Monday, April 2, 2012

Why Work Abroad? by Rosalie Garret

Thousands of people throughout the world have a desire to work and live abroad, to taste a career and a culture within the unknown. For some it is simply the chance to fulfil a need to travel and explore, to see how others live and work; for others it is a way to progress in their career, to learn from the skills of people outside their own country and to reap the financial rewards that often allure people to work overseas.

If you are interested in working abroad but haven’t got a clue how to go about it (and don’t think the chance is likely), think again. In this day and age anything is possible. In the workplace you just have to set your goals and tread the path in the direction you want to take.

Initially, one of the easiest ways to work abroad is to get into a career that can be used internationally. Some such careers include for example the medical profession, engineering, teaching and law. These jobs can almost be typified as ‘trades’ where your skills and qualifications can be utilised and adapted to the needs of any country. Delphine Van is a Singaporean nurse who decided to relocate for three years to the UK. She had always wanted the chance to work in Europe and her job allowed her to do so. “I knew I had to get into a profession that would allow me to travel and see the world. Money was not the draw to nursing, more the chance to see different civilisations. I worked in the UK for three years and learnt new skills in nursing and how to interact with different cultures. The financial rewards were a little better, nothing special, but I returned to Singapore and the skills gained helped me to progress in my career.”

Other people’s soul reasons for working abroad are to make big bucks. Shek Boon is a lawyer for an international financial corporation. When he started out in his career he knew he wanted to be a lawyer, but his main aim was to work for an international company where he could reap the rewards of a large package, healthy salary and travel. “I wanted it all-the good bank account, the status and the chance to get out and see the world in style. I am not a ‘natural’ lawyer; I had to really work for this and the competition was terribly tough. But with will, you can get there in the end if you want it enough.” Having worked in other countries, Shek’s career has gone from strength to strength. His experience is vast and his knowledge of international legalities highly sought after. “Working abroad gave me more than I could have hoped for-a great awareness of international law, good friends and unparralled experience. It was a good move.”

However, some of you may not want to pursue a career that can be defined as a trade. Some of you may want to go for a career that is not so specialised and not so sought after in other countries. This, however, does not mean you cannot work abroad. You simply have to research the opportunities and work hard. Kelvin Tan is a head sommelier (a wine specialist in a restaurant) in a well-known restaurant in Singapore. He worked up the ranks into the position from being a waiter and soon secured this exclusive position. Kelvin never imagined that he would have the opportunity to travel with his work. He secured a good reputation as a sommelier, and one evening whilst working in the restaurant, a diner was most impressed with his knowledge and service. The next morning he received a call to invite him to go and work in America for a year at one of the top restaurants in New York. “I could not believe it. Here was my dream job slapping me in the face. I had never thought I would ever get such a chance; my luck was in that day. Since returning, opportunities have jumped my way. People are impressed with my knowledge and experience. I learnt an awful lot in America and made some great friends and contacts. In my opinion, travelling and working is a deeply enriching experience. I highly recommend it!’

When working abroad for any company, what you MUST expect is that they take care of you. They should cover you for any eventuality, from your health insurance, accommodation, to all your travel costs. Although it may be exciting to be going abroad, don’t for one minute feel that you should contribute financially to the dream. Stacey Lee worked as a marketing manager for an events organising company. She was offered the opportunity to work in London for three months to learn from the experience of her colleagues in the head office. However, when reality set in, she realised that she’d be living on next to nothing. “Here I was telling my mates about my wonderful company and the opportunity that they had given me. I was all set to go. Then I asked where I’d be staying. They told me I’d be in a hotel for the first three days and for the rest of the time, I would be staying with one of the employees there and paying for my rent. This I thought was OK until they told me that it would be 400 pounds, practically three quarters of my salary at the time! I was gob smacked and could not believe that they would put me in this position, especially as I had financial commitments at home, with my parents and my rent. I ended up not going and leaving the company soon after.’

Whatever you choose to do in your career, if you have the desire to work abroad then go for it. Take your time and look into both your field of work, the company you decide to work for and the political, economical and cultural situation of the country. You may not want to plunge into a war torn country or a country that does not speak your language, this would not be the ideal situation for a business environment. The world is getting smaller and it’s far easier today to work abroad and thousands upon thousands of people are doing it. Good luck! 

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