Ok, so you finally save up enough cash from flipping burgers to hop a plane, train or automobile and meander the far (or near) reaches of the globe … but while traveling about, you realize, “Hey! This is the life! I just ate fried crickets in Bangkok / got frostbite staring at the northern lights in Lofoten / discovered that whisky is really amazing in Scotland! But … I have just blown the last of my hard earned cash. Hmmm … I don’t really feel like going back to the daily grind, so how do I keep funding this nomadic existence for a bit longer?”
Well, we could tell you all about a good resumé and dressing your best, but you probably didn’t pack away that classy blazer or business skirt did you? Don’t worry – with a little creativity and imagination, we are here to let you know that all hope is not lost.
You may not become a millionaire or land that dream job, but you just may be able to afford to go bungee jumping or eat at that incredible restaurant everyone’s been talking about. Most importantly it slows the flow from your bank account and keeps you on the road a little bit longer.
1. Before You Go
Here are some steps to help you find a job overseas before you leave home:
- Search Online Job Boards to see what jobs are readily available in the places you are going
- Create a Linkedin profile (or update your existing one)
- As an extra step, get some professional head shots taken as this is expected in some countries for more professional positions
- Update your resumé and save a copy online
- Scan any certificates or qualifications and save online
- Create a personal business card to hand out to people you meet (you never know who might be able to help you get your foot in the door)
- If you are traveling to a destination where you know someone, ask for recommendations and introductions
Working overseas is not always as easy as just arriving and finding a job like you would at home. There are visas, work permits, possible language barriers and cultural differences to consider. There are also other logistics, like where to look for a job?
Living and working in another country can be extremely fulfilling, giving you the opportunity to interact with other travelers and locals in a truly unique way. It will bring you out of your comfort zone, often forcing you to learn a new language and interact with people who may not share the same views you do, exposing you to a different culture and allowing you to grow as a person.
2. When You Get There
Once you have made the decision to stay longer in a destination there are some steps you can take to improve your chances of finding work. Here are a few things worth trying:
- Attend networking events (a great resource is the website Meetup)
- Check the notice board at your hostel for any local job postings that might not be advertised online
- Speak with local business owners to see if there are any openings
3. Lower Your Expectations
Wait, wait, wait! Before you get us wrong, this is not a bad thing! We are just trying to underline that it is very unlikely you will quickly or easily land a position at an international firm that will hand you over a company credit card and provide you with an all-expense-paid trip to exotic lands for pay. You have to start somewhere and your pickings may be rather limited.
Move your thoughts away from the cushy office and aim them more towards the grubbier side of life. Be prepared to scrub toilets, pour pints, pick fruit, chop trees or cut the heads off fish. And if you know your mother tongue well enough, you just might be able to keep your hands clean and shape the minds of youth and adults alike. Keep in mind that no matter what you find or have to accept, you will gain some grand experiences along the way.
4. Working for Food & Board
If you are a budget traveler, you probably cut your costs by staying at hostels. There will be times when you fall in love with one place (or meet someone special) and you don’t want to leave. Look no further than where you lay your head, because this is an excellent place to begin your work experience abroad.
Many hostels around the globe are staffed by fellow backpackers, not only because they just never seem to leave the hostel, but because they are ripe for the picking. Some hostel owners hire out the wandering sort because they are more enthused about the place they are in than the jaded locals who just want a job no matter what it is.
You could potentially stay in a hostel for weeks or even months by trading your time and effort for free accommodation and even food. This drastically cuts the costs! Yes, you will change dirty sheets, unblock a toilet or two and become best friends with a vacuum cleaner, but this usually only takes up a small portion of your day, leaving you time to trek the countryside or discover the hidden nooks and crannies of a city in the afternoons or evenings.
Plus, if you have the right papers or passport, you may have the opportunity to move into a reception or management role and earning an actual wage. Life in a hostel also provides you with a chance to meet the locals and other not-so-transient travelers who have the inside scoop on more prosperous job options.
5. Know Your Options
Scotland has fish farms and tree cutting for those who don’t mind the toil, Sweden lets you out into the open air with strawberry picking, while Australia and France offer the chance to pluck grapes in the wine regions.
Depending on the location, especially if it has a bit of a tourist trade, bars and restaurants constantly need seasonal helpers to mix a drink or serve the food-lovers that flood in during the season.
Fancy yourself a chef? Hone your skills in a kitchen. No problem with seasickness? Board a cruise liner and trade the stationary hotel job for a floating one. If you don’t mind the manual side of labor, then the options are truly endless.
Teaching & translation
Got something against getting a bit of dirt under your nails? Don’t fret, there are other possibilities. One of the most common ways of earning a living abroad is to teach English. Depending on the country, this can range from you having to acquire certification and training (which usually pays more and opens other doors) to people just being exceedingly happy to part with a few bills or coins just to converse with you for an hour or so just for the practice.
Have a search for language schools or even translation agencies to see what is available, but keep in mind that teaching a foreign tongue generally follows the same season as regular schooling (i.e. summers are usually slower when it comes to work), though you can supplement your travel funds through private lessons or even, especially if you are in an area with a student population, proofreading and correcting texts, thesis papers and resumés for those who just want to fine tune their work.
There are agencies, non-government organizations (NGOs), exchange programs and work abroad organizations worldwide looking for people to trade some of their time to do everything from building homes for those in need, assisting organic farmers on their lands to raising awareness on environmental issues. There are even just straightforward volunteer-for-experience programs in many countries. If money is not an issue, then that window of opportunity just opened a tad more for you, and you get to assist in a good cause.
Here are some more ideas worth exploring:
6. Know the Legalities
Ready to head out there and start earning? Hold up a moment … you may have forgotten one important detail. If you don’t have the correct papers, passport or visa to that magical destination you so desire, you could land yourself in deep trouble. Working and traveling is a grand idea and while you may have the freedom to visit many countries around the globe, that doesn’t mean you can work there legally. If you are caught earning cash without going through the proper channels, it could put a huge damper on your journey (if caught working illegally in the UK, you could be barred from the country for 10 years)!
Yes, of course, there is a lot of “under the counter” work going on, but remember: as a foreigner in a strange land, you stick out. If you work in a small town, then everyone knows you. If you work in a large tourist area, then the authorities are very likely to check the establishments for unregistered workers, putting you and your employer in a very tight spot. This mostly affects paid work, as working solely for accommodation or food sometimes doesn’t enter that grey area and isn’t classified as employment, but know the regulations in the country you are heading to beforehand to save yourself the trouble.
Even if you are just trading your bed making skills for a dorm bed here and there, also remember your time limitations within a country and don’t overstay your welcome, as you could also get barred from a country or even region (e.g. the European Union) for a long time and that is counterproductive to the whole point of seeing the world.
7. Additional Resources
- Peace Corps – Peace Corps sends Americans abroad to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world. Apart from basic living expenses the program also helps pay off student loans. #Open to U.S. citizens ONLY
- Council on International Educational Exchange Work Abroad Program (CIEE) – A nonprofit, non-governmental organization, CIEE is the world leader in international education and exchange
- Alliance Abroad Group – Guarantees paid work placement before your departure and organizes accommodations
- Workaway – A site set up to promote fair exchange between budget travelers, language learners or culture seekers and families
- BUNAC – Offers work abroad programs in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada
- World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) – Links volunteers with organic farms and growers around the world
- InterExchange – Nonprofit organization that offers a variety of programs such as paid agricultural work in Norway and Australia; au pair placements in France, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands; volunteering in Costa Rica, Peru, India or South Africa; and English teaching in Spain