American Expats Find Better Work-Life Balance But Limited Career Growth Abroad
September 28, 2021
October 5, 2021
Three in four Americans who moved to a new country are satisfied with their job, with many reporting quality work-life balance, job security and flexible working hours in their new home country, according to a recent Future of Working Abroad report from Internations, an online community of expats around the world.
With remote work becoming more common and helping people decouple where they work from where they want to live, the share of people able to move abroad and chart out a new career path could grow, says Internations CEO Malte Zeeck.
The Internations report, which considers 8,313 working expats living in 175 destinations, finds that 36% of U.S. expats moved abroad specifically for a job-related reason. Of that share, 14% Americans abroad found a new job on their own, 11% were sent by their employer, 9% were recruited internationally, and 2% moved in order to start their own business.
Despite the small share of international entrepreneurs, Americans are much more likely to work as a self-employed freelancer, 21%, compared with others around the world, 11%.
One in four works in education, including teaching English. Other top industries for Americans abroad include working in IT and in marketing, advertising and communications, which lend well to the so-called digital nomad lifestyle of freelancers who can work from anywhere.
Keep in mind that not all countries or workers are welcome to digital nomads, Zeeck says. The lifestyle has drawn some criticism “due to some location independent-workers trying to circumvent getting the right type of visa or not sticking to local employment laws,” he says.
However, some countries including Bermuda, Croatia, Malta and Estonia have started offering visas and work permits aimed at digital nomad workers in particular, which makes it easier to deal with bureaucracy and make sure the move abroad is done by the book. “So, building your own online business and moving it overseas is another option for those who prefer being their own boss,” Zeeck says.
While American expats are happy with their jobs abroad, better work-life balance could come at the expense of having limited opportunities for career advancement. Moving overseas could mean having to overcome a language barrier, navigate a limited local job market or figure out how your educational qualifications translate to a new country, Zeeck says.
But with a greater acceptance of teleworking during the pandemic, you could negotiate a permanent work-from-home situation and let your employer know your intentions to move abroad.
Do your research to see if your employer has offices in other countries, or if they offer the opportunity to go on a foreign assignment. Your company might already have, or be willing to pay for, an employer of record in your chosen destination, which is a firm that takes responsibility for financial and legal procedures needed to run an office abroad. Also be realistic about how long you, your partner and your family are willing to live in a new country, possibly of your employer’s choosing.
Then, express your interest and lead with how the arrangement would be mutually beneficial. For one, your employer will be able to retain you instead of hiring for your replacement, and you’ll be able to grow in your career and add value to the company.
“Think about how the assignment fits your overall career path, what your employer can do to support you while you’re abroad, and what you would like to do with your newly acquired skills and expertise once you return to the U.S.,” Zeeck says.
You might also have to challenge their assumptions about the type of person who’s ready to take on an international job, he adds. For example, if you have a partner or family, your employer might question whether you can manage moving abroad and getting set up at work while dealing with the challenges of relocation. “You should take such implicit biases into consideration and subtly make it part of your argument why they should not be a cause for concern,” Zeeck says.
Finally, consider which expenses your employer would have to cover as part of your relocation, and which part of the salary and benefits package you’re willing to renegotiate or do without. “If you show yourself well informed about your potential destination and willing to negotiate your remuneration, this might already impress the decisionmakers,” he says.
The key to getting recruited by an international employer is all about networking, Zeeck says.
First, make sure your professional networking and social media profiles are up to date. Highlight any previous work experience, as well as both soft and technical skills, that show your adaptability. For example, maybe you were previously tasked with relocating to a new city and launching a department from the ground up for your company. Make note of any internationally recognized professional certificates or accreditations, and if you speak a foreign language that could help you settle into a new country.
You might look up some international roles that interest you to make sure your professional summary, skills and experience sections align with what’s being called for in the job descriptions.
Then, follow and interact with companies and business influencers in the markets you’re interested in, Zeeck says. You can also research professional associations in the locations you’re hoping to relocate to, then join relevant online events with an international target audience to connect with new people there.
“If you really want to move abroad, it’s probably best to make all these activities part of an active job search,” Zeeck says, “otherwise, being recruited by a company from exactly the place you’d like to move to involves a great deal of good luck. Having all those international industry contacts will also maximize your chances of landing a job you actively apply for, even if no headhunter, recruitment agency, or HR manager should ever reach out to you.”
If you’re not able to move with your company, work as a freelancer or get recruited internationally, you could find a new job overseas on your own. In addition to seeking out employers and postings in the country of your choice, Zeeck says more people are turning to remote-first jobs that aren’t location dependent. A majority 78% of American expats say they’re able to work remotely in their current jobs abroad, and roughly half telework full-time.
But keep in mind that a remote job isn’t always a work-from-anywhere job. Due to tax and labor laws, an employer could be restricted in hiring someone who lives in the same state or city as company headquarters, and crossing international boundaries makes things even more complicated.
So, if you’re looking for a remote international job, be sure to refine your search to a company that’s based or has a presence of where you want to move. Or you can join a fully remote employer that is in compliance to hire from anywhere in the world.
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