How to win your international job search!

Want to know how to win your international job search? Here it is: Leverage local advice to avoid any pitfalls created by cultural differences!

Back in 2013, myself and Katie decided to move to the US, to be closer to her family as we began to start our own. So we got our visas (a lengthy time-consuming process), quit our U.K. jobs and life and boarded our plane to start again in the USA. Little did we know how much we would learn about ourselves and each other, as we journeyed to win our international job search.

In total, I spent about 6 months not being employed. Although I did start a company helping local business owners with their websites and digital branding (definitely a topic for another blog post). During this six month period, I had many interviews and thought about many different career options. But when it came down to it, one piece of local advice unlocked my future and led to big successes for me over the next years.

I remember the advice and moment it was given to this very day. I often reflect on what mine and Katie’s lives would be like had I not heeded it. I remember even debating for a moment whether I should take the advice and put it to practical use. I am glad I did.

I was sitting at the kitchen table of my mother-in-law’s (where we were residing at the time, while we figured out jobs etc), it was a typical bright and beautiful early summers morning in Iowa. I was sitting eating my cereals and drinking my coffee, deep in thought. To be honest I had what felt like a tough decision to make: accept an offer for a job I did not want or wait for a possible offer from a job I wanted (trying to decide between two job offers, read my post about how to make this decision).

After 5months of not being employed, and with a dwindling bank account, I was eager to get back to being employed. So the temptation to accept the job offer I had was big. However, it was a contract role, and not really the role that I wanted. For the other job I wanted, I had completed my final interview 6 weeks prior, and after contacting them and hearing twice that they still had not made a decision, my nerves were being tested. Could I really turn down an offer for a job at this point on the basis of hoping I could land the job I actually wanted? Would our finances survive? Would my marriage survive? Would I be making the biggest mistake of my life? All these questions and more were swirling around in my head.

As I was pondering this, my mother-in-law came into the kitchen and sat down. She could clearly see I was deep in thought, so asked me what I was thinking about. I explained my dilemma, and then she gave me the greatest advice possible for that moment in time. She said: why not tell the company where you really want the job that you have another offer and see if they want you.

Wow! My mind began to race. Could I really do this? Surely that is not acceptable. But, if it worked I could get the job I wanted. Being British, my politeness was kicking in and was starting to win the battle in my mind. Until I realized I had absolutely nothing at all to lose. Try this and if it didn’t work I still had the other offer in place. I suddenly had direction and leaped into action.

I needed to act fast because I had an hour before I was expecting a call back about the job offer I did not want. I called the company up (for the job I wanted) and told the recruiter the situation. She said she would call me back within 30 mins. That might have been the longest 30 minutes I can remember. It felt like life was on pause. I probably counted every second and minute as the clock hands moved slowly on.

Then exactly on 30 minutes, 10 minutes before my call back (from the job I didn’t want), it was the recruiter. Great news she said, do not accept the other job! They had not had time to put together an offer, but they wanted me and please do not take the other job. My heart leaped out of my chest and I felt a huge rush of adrenaline. Trying to stay calm, I responded that I wouldn’t accept the other job.

At that moment I could have run a marathon. Suddenly, after 5 months of looking, I had landed my perfect job. It wasn’t until a week later I reflected on the advice and how close I had come to letting my cultural norms (in this case my British politeness) stand in the way. Thank goodness for my mother-in-law and that American / local advice!

It is hard to estimate what would have happened had I not heeded that advice at that moment and landed the job I really wanted. Maybe I would have ended up with just as much success. Certainly, my journey would have been different. Somehow I just feel like that was one of those life moments where getting some crucial help, truly altered my course for the better.

So when you are looking for a job in another country make sure you have a source of local advice to help you avoid any pitfalls from acting in a way you consider normal (but that might be harming your chances).

Consider these three sources of advice:

  1. Friends and Family – Speak to friends and family in the location you are searching applying in, seek their advice and thoughts
  2. Local Content – Read local career sites and advice articles, these will give you a local expert perspective
  3. Local Network – Reach out to any of your professional network in the local area

Conducting an international job search? Be sure to read my post about how to successfully move to another country without a job.

And do not forget to check out our FB page for this week’s additional insight: on exactly what helped me get a quick answer from the recruiter at the company I wanted to work at.

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