Guide to Work, Study, Travel and Living Abroad    

How to Find the Best Jobs Abroad While Working in Your Current Country

Strategies for a Successful Transition

By Troy Erstling
Resources updated by Transitions Abroad 8/21/2019

Meet up for work
Meet up abroad for a cup of coffee with an expat connection when seeking a new job in a formal or informal setting.

Ever since I left the world of TEFL/ESL, the most common question asked of me is, “How can I continue to work abroad without teaching English?” And for good reason.

Teaching English, one of the largest markets for jobs abroad, especially for those just out of college, is often a great gateway for extended travel through paying work, but is not part of the long-term international career goals for many people. Many are eager to use Teaching as a stepping-stone, but taking that step seems more like jumping between two distant rooftops. I've met countless people who gave up on working abroad and went back home, or continue teaching because they couldn't find anything other type of paying job. 

The good news? There's a solution. The not-so-good news? It’s going to take a lot of hard work (like all worthwhile goals in life).

First of all, you need to ask yourself, “Do I absolutely want to stay in the country where I currently find myself?” Your answer will have a huge impact on how you start your job hunt. There’s a big difference between on-the-ground networking, and what I refer to as “net”working (connecting with people on the internet to create opportunities). You really need to be honest with yourself about your intentions in order to bear the most fruit for your efforts.

If your answer is "yes, I do want to stay in my current country,” then this article is geared towards you. (In an upcoming article, I will focus on more of a country-agnostic work abroad approach.)

Here’s how to get started.

Step 1 — Research Communities

The best way to get started creating opportunities does not involve knowledge of rocket science; it requires networking and hustle. However, you do need to be smart and efficient about where you go and how you connect with people.

My approach? Find communities where the right people hang out. Search for Meetup groups, events in the city, Facebook groups, and anywhere else you can find people who share your interests.

My go-to communities to research in any new city—cities are generally where most jobs are available—are as follows:

  • Startups and Entrepreneurship

    • Find the people who are just starting up or have already started a business of their own. Startup companies are always looking to hire young, hungry, motivated people, and are eager to hire anyone who has a fresh perspective. Entrepreneurs always respect someone who has traveled far away from their home country to pursue their dreams. If they can see that you are hungry as well, they will be more inclined to take a liking to you. Hands-down, this is my favorite way to meet people who can potentially provide opportunities either immediately or down the line.

    • Tons of startup-related events such as business plan competitions, networking events, mixers, and so on take place in most cities. Try to attend these events as an easy way to connect with people relevant to your job search.

  • Job Specific

    • While you explore opportunities at startups, you can generally find similar events for specific types of jobs. Going to these events is a great way to ask people how they found their own jobs, as well as inside tips and tricks. 
    • Here are some common job types I consistently find in Meetup groups (keeping in mind we do live in an age where digital skills are progressively more valuable):

      • Digital Marketing
      • Growth Hacking
      • B2B Sales
      • Data Science
      • Tech (Software Developers)

  • Expats

    • Meet people who have already been in the country for a long time. There’s usually an Internations branch in every city that I’ve been to, and they host some good events where it is easy to connect with other expats. I also like to do searches such as "{insert city} expat group" when on Facebook. The expat groups you'll find on Facebook usually host informal events with alcohol on hand to loosen people up and making it easy to meet people in a less formal business manner.

    • More importantly, expats also work for companies that have hired other expats. Ask people how they found their job. Is their company is hiring? What type of visa are they using to stay in the country? How well are they paid? Get as much information as you possibly can so that you have a solid understanding of the lay of the land and can navigate the process successfully on your own. 

  • Digital Nomads

    • Successful digital nomads are people who work from their computer and have figured out how to travel the world long-term while doing so. Many of the English teaching hubs worldwide are full of digital nomads. Meet these people. Not only do they possess invaluable information about how to create a remote or virtual lifestyle, but they also might be willing to let you freelance or do an internship with them, allowing you to learn the ropes. You can help provide content, provide technical help if you have the skills, offer help in design, social media, or in any number of aspects related to their needs. 

  • General Interest Groups

    • Get actively involved in activities that have always been of interest. Play sports, pick up a dance class, learn a language, and go to art and poetry classes. There are endless interest groups found on the Web which you can easily join, so take advantage! Every event will include people from all walks of life, and you never know where you might make a connection, be they friends or potential future employers. 

Step 2—Network

Networking abroad in meetups
Networking is usually the best way to find a new job abroad, and expat groups are a great place to do so.

