I’VE WORKED IN MORE THAN A DOZEN COUNTRIES over the past three years, including Mongolia, South Africa, Turkey, Qatar, and Nigeria, but I used to have a much less exciting job working in the consulting division of a huge multinational company in New York City.
Having spent my college years studying Chinese and conducting research in Latin America, I dedicated my post-grad nights and weekends to figuring out how to put my International Relations degree and foreign language skills to good use. I wanted out.
Eventually I landed my global dream job, but it took two years. Since then, I’ve learned to help other young professionals find the international jobs they really want, and my clients have gotten hired everywhere from Ethiopia to Colombia. I’ve also helped raise awareness that professional global opportunities beyond teaching English or joining the Peace Corps do exist.
Now that I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t, here are some of the worst rookie mistakes committed by international job seekers — and how to avoid them.
1. Not knowing what you want.
There’s nothing more useless than hearing, “Well, I really want to make a difference, so I want to work in a developing country.” Sigh. What’s your background? What’s your story? What are you good at it? What did you study? Where have you worked before? You have to find the overlap between what you’re interested in doing and what you’re qualified to do, and that overlap has to come in the form of a job title or at least an industry.
Tell me public health, or banking, or real estate. Tell me project management or accounting. Pick something. Pick the last thing you were employed to do and go from there. You have to narrow it down so you can actually network with people “over there” in that field and sniff out what jobs you might be able to get.