Written by The Leap on 01 / 06 / 2021
Gap Year Advice
So, you’ve decided you want to pack your things, head overseas (hopefully to somewhere more exotic) and experience the wonders of working abroad. Or you’re at least considering it, which is why you’ve ended up here.
This guide will take you through everything, from picking a destination to getting your visa, so you'll feel totally prepared on your pursuit to happiness (finding a job overseas). Do you see what we did there?
Asking yourself how long you want to work overseas is a crucial first step. Is this something you want to do for a couple of weeks, perhaps as part of a backpacking trip? Or are you looking for a more permanent role?
- Scenario 1: You Have More Than Three Months
If you plan on working abroad for longer than a few months, this will be considered ‘long-term’ and will likely require a more complicated visa process in many countries. If you’ve already been accepted for a job, the employer is likely to help you out with this process and act as a sponsor.
If you don’t have a job set up and you’re planning on finding work once you arrive, then a 'Working Holiday Visa' is probably more for you. Several countries offer these types of visas, but you will have to match certain criteria to be able to apply for one, so make sure you double check you are eligible.
- Scenario 2: It's a Short Term Thing (Fewer Than Three Months)
If something on a shorter basis sounds more up your street, there are plenty of options for you too. If you’re only looking to work for a couple of months, a good place to start is with an internship.
An internship is on-the-job training, without a permanent commitment. If the internships are really short, you could look at combining a couple together. You could also look at seasonal work with travel companies, so you’re only gone for part of the year (more on this below).
If you want to get organised and apply for jobs beforehand, it’s worth checking out the Jobs Abroad Bulletin is a good resource which breaks down different jobs in specific countries.
If you’re feeling slightly braver, and want to wait and find a job once you’ve arrived, then we suggest picking a hot spot for backpackers.
Find a nice hostel to check-in to, and get mingling. Backpackers are often dying to pass on their wisdom and experiences to others, so take full advantage and tap into this highly useful source of local knowledge.
Maybe you’ve decided you’d like to work overseas, but you haven’t a clue where to start looking, or what you should even be doing. No worries, here’s a nice little list of inspiration for you:
- Holiday Reps (Europe)
If you love getting your tan on, and you happen to know the dance moves to ‘Cha Cha Slide’, why not become a kid’s rep in a family hotel, or a travel adviser if you don’t have the patience to work with children? If hot climates aren’t your thing, you can always aim for the equivalent position in a ski resort.
- Au Pair (Europe)
If you’re good with kids and have an urge to fully immerse yourself into another culture, then becoming an au pair is definitely something to consider. You basically become an additional family member, who helps out with the children on a day-to-day basis. More information can be found on the BAPAA website.
- Teach English (Worldwide)
Your ability to speak English is an extremely valuable skill. It’s a global language and although more people speak Mandarin and Spanish, English is the common language of business, media and popular culture. Read our guide to teaching English abroad for more information.
- Summer Kids Camp (America)
Fancy spending the summer state side in a traditional American camp? You’ll be working with the kids every day and singing songs around a camp fire by night. Organisations like Camp America and Camp Leaders are worth checking out.
- Cruise Ships (Worldwide)
The sheer variety of jobs available on a cruise ship is quite staggering. From chefs to evening entertainment, you’re sure to find something to stick your teeth in to whilst you’re sailing the world. Allcruisejobs.com is definitely the place to start your search.
I also mentioned earlier that heading for a popular backpacker destination can be a great way to find work. For example:
- Bar Work (Cambodia)
‘Pub Street’ in Siem Reap is filled to the brim with, well... pubs and bars, as you may have guessed. It’s the place to be in Siem Reap if you’re a backpacker, and there's always work for those that can ably pull a pint with a smile on their face.
- Diving Instructor (Thailand)
Koh Tao is a beautiful Thai island and home to some of the best scuba diving in the world. If you’re qualified, it's an ideal place to pick up instructor work. If not, the road to becoming a PADI Instructor is a long one, but surely one of the best careers in the world if you make it.
- Hostel Work (Australia)
Australia’s East Coast is massively popular with backpackers and every town and city has its fair share of hostels – and there’s always plenty to do around them.
As with all travel to foreign climbs, there are some universal truths you mustn't forget. A handful particularly relevant to acquiring employment are:
- Cultural Differences
The way people work will vary from country to country; so make sure you are prepared for this. For example, working hours in Asia are completely different compared to those in Europe. Some countries also have different hierarchical structures, which will determine everything from who makes decisions to how people communicate with each other (e.g. the use of first names).
Your qualifications may not have the same value overseas. A bachelor's degree in Australia, for example, can sometimes be completed in two years, whilst its Scottish equivalent takes four years. If you've spent twice as long in university as a typical local, you could be seen as lacking work experience.
Consider comparing your qualifications with those recognised overseas when you are communicating with potential employers. The International Baccalaureate is widely respected in Europe, whilst in the USA the SAT is the standard measure of academic achievement.
Think about your living situation whilst you’re working overseas. There may be upfront costs to pay, which could cause a problem if you aren’t paid until four weeks after your arrival. Some employers will help you with this process, so ask them before you leave.
- Bank accounts
Research the different bank accounts available when you’re overseas, and the process it takes to open one. What will you need and how long will it take? You don’t want there to be any problems when it comes to your employer paying your wages.
Our friends at Zety - your one stop shop for resources for your CV have got some great articles to help you get sorted. Click here to view their top tips on writing your CV. Particularly useful is this article all about how to tailor your CV to the specific area you wish to work in, e.g bar tending, teaching or construction to name just a few examples. each CV will have a different requirement for each area, make sure you nail it.
So as you can see, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to employment abroad. But if you can get through the gruelling gauntlet of visas and applications, you're sure to have an amazing time. Think of the cultural differences you’ll experience, the confidence you’ll gain and the fun you’ll have exploring a new destination.
Any wisdom to share from your own experiences? I'll see you in the comments below.
on 01 / 06 / 2021