Myths About Working Abroad

It's enough to know I want an international job.
Saying "I want an international job" or "I want to use my foreign language skills" doesn't constitute a career decision. The word "international" is an adjective. Think first about what you want to do and then apply international to it, for example, "international lawyer" or "international marketer."

The best place to find an international job is with a large American

Most American companies employ only a few Americans abroad, and primarily in management positions. One global American corporation, for example, has about 275,000 employees, but only 300 work abroad. By far the largest numbers of recent graduates who are working abroad are those who volunteer for the Peace Corps and related programs, teach English as a second language, or work under a short-term permit.

International jobs are all located outside the USA.
About 80% of "international" jobs are located in the United States. Only a small portion of American citizens work abroad.

I can't get an international job because I only speak English.
Foreign language skills are not needed for all international jobs. While some positions require strong language skills (translator, interpreter, consultant, etc.) others demand only minimal foreign language skills. The better your knowledge of a country’s language, though, the better position you will likely be offered. And aside from employment, knowing the language can be vital in helping you feel comfortable and “at home” in another land.

I should just grab my suitcase and go.
The best way to find an international job is to do your homework here in the USA before you grab a suitcase and go. Plan to spend several months researching the country and career field in which you want to work and acquiring the necessary documents. Remember, if you enter the country under a tourist visa, you are prevented from working, and you can’t enter a country under a work visa without the necessary paperwork.

My foreign language skills will get me a job.
Unfortunately, many American employers don't generally value foreign language skills except in a few specific areas. School systems or translation firms will, of course, be interested in your foreign language skills. But, in general, language skills are not enough. You need to bring strong work-related skills which enable you to do the job. Employers don’t always know how to use your foreign language skills, so you must be prepared to tell them.

International jobs involve glamorous travel.
Not all international jobs involve travel. In fact, many international jobs never require that you leave your hometown. Travel is a mixed blessing for many workers-- exciting and fun at first, but it can be tiring.

I want to change the world so I'll join the Peace Corps.
Volunteer and development programs like the Peace Corps offer many personal rewards and satisfaction, but you will likely not "change the world." These employers are looking for people who have a realistic sense of what they can accomplish. Overseas development workers face a lot of bureaucracy as they try to accomplish their tasks, making the work harder and less fulfilling. Bottom line: You may not change the world, but you will have an impact on individual people and communities.

Living and working abroad is dangerous.
It depends. Many countries have lower crime rates than major American cities. Certain parts of the world are more dangerous than others, though, and the State Department provides updated safety information for travelers and workers.

An agency I found on the internet will find me a job for a fee.
Do not pay someone to find you an international job. Don’t be fooled by ads in newspapers or on the internet promoting international jobs for a fee. Do not deal with any employment agency that requires a fee unless there is a money-back guarantee, and even then think twice. Always contact the Better Business Bureau or your state Attorney General's office to find out if the business is a scam.