Living and working abroad is one of the most rewarding, terrifying, uncomfortable, exciting things I've done in my life. Most expats I talk to say something similar, it's a way to grow yourself beyond what you thought was possible for your life and your career, and a chance to add value globally and not just in your home community. It's a great way to get more comfortable with risk, grow your network, and to learn. It's an amazing opportunity, and if it's something you want to do even a little bit, you should go for it! Here's how to get started.
1. Start with What you Know
Start with what you know, first. Do you know anyone living abroad currently? Where are they located? Have you visited any countries that really resonated with you? Are you aware of a specific opportunity that sounds exciting? Those would be good places to start to focus on. I chose Sydney, Australia because I had visited here before (and loved it), I had two cousins living in the city, and a friend from University was living here as well. I knew that I would be joining at least a small network of people I knew in a place I was already familiar with. That made it feel easier and gave me some confidence and comfort.
2. Talk to People
You are not the first person to relocate to the place or places you're considering. So, once you have a short list (or a favorite) in terms of where you want to go, start talking to people who have moved to where you're looking, or talk with people who live there currently. I spent hours in conversation with my relatives and friends about where I should look for jobs, what I'd need to know about finding an apartment, and how much money I would need to live on. And my conversations provided some excitement too, the people I talked to were able to tell me about fun activities, hobbies, crazy weather events, and other aspects of life in Sydney that helped me get excited and stay motivated about making the change.
3. Research and Learn
There's a lot to learn when you get ready to do an international move. You'll need to learn about how to find a job or what work is available to you as an expat, you'll need to learn about visas and work authorization and health care and housing and banking. Thankfully, all of the most important information is available through a few great resources. For job searching and what to expect in professional cultures abroad, Goinglobal.org is a great place to start (tip: you might be able to get access to Going Global's paid content by asking your university if they provide access for current students or alumni). The immigration website of the country you're planning a move to is also useful for information on visa types and skilled migration criteria, and many immigration sites also help by providing other general information on making your move. The most helpful resource of all though are the expat networks that you'll find through LinkedIn or Facebook. I joined Sydney Expat Americans Facebook group and a linkedin group for people on the same type of visa that I was looking for, and those two groups provided a wealth of information as I made the change. Join networks!
4. Have courage and Commit
This is probably the hardest part, but just keep pushing through. It takes courage to uproot your life and move abroad, but often the scariest things that we do are the most rewarding. If you have always wondered what it would be like to live and work abroad, or wonder if you could ever make it work, then the best way to answer those internal questions is to go for it. The best way to overcome indecision and fear is to act. So decide that you will move forward, and take small steps to move yourself in the direction of going overseas. Let your friends know what you want to do, ask questions in an expat group, read the newspaper of the city you want to move to, or reach out to someone who lives overseas to ask about their experience. If you can commit with courage and enthusiasm, I think you'll find that doors open, opportunities are created, and you'll have a plane ticket in hand in no time.
Need help with your career decision or moving abroad plans? You can work with me here.