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How to Decide if Becoming an Expat Is For You

By Amanda Wilks

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Summary: Should you become an expat? Is moving overseas for career development, as a self-initiated expat or for an international education the right choice for you?

Moving Overseas - How to Decide if Becoming an Expat Is For You

Whether you are seeking career development abroad, setting out as a self-initiated expat, or are seeking an international education, becoming an expat is a decision that could enrich your life and further your career. Becoming an expat isn't for everyone, though. It requires time spent away from family and friends and possible missed milestones. Be it to start a new career or develop a current one, joining the ranks of the globally mobile may be a perfect choice for you.

The World Economic Forum has reported that there is a shortage of skilled and educated workers worldwide. People with experience, or who plan on acquiring experience, in skills such as the STEM fields, medicine, business, or teaching are especially sought after in today's global economy. A flight attendant career or freelancing in many interesting and exciting locales around the world are also viable options. You should also know that UPS employs over 400,000 people worldwide so wherever you go, a job that feels like home might be waiting.

These are some options for becoming an expat:

  • Seeking international assignments
  • Becoming a self-initiated expatriate
  • Studying abroad

Seeking International Assignments

For those interested in seeking or who are considering accepting an international assignment, two questions to ask yourself are: 1. Would you be comfortable living in a foreign society and culture? and 2. Does your company/organization have a good track-record in how they handle expat assignments and the repatriation process? Wise companies will seek to post employees who match their technical and/or management skills with a high degree of adaptability to new cultures and perspectives. Companies are often looking to fill posts abroad with employees who respect varied customs and viewpoints and who are open to mutual collaboration with local professionals.

It is vital to know how serious an employer is about selecting the right person for an international assignment and their general support of that employee before, during and after the posting. Are there clear objectives and goals for the assignment? It would be ideal to talk to a fellow employee who has been through the process and glean any insights from them as to how the company has handled all of the unique individual and professional concerns involved in an international posting.

Becoming a Self-Initiated Expatriate (SIE)

If you have the motivation, curiosity, and resources to get started on a career path in a foreign country, you could be joining the rapidly growing ranks of SIEs. You may be stagnating in your current job, or you may want to leverage your professional skills into starting a globe-hopping adventure. SIEs are adventurous and curious people who thrive by taking on new challenges, such as learning a second language or developing unique knowledge and expertise in locales as varied as Shanghai, China, or Sidney, Australia.

Many multinational companies today are increasing their recruitment of SIEs, as they are often a more economical and beneficial alternative to traditional expats. As noted above, the most sought-after skills for SIEs are those in the STEM fields, medicine, business, and teaching. However, there exists another viable option for potential SIEs. Simply close your eyes and poke a map or, more advisably, pick a country that is politically stable, safe, has decent infrastructure, and intrigues you and start a business there or do freelance work.

All you need to become an expat freelancer is to have some kind of marketable skill and a good internet connection. Whether you use transcription, writing, website development, graphic design, email extraction, anything really, you can support yourself in all sorts of far-flung, interesting and cheap places. For more information about freelancing as an expat, visit this informative blog-post.

Studying Abroad

The advantages of an international education in today's economy are apparent, and colleges and universities all around the world compete to offer high-quality degree programs for primarily English-speaking students. The internet platform StudyPortals estimates that there are over 5,600 English-taught degree programs currently being offered in countries where English is not the primary language. Probably the biggest single advantage that these programs offer is their price point – tuition for a bachelor's degree often ranges from around $2,000 to $7,000. As an added incentive, many of these institutions offer considerable student financial aid, based both on needs and merit.

If it is to be an enriching and satisfying experience, studying abroad, even for a semester or two, requires the same kind of traits you've seen in the larger expat community. There are cultural differences and new grading and instructional practices to learn. Simply put, you have to be able to thrive outside of your comfort zone to fully take advantage of an international education.

There are a multitude of opportunities in today's world. Consider what direction you want your life to take, and strive forth confidently, perhaps into the growing global expat community of adventures, innovators, and decision makers. Even the term "repatriation" has lost some of its currency as members of the globally mobile soak up experiences, gain knowledge and refine skills and then move on to the next country or opportunity.

Happy travels!

About the Author

Amanda Wilks divides her time between her two main hobbies: writing and online job application research at jobapplicationcenter.com. She wants to help job candidates and HR managers alike come together in a perfect union. Her love of networking and continuous desire for improvement recommend her for your profession and business related needs. You are kindly invited to follow Amanda on Twitter at @AmandaWilks01.

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First Published: Feb 07, 2017

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