Tips on Finding a Job Abroad for College Grads

Teacher leading English class
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Many college students spend time overseas as part of study or travel abroad programs, and these experiences spark a keen interest in them for working abroad after graduation.

College graduates can benefit from a stint abroad in an increasingly global marketplace. For instance, cultural and linguistic immersion after college can ultimately make grads more attractive hiring options for international businesses and not-for-profit organizations.

The Challenges of Finding International Employment

Ironically, despite the movement towards globalism in the world economy, finding employment is a more daunting task than ever before. Immigration departments in foreign countries usually require employers to sponsor non-natives and justify why they should be hired over a native worker.

Typically, this justification includes unique talents and abilities that non-native candidates possess, but that are not sufficiently present among native applicants. However, new college graduates can rarely meet this standard when looking to work in the developed world. It is much more common for businesses to assign veteran employees with well-developed skills that are in high demand for overseas jobs.

How to Land a Job Abroad

Despite this challenging scenario, many graduates do manage to land jobs overseas every year. Perhaps the most common option is teaching English in a non-English speaking country, particularly in Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. English has become the accepted international language of business, and countries like Japan, China, Korea, Thailand, Chile, Argentina, and the Czech Republic are eager to have their citizens learn English to support their trade aspirations.

Work Abroad Options

Many programs exist that can facilitate the placement of Americans into teaching positions in a variety of locations.

The JET Program: The JET Program places teaching assistants in schools throughout Japan. Grads should plan a year in advance since the deadline to apply is in late November. The JET Program is extensive with its website advertising that “currently, approximately 1,000 local public organizations [i.e., contracting organizations], including 45 prefectures and 18 designated cities, employ JET Program participants.” Over the past year, 3,105 Americans were hired through the program.

English Open Door Program: The Chilean Ministry of Education sponsors the English Open Door Program and hires volunteer teaching assistants for public schools. They provide housing with a host family, health insurance, and a modest stipend to cover some living expenses. Placements are for four months with rolling application deadlines from November through March, approximately four months before the beginning of assignments.

Cultural Ambassadors: The government in Spain offers a popular program whereby U.S. and Canadian citizens act as cultural and language assistants in the school system and receive a stipend of 700-1000 euros per month for an eight-month assignment running from October through May. The application period is during the winter and spring prior to the year of service, with applications open from January 10 to April 10.

Teach Abroad: Developed countries in Asia, such as Japan and Korea, offer some of the most lucrative English teaching opportunities, which are advertised through websites. Grads accepted into the program should communicate with current teachers at target schools to gain firsthand insight into working conditions before signing any agreements.

Work as an Au Pair: Working as an au pair abroad can also be a great way to minimize expenses since housing is provided by a host family, in addition to a stipend. Many agencies exist to help connect grads with families, but grads should be sure that they inquire into options if the placement doesn't go well and check their references with current au pairs from the U.S.

Organizations that Help with Securing a Work Visa and Finding Employment

Grads can secure a work visa through a number of organizations for a fee, though they should carefully research the costs of the process before making a commitment.

BUNAC: BUNAC helps recent graduates access work permits for periods ranging from 6 to 12 months for employment in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Ireland. BUNAC provides some support through staff in those countries to help grads find jobs, but doesn't actually place them in positions.

Most participants in Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland find jobs in restaurants, pubs, hotels, offices, and farms, which are not particularly career-oriented. The program in the UK requires grads to secure an internship with a training component. A program fee of $1,600 applies as well as charges related to visa acquisition.

The French American Chamber of Commerce: The French American Chamber of Commerce (FACC) sponsors a visa and work support program for college students and graduates called “America Outbound.” The FACC helps participants to identify organizations that will hire Americans for 3- to 18-month paid positions. The program does not charge a fee for its services, but applicants will incur some costs in obtaining their visas. Applications are accepted throughout the year on a rolling basis.

Job Placement Programs

Another group of organizations places graduates in paid short-term jobs or internships. Some of these programs have a focus on specific fields like government, technology, engineering, and science. Cultural Vistas, for example, offers paid internships for 3 -12 months in 25 countries. Program fees apply.

Volunteering Overseas

Volunteer service is another viable option for many grads. The most popular and financially appealing option is the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps currently has more than 7,000 volunteers in more than 60 countries, with the majority working in Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. Areas of service include agriculture, education, health, environment, youth development, and community economic development.

The Peace Corps charges no fees, and volunteers receive a multitude of benefits, including a relocation allowance upon completing their term of duty, loan assistance, free travel to their service site, health coverage, and preference for federal employment.

Peace Corps alumni become members of an extensive network that can be of tremendous assistance with future careers.

Many other programs charge fees, but they often include housing, insurance, and other benefits. Many of these organizations provide fundraising literature, which grads can use to solicit donations from friends, family, and community organizations.

Use Your College Resources

Speak with the career and alumni offices at your college or university to identify contacts who are currently working abroad or who have worked abroad in the past. Reach out to them for information and advice. These individuals may be in a position to ask their employer to hire additional Americans.

Staff at the Study Abroad Office at your college or university may also have valuable advice or contacts to share. Let your faculty know about your plans since they often maintain contact with ex-students. 

Article Sources

  1. Transitions Abroad. "How to Get Work Permit Visas Abroad," Accessed Oct. 8, 2019.