Entry Level Jobs Abroad: What, How, & Where

by Mary Ellen Dingley

“So, what’s next for you?” quickly becomes the dreaded question for soon-to-be college graduates. You envy the people with a plan: a job lined up, graduate school, creating an app startup in Silicon Valley that connects you to pettable puppies in your vicinity. We all want impressive plans, as well as some sort of career trajectory and hopefully a dash of adventure. So, why not work abroad?

Working abroad has many advantages: it gives you international experience, teaches you cross-cultural skills and flexibility, and maybe new language skills. Plus it’s a great way to be able to travel and see this great, big, beautiful world without breaking the bank! Jobs abroad also supply you with all sorts of great stories to tell at parties when you are back home to make everyone jealous (I bet their work parties didn’t include salsa dancing!).

There are many international jobs out there that can give you the work experience and adventure you crave. So the questions remain: how exactly do you go about securing an entry level job abroad?

What exactly is an entry level job?

An entry level position is different from a seasonal or temporary job. Just like its name suggests, an entry level job will (hopefully) help you enter into a specific industry or career path so that you can one day fulfill your dreams of being a big boss in a corner office demanding coffee from your many assistants. Entry level jobs should draw on your knowledge and experience, but also teach you new skills so that you’ll be ready for the next career step. Most entry level jobs are salaried, rather than paid by hour. Many are assistant jobs, such as research or program assistants, thata will teach you the ins and outs of your industry.

If you’re more drawn to seasonal or temporary international work opportunities, you should consider working at a ski resort, a national park, or becoming an au pair abroad.

What type of job could I get?

While teaching English is the most common job available abroad, there are many other types of work out there. Of course, if you’re interested in the field of education, teaching English abroad is still an ideal entry level position! Teaching jobs can also turn into international jobs for  your recruiting agency, but don’t count on that happening.

There are job opportunities abroad ranging from theater to hospitality and tourism; you could even work for a student travel company! Highly skilled specialists and those with technical skills (think nursing, computer programming, engineering, etc) will find it easier to get a job abroad, especially with a multinational company.

But soft skills also matter, so are you good with people? You could be a volunteer coordinator, helping volunteers from your home country settle into positions into your adopted country. Like working with students? You could be a residential assistant at an international school. I don’t think you can earn a salary by Instagramming yourself drinking coffee in foreign cities, but hey, dream big!

You can also get a job with a multinational corporation based in your home country that has offices all over the world! Fields like international development, business, finance, and many more fields have numerous international positions available abroad (and possibly relocation packages for employees). However, often these international jobs require a bit more experience.

If you do land a position with an international company in your neck of the woods, you could finagle your way into a job abroad by working hard, picking up a language, or inundating your boss with all the cool geography facts you know (Maybe not that last part…).

How do I find a job abroad?

There are hurdles to finding and getting an entry level job abroad. Let’s be honest, entry level jobs can be hard to find in your own country, let alone abroad. Many entry level job opportunities have become unpaid internships, and the “entry” level jobs now require some work experience. Internationally, internships, volunteer placements, and temporary jobs are easier to find than paid, entry level work. However, with some tenacity and careful research, that entry level job can be found!

Start your search by checking out international job opportunities on GoAbroad. Alternatively, some people fly to the country first and then find a job, but that move is risky at best! You could also get a temporary job in country, and then use that position as leverage to find something more permanent. For instance, I started out as an English teacher in the Dominican Republic, took on some additional responsibilities in my organization, and was later offered a job as a volunteer coordinator!

Alternatively, you can look into fellowships; these usually offer the same level of responsibilities as entry level jobs, along with some job training. Most fellowships also pay a living stipend. The Peace Corps could also be an option as a stipend-paid position abroad (and one that could lead to many future job opportunities), but there are many similar alternatives to it, too.

What about my visa?

One of the biggest hurdles in working abroad is getting a work visa. Companies don’t want to deal with sponsoring your visa if they could simply hire in-country. Being hired by a domestic company with offices abroad could mitigate this, as could applying to larger corporations who have more resources. You can also go through a work abroad program, in which a third party agency or provider will help you with job placement and your visa application.

Companies will be more willing to sponsor you if you have the skills they need, so look into industries that need English speakers, like tourism and hospitality. Gaining a technical skill or speciality (such as nursing) will also give you an edge in getting sponsored. There are many developing nations in need of technically skilled workers!

If you aren’t sure about visa requirements, check with the embassy of the country you wish to work in based in your home country.

Where should I work abroad?

Entry level jobs can be found all over the world! But there are certainly locations that are easier than others. Big cities have more opportunities for international job seekers than rural areas or small towns. The better connected the city is internationally, with a busy international airport for example, the higher likelihood there will be job opportunities for foreign workers.

Language ability can also either help or hinder you. Australia and England are popular for those seeking jobs in an English language environment, but if you want to use your Spanish, head down to South America!

While your skills might be more in demand in a less developed nation, the pay might be lower than what you need. In a wealthier country, the competition could be fierce and the price of living high. Pay attention to immigration and labor laws, visa laws often change and could make it harder for you to stay in country as a foreigner. A country with friendly visa laws might be the easiest for you to find a job in!

Remember also that work cultures vary widely across the world; if you’re a woman, some jobs in certain nations may be restricted to you. Some countries have long hours, others love their afternoon breaks, such as the more laidback business culture in Italy. Some workplaces want you to arrive 15 minutes early to a meeting, and some of forgo the meeting to go to lunch. You may get a lot of questions about your love life if you’re working in Japan, or be in a more tight-lipped workplace if you choose a conservative country.

Do your research before accepting that juicy job offer and know what type of work culture you would be comfortable with!

You can do it!

Those post-college, what-am-I-doing-with-my-life, need-to-find-a-job, what-is-my-career years can be overwhelming! You’re swamped with options and might be torn between conflicting desires to travel or save money, focus on career or on adventure. A job abroad can help your career AND your wanderlust! Then one day when you’re the big-bad CEO of an important company, you can make your employees listen to your stories about your adventures abroad and be the life of the party (don’t worry, they aren’t just laughing because you pay their salaries, a job abroad will give you plenty of great experience and truly great tales to tell!).