Things No One Tells You About Working Abroad

 

I don’t remember how old I was when living abroad became my dream. I always wanted to explore the world and to push myself out of my comfort zone. Australia is very far away from my home of Russia (around 15,000 km) and none of my friends had ever been there before. It looked mysterious and beautiful, a perfect place to literally turn your life upside down. Coming from a cold country, when I imagined my life in Australia, I pictured myself chilling every day next to the ocean, surfing at sunset, and never worrying about my tan ever again. The reality after 4 years is that I hardly ever swim, haven’t tried surfing, and my friends back home are more tanned than me (and honestly it’s the biggest mystery!). 

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I love Australia, but moving abroad has been a struggle at times. The conversation around the struggles of living abroad is much louder now than it was 4 years ago. People are sharing how challenging it can be for mental health, overall wellbeing, relationships and friendships. The one topic which still hasn’t had a lot of attention is finding a job in a country that you weren’t born in. 

I wanted to share some of the struggles that I faced while trying to get into the workforce in a foreign country, and tips on how to get through these difficulties.  

Feeling of starting all over

When moving to another country, there won’t be things you used to have back home — like your favourite cafe, your friends or your family, which you normally prepare for. One thing we tend to forget about though is losing our work connections, which can actually be quite challenging. You often need connections to find a job in a new country, and you need a job to be able to find people and make those connections. The circle! Unfortunately, you can’t always rely on your experience or knowledge over these connections, simply because this knowledge might not be relevant abroad.

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My best tip:

Internships are a massive (can’t stress it enough) help. They’re much easier to get than an actual job, and will provide you with work-related experience in the country, networking and a potential job offer! You can also find out which skills are your weaknesses and make sure to work on it before finding a full-time position. An internship will also give you an understanding of the working culture, even though it can vary from one business to another. It’s the best way to learn all the basics in your new country. 

Dealing with the language barrier

We’re told that being confident is very important for your first impression, but how do you be confident when dealing with a language barrier? The anxiety of making a mistake or not understanding something definitely doesn’t boost your confidence. You may also feel nervous that your intelligence and mindset will be judged based on how you’re speaking. In Russia there is a stereotype (more like a belief) that well educated people don’t make any mistakes in speaking or writing, and because of that I felt a lot of pressure as my second language isn’t perfect. 

My best tip:

The greatest thing I learned is that you shouldn’t treat your imperfect language as a weakness. If you’re living in a foreign country and can express your thoughts and keep the conversation going, then you’ve already done a lot of the hard work. This shouldn’t be underestimated. Knowing and being able to use 2 (or more) languages is a big advantage. You have twice as many opportunities, and lots of companies specifically search for candidates with a second language so they can communicate with overseas clients. Also a nerd fact, but very useful for studying and working — knowing multiple languages helps to conduct better and deeper research. So whenever you feel down or nervous remember these advantages and realise how incredible you are!

P.S. If you’re feeling that your language skills are a big obstacle to achieving your dream, then there are many different courses and schools with lessons both online and offline that will not only boost your language level, but can even make you sound British. Afternoon tea anyone? 

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Dealing with rejections

Let’s be honest, it’s very difficult to find a job in a city where you don’t have professional connections. Be ready to get lots of “no’s”, but more often to be ghosted and never hear back from a company again.

Another phrase I’ve heard pretty often was “oh, sorry but we’re looking for a citizen”. It’s understandable that businesses don’t want to deal with visas, paper work or restrictions on hours, but this doesn’t change the fact that you’re in desperate need for a job. 

In 4 months I’ve applied for over 30 positions, out of that I got 11 rejections, and never heard back from 20 companies. It really sets you off and makes you think that maybe you’re just not good enough and nothing can be done. This can lead you to a very dark place and at one point I found myself questioning if moving to Australia was a big mistake. Spoiler alert — nah, it wasn’t.

My best tip:

I know it sounds like a cliche from a bad romcom, but sometimes it really is them and not you

It’s important to not blame yourself when you don’t get the job you want. Take care of your mental health and self-esteem, and during the time that you’re looking for a job, do things that make you happy and help build your knowledge. Even if you’re short on money, there are a lot of free things to do: explore the suburbs, do small day trips, learn new skills by doing free online courses, watch all top 100 movies on IMDb, or volunteer in a local shelter. If you’re not working it doesn’t automatically mean that you have to sit at home all day, every day. 

Another little tip for combatting rejection - if it is not a requirement to include your citizenship status on your application, feel free to leave it off. That gives you the opportunity to use it as a selling point when you do land an interview. There are so many advantages to having experience in different cultures, like bringing a different mindset and different ideas to the role, which ultimately creates more diversity in thought within a company. FYI, this is becoming really important to a lot of modern workplaces as diversity in employers = different creative ideas and solutions. Make this the focus in your interview!

Moving abroad can be scary and challenging, but it has been the most rewarding thing I have ever done. The most important thing I have learned along my journey is don’t be afraid to ask help. Sometimes you won’t get a pun or will have no idea what that reference to some weird local tv show means, but it’s always okay to admit it and ask. No one thinks you’re silly or uneducated because you have a different cultural background to them and if they do, then that’s a reflection on themselves.

If you’re thinking about moving abroad then I have one last thing to say to you…

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Alena is interning at Inka Creative as part of our 12 week Intern Program. Contact us if you’d like to know more.