How to give your international career a boost

How to give your international career a boost

Starting a new job abroad can be challenging in the extreme, but it also gives you plenty of opportunities to develop yourself, not only broadening your horizons and teaching you about yourself, but also making you more attractive to potential employers. Here are some ideas on how you can make sure that working abroad gives your career an even bigger boost. 

Start by developing yourself

The first step to achieving anything in life is to do some self-exploration. 

Invest in yourself

Your best asset is yourself, so invest in it. Money is obviously the first thing we think about when we talk about investing, but time and positive energy are equally important. You can go to a fancy training session, but if you don't make efforts to implement what it taught you into your life, the money you spent is wasted.

An additional tip that I keep telling my clients is: “Invest in your strengths, not in your weaknesses.” It is easier to apply this to people who have their own business, as often the company culture is to send people for training sessions in something that they are not that good at.

A great book on this topic, “Strengths Finder 2.0” written by Tom Rath, states it clearly; forget your weaknesses and focus on your top five strengths; only this way you can achieve greatness.

Know yourself

Learn more about yourself. Become your own best friend. What is important to you in life and in your career? What are your talents? What makes you unique? What do you really care about? Once you know that, it will be much easier to make big decisions like moving abroad or changing your career.

Take care of yourself

Just as you would dutifully take care of the car of your dreams - making sure it’s clean, always has a full tank of fuel, gets serviced and driven smoothly - you need to take care of yourself. After all, you are your own best asset. Do you take care of yourself like you would your dream car? With the same level of care and attention? I know I often don’t, but as they often say, “We teach best what we need most ourselves”.

Often, I have to remind myself that my body is my vehicle, and I MUST treat it with love; otherwise, I will not get very far.

Build your personal brand

Brands aren’t only for products and companies. Do you want people to hire you, see you as an expert, want to meet you and talk to you? Be(come) interesting!

Invest in building your own powerhouse, your personal brand. Again, know yourself and build consciously on that. Be consistent and spread your message online in places where your potential clients and employers virtually live (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter etc.).

If you are employed, don’t think that this doesn’t apply to you, because it does. Not many people who are employed are working on their brand, so this is your chance to stand out. Start your own blog, post on LinkedIn, share content that is relevant for your audience.

Consider your network

As well as working on yourself, you need to also consider your network. Your career will only ever be as great as the people who support you and promote you.

Know your supporters 

I moved to the Netherlands some 14 years ago. Looking back now, I realise this move was mainly made possible by my two bosses back in Poland who supported me and told the big bosses in the Netherlands about me. I could have been a great expert, but without their support I wouldn’t have got far.

But how did I make that happen? How did I convince them to support me? The answer is simple. By helping them. By making their lives easier, meaning doing my job not 100% but 2000%. I often worked long hours, continuing work when they had gone home. I was young and ambitious, so I didn’t really mind. My work made them sleep peacefully; they knew that they could rely on me.

At the time, I didn’t have a clue, but later on I found out that one of the best influencing principles, according to Dr. Robert Cialdini, is reciprocity: “You do something for me, I do something for you.”

So, who is out there for you? Who supports you? Build strong relationships with these people, and, remember, always be the first in these relationships to offer value!

Know your gatekeepers

Who stands in front of the gate to your dream or to your success? Who are the gatekeepers? You know the saying, “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer”? It’s time to apply it. 

Do you remember the last time you went to a fancy club? Do you remember the bouncers standing in front of the door and checking if you were on the guest list, then checking whether you were wearing the right shoes, jacket, tie or dress?

Think about who is keeping the doors closed for you. Is it a recruiter, hiring manager, or your boss?

When I wanted to change my career and start coaching studies, I had an interview with the school admission board. The programme was in Dutch (a language I had just learned), my background was not in social studies, nor did my experience match the profile of the programme. I had a couple of meetings with them to convince them that it was something I really wanted to do.

What’s the best advice here? Anticipate and start early enough to identify who your gatekeepers are and start building relationships with them. It will take time and effort, but it is worth it. Also, make sure to use the help of your supporters / promoters.

Know your direction

What is driving you?Is your career driven by a country, specific job or perhaps love (like in my case)? My primary motivation to move to the Netherlands was to be with my boyfriend, and the career followed. But I also know that some of my clients really wanted to move to a specific country because it was their dream or they simply wanted to have more sun in their life and enjoy an outdoor lifestyle.

Other clients were driven by job opportunities and moved abroad purely for the position. What is it in your case? What is really important to you? What type of lifestyle do you want to have? Are you happy with where you are (country and job wise)?

What do you think is the best way to keep your international career moving? Share in the comments below!

This article originally appeared on IamExpat in the Netherlands.

Dorota Klop-Sowinska


Dorota Klop-Sowinska

Official Member of Forbes Coaches Council. I specialize in international career and expat coaching. I am the author of the book Career Jump! How to Successfully Change Your Professional Path...

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