, isn’t it? I couldn’t find out whether that Manpower survey was of people currently employed or folks who are out of work and I wondered are people really leaving the U.S. to work abroad, and if so who are they and what sort of jobs are available?
Some appear to be recent college graduates. According to an article in Newsweek, “many of the nation’s top business schools report an increase in the number of students who are interested in working overseas in emerging markets such as India, China, Russia, and Brazil.” In addition to working in finance and consulting, these M.B.A. students are moving overseas to work in real estate, investing, energy, and infrastructure.
There are similar trends in the UK which is also dealing with high unemployment, especially among the younger wage earners. In an article titled “A Career Overseas for UK’s Talented Unemployed Graduates” the author points out the potential benefits of looking abroad for work- employment being the most obvious one, but additionally the acquisition of skills and experience that will help them find employment on their return to their home country. In recruitment and employment surveys employers regularly cite the fact that they find those who have experience of working in other countries bring more to their company and to a given role.
The Huffington Post reports that young foreigners are going to China to look for work, driven by the worst job markets in decades in the United States, Europe and some Asian countries.
Many do basic work such as teaching English, a service in demand from Chinese businesspeople and students. But a growing number are arriving with skills and experience in computers, finance and other fields.
“China is really the land of opportunity now, compared to their home countries,” said Chris Watkins, manager for China and Hong Kong of MRI China Group, a headhunting firm. “This includes college graduates as well as maybe more established businesspeople, entrepreneurs and executives from companies around the world.”
In an article titled, “Should Unemployed Americans look for Jobs Abroad,” Fastcompany.com profiles some of the countries that are hiring, India prominently among them.
Dr. Kailash Khandke, professor of Economics at Furman University and assistant Dean for Study Away and International Education says he’s found that Americans are moving to India since the economy soured. “Americans are embracing the notion of a globally interdependent world in the service industries, computers, information services, and hotel industry.”
Dr. Khandke cites several reasons for this including the fact that English is spoken in all the urban centers in India and the general hospitality of the population. He does note that the standard of living in the cities is no longer inexpensive, however, “It is quite manageable and it is even possible to get some domestic help. I think American find this a welcome change,” he adds.
From what I could discover most of the Americans moving abroad to work are new college graduates or the younger working set unable to find the job they want here, and middle/upper management professionals relocating at the behest of their companies or for better opportunities. It does not appear to be a solution for the majority of unemployed Americans- especially those with families, homes they can’t sell or job skills that aren’t in demand abroad.
Has my out of the box thinking about my job search made me want to renew passports and board a plane? Yes and no. Yes, because I think it sounds like a wonderful adventure! I’m adventurous and have done some foreign travel (Europe, Peru, China) in my life and think I could adapt to living in another country. It wouldn’t be hard for us to pack and we don’t have much that we’d have to give up. My kids are resilient (although I’d be lying if I said they are as enthusiastic about the idea as I am) and good travelers. So I’d head to Vietnam or China or India to work and live without reservation – if I could afford to.
And there’s the rub. Almost all of the opportunities I unearthed are suited for a single person or a childless couple. Since most foreign jobs require that you pay your own way, the cost of relocating a family of 5 overseas puts those jobs beyond me in our current situation. In addition in some countries it is very difficult to support a large family on say, a teacher’s salary, to find affordable accommodations, or acceptable schools for your children. Most of the stories I found of families moving abroad for work were of men, generally in relatively high management positions, who were relocated by their companies and brought their wives and kids along.
In addition to the expense of moving, I found it hard to locate any overseas jobs in my field. Many of the jobs available are middle or upper management positions requiring a fair amount of experience or specialized knowledge and tend to be grouped in industries in which I have no experience- manufacturing, IT, teaching, and hospitality- making my own prospects less than encouraging.
While I have considered obtaining my Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate one website on teaching overseas offers this discouraging assessment:
There are many more applicants than jobs available and it is not uncommon for a school to have twenty to one hundred applications for each vacancy. A single parent with dependents does not stand much of a chance, nor does a retired teacher looking for an overseas experience. Schools prefer to hire teaching couples with no dependents, though most schools will hire couples with children and a few will hire singles with dependents. Almost all will hire single teachers if they cannot find couples.
However, I do think opportunities vary from country to country and I plan to continue to explore the possibilities.
And if this sounds like an exciting and doable possibility to you, the internet is awash with information about how to find a job overseas. Here are some resources to get you started.
http://www.jobsabroad.com/search.cfm (International Job Opportunities). Searchable list of job opportunities – although a search for Environmental Management jobs in India only turned up one ‘job’ and it turned out to be a link to 3-6 month long internship, volunteer study abroad and relocation programs. There were more openings in education and sales.
http://www.rileyguide.com/internat.html (The Riley Guide to International Job Opportunities). Links to sites with job listings.
Monster.com has a listing of international jobs.
TweetMYJobs, a Twitter job search service, has a database of international opportunities. The Twitter offerings are in some of the same fields as those posted by traditional recruiters.
Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certificate Courses
http://www.teflonline.net/ (online and campus courses)
http://www.tefl.com/ (includes job listings)
Moving and Living Abroad: For Serious Job Seekers
http://www.transitionsabroad.com/listings/work/careers/index.shtml (International Careers – The Guide to Long-Term Jobs Abroad). This website has links to a wealth of resources for people considering committing to serious careers abroad.
http://www.expatexchange.com/ (Expat Exchange). FREE reports from expats living abroad, country-specific expat forums, expatriate resource guide, international jobs, hundreds of articles, social networking tools, international real estate, travel warnings and several newsletters to keep you in the loop.
Moving and Living Abroad: For People Who Have Money and Time:
http://www.transitionsabroad.com/ (no-nonsense free portal—for meaningful experiential Work Abroad, Study Abroad, Cultural Travel Overseas, and International Living). This site focuses on meaningful experiential work- not ‘make a living’ work. Fun if you are a retired couple who have always wanted to volunteer at a wildlife reserve in Africa or a teenager who wants to travel to Europe as an au pair. I’d love to sign up for the summer volunteer program in China – if I didn’t have to pay nearly $3,000 (plus travel expenses) to work for 2 weeks!
http://www.shelteroffshore.com/ (“Wealthier Living Abroad”). This site is really aimed at people who already have money and want to live and work abroad.
Information from the Government
http://www.state.gov/travel/ (U.S. Department of State Travel Website). Information on visas, passports, travel warnings, and tips.
Best of luck to you – write if you find work!