This week Megan Fitzgerald, Expat Career and Personal Branding Coach and author of expat site Career by Choice gives you her advice on searching for a job abroad. Megan helps expats worldwide use their personal brand to build careers and businesses that fit who they are and their international lifestyle. Named a top 50 personal branding consultant, she's been featured in Fortune, CNNMoney.com, Wall Street Journal Online and many expat and career books and publications.
IN SEARCH OF THE JOB ABROAD
It's about differentiation, communication and strategic action
200 million people around the world are living outside of their home country. That’s almost 3 percent of the world’s population. There is not global data available, but looking at regional numbers we can deduce that a good number of those people are without a job, underemployed, or dissatisfied with the job that they do have.
Given we can potentially spend more time at work than anywhere else, this is tragic. Especially when you consider many of us chose to become an expat to have new experiences, more freedom and a better quality of life. How can someone have a rich or fulfilling life abroad when they are dissatisfied, frustrated or in despair professionally speaking? I’m not sure there is an easy answer to that question.
I believe the key to addressing this situation is looking at how changes in the marketplace and current hiring practices have changed the way expats need to approach the job search and managing their careers. With appropriate shifts in approaches to compliment the shifts going on around us in the marketplace, we can see that there are definitive strategies that can help us take back control over our careers and allow us to enjoy our life abroad.
YOU ARE A SOLUTION TO A PROBLEM
Companies hire people because they are a solution to a problem they need fixing and they are willing to pay to get it fixed. Period. Not because they think they need another position X or because they need to replace someone who has left. Everyone is tightening their belts. If there is not a definable problem to be solved and there is no perceived ROI to a hire, it is very highly unlikely it will happen.
If you are an expat already located in your country of choice and a job opportunity arises with a local company, most often you will have to show how you offer something that a local candidate cannot in order to be considered for a position. If you are an aspiring expat looking to work for a company abroad, you’ve got to be able to make the case for why there is ROI for the employer to invest in sending you abroad versus hiring a local.
IT’S ABOUT DIFFERENTIATION AND COMMUNICATING VALUE
It’s critical that expats understand their differentiation and ability to uncover and communicate their value are essential to getting access to professional opportunities abroad. Those that are willing to invest the time and energy to do the work required to effectively position themselves in the right way and at the right time will be at the front of the line when opportunities become available. Those that learn to communicate powerfully via tools and various platforms will be able to convert those opportunities into jobs.
PEOPLE ARE A COMPANY’S GREATEST RESOURCE
That said top companies know that the best people and talent can solve their biggest problems more efficiently and effectively than most. They know they will not only solve those problems with speed and skill but will be proactive about creating opportunities for their organization. These companies understand that hiring and firing is expensive and substandard performance affects their bottom line. They know their people are their greatest resource and if they want to thrive in today’s incredibly competitive global marketplace, they have to hire the best people they possibly can. This includes hiring an expat, paying to send an employee abroad or hiring from outside of the local market place if there is real perceived value in that choice.
THE GLOBAL WAR FOR TALENT
The global war for talent is fierce, even with unemployment rates in some places in the world being extremely high. As a result, the top companies and organizations worldwide are using processes and tools to identify the competencies and traits of successful employees. In fact, according to HR World, top companies are 86% more likely to know which skills and traits translate into top performance. They are using this knowledge to not only evaluate candidates but search them out. And they know what tools to use and where to go to find them.
Many top employers believe that the best candidates or solutions to their problems are being successful working with another company or organization somewhere out there in the world. They don’t believe that these candidates are going to be knocking on their door or sending in their resume or CV inquiring about open positions. They realize they have to seek them out. So with the knowledge of the specific skills, competencies, traits and experience they need to find a top performer to solve their problem, they go to where they believe they will find them. The first (and most cost effective) place they go? Online.
TOP EMPLOYERS SEARCH AND FIND THE BEST ONLINE
Saavy HR professionals and recruiters will know how to use the internet to source candidates worldwide. Surveys show that companies and recruiters will be using social media more than any other means to source candidates in 2011. They will leverage online networks like Linkedin that allow them to search through millions of people using very specific keywords to locate candidates that fit their needs. These companies or their recruiting firms then approach these people they believe are an ideal or strong fit and the potential hiring conversation begins.
THE HIDDEN JOB MARKET
This is one of the reasons why 65 to 75% of all jobs are not advertised. These “hidden” jobs are filled through the company’s proactive searching mentioned above, internal hiring, employee referrals or savvy networkers outside of the company who’ve positioned themselves in front of the right people at the right time. This means that the advertised jobs were passed over by people working for the company, savvy networkers and the top stars that the company has actively pursued. So if you are focusing primarily on advertised jobs in your job search, you are pursuing the jobs to which hundreds (potentially thousands) of people have said “no thanks”. And you have massive competition for these jobs because their existence is public knowledge. I don’t know about you, but competing with thousands of people for second or third rate positions does not sound like a desirable scenario at all.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE EXPAT JOB SEEKER?
It means you have to become the hunted rather than the hunter to be considered for the best job opportunities. It means you need to understand the marketplace and your target market’s problems and position yourself as a solution. You need to know how to differentiate yourself, truly understand your value in the cultural context in which you are or will be operating and have the strategies and tools to communicate it in a powerful and persuasive way.
It means that the resume or CV is no longer the de facto or primary tool for communicating your value. Chances are people will read your bio and/or experience on Linkedin or another online network before they get to your career marketing documents. Your online identity or reputation will be just as, if not more important, than your resume or CV. And the way you write your resume or CV – yes, that’s got to change too.
It means that you need to be strategic, proactive and consistent in executing on your career management plan. It means that much of what you have been taught about how to manage your career or run a job search is no longer valid. The words “Adapt or Die” may seem strong but when the shoe fits….
TODAY’S WORLD OF WORK
Today’s world of work is a different place from even 3 years ago. Not only have the rules changed, the game has changed. We must question everything we thought was true about managing our careers if we want to build and enjoy our professional life abroad.
The expats who will thrive abroad in 2011 and beyond will be the ones who let go of what they know and the past, learn new skills to engage in the present reality and be willing to take regular action to nurture and grow their professional reputation or personal brand and network to insure long term success.
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