Networking seems straightforward, but so many people get it wrong, in my view. Finding a job in a foreign country is like many other things in life — it’s a numbers game. You don’t want to hit upon just one opportunity; you want to create a variety of opportunities so you can pick the one with the best long-term prospects. Networking by cultivating your contacts and meeting as many people as possible plays a huge part in your success finding jobs abroad.

Three key tips follow that helped me network properly:

  • Create one solid connection at every event — Many people go to a networking event with the intention of grabbing as many business cards as they possibly can. That is the wrong way to go about becoming successful

    When I go to a networking event, I find one person with whom I have good chemistry, and then I spend as much time with them as I possibly can. I focus all of my time and energy on creating a meaningful relationship with that person as quickly as possible (especially if they impress you or there is an immediate connection). By doing so, you make sure that you build relationships instead of simply building a Rolodex. 

  • Set a Schedule — Use a calendar and be disciplined. Say to yourself, “I will go to events every week on Tuesday/Saturday,” and stick to your plans. By creating a schedule, you remove the decision factor. If you have to make a decision, you will usually choose to opt out or find an excuse. Try to book your calendar up to at least a month in advance. Doing so will make a huge difference in both the number of events you can attend and the number of people you can meet to make a connection.

  • Ask questions—Demonstrate that you are genuinely interested in the lives of other people you are meeting. The more you take an interest in others, the more likely they will take an interest in you. Ask them about their business. Ask them about the problems their business is facing. Once you gain an understanding of the challenges they are facing, try to offer up potential solutions that they can implement. If they like the suggestions and ideas you devise on the fly, chances are they will offer you an opportunity or keep you in mind.

Step 3— Follow Up

Going to networking events is pointless if you don’t follow up with the people you meet. Make it a point to not only follow up with the people you meet but also push for a face-to-face meeting at some point in the near future. Offer to meet for a coffee or even dinner. Ask them if you can come and see their office. Show that you are interested and want to build a genuine relationship. Opportunities rarely present themselves during the first meeting.

Step 4— Learn a Skill

One is the most important steps is building a new skill outside of teaching English. There are so many resources out there on the Web today to help you learn a new skill at your own pace, so do take advantage of them. Websites like Coursera, Udemy, Khan Academy, and Code Academy offer a variety of courses that will allow you to build a meaningful skill set while you’re still working as an English teacher. Depending on the type of job you select, this will also help you narrow your search regarding who you want to connect with and where you need to look.

Here are the skill sets that I recommend you learn at this point.

  • Social Media Marketing
  • Google Adwords
  • Content Writing and Blogging
  • Growth Hacking 
  • Graphic Design
  • Front-End Web Design
  • Software Programming
  • Analytics and Data Science

Step 5— Build a Portfolio

Once you have decided on a skill set, do anything you can to build a portfolio site of some kind. Portfolio sites are useful to demonstrate your content writing and blogging, graphic design, management and marketing via social media, etc. Research how to build a following on social media. Experiment with managing your social media persona to help you build transferable skills. Managing and marketing your social media identity is a great way to demonstrate that you have built a following of your own. You want to show future employers that you can do the same for them as well. A portfolio will also demonstrate that you have the creativity and drive to work outside of your day job, which will make a favorable impression on future employers. 

Step 6— Find Local Job Boards 

Once you’re well on your way to creating relationships you might also want to explore more opportunities in the digital world. Find the job boards where employers are looking for talent, create a profile, and apply for jobs the traditional way. I’m not talking about LinkedIn, Career Builder, Monster, etc.—I’m talking the hyper local job boards. For example, when I was in Southeast Asia many companies used a job board that I had never previously heard of called Jobstreet. Most countries have a country-specific job board(s), so it’s your job to find them through a quick web search or through resources pages on international job search websites. 

Step 7— Use LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the finest tool I have ever used for connecting with people online. There’s no easier way to meet people you wouldn’t have ever otherwise met than using a tool such as LinkedIn. Create searches for people within your country, and then add as many as you can find. Send a connection message along the lines of “I’m new to the city and looking to connect with business owners, please add me so we can discuss in greater detail.” Then once they add you back, send another message asking them a question about their business. If you get a reply, ask for a phone call or meeting over coffee so that you can learn more about business in the country. 

I have created lifelong relationships with people met while using LinkedIn, so I recommend the tool highly.

General Tips

  • Get Moving Quickly—If you know that teaching English isn’t your long-term intention from the day you start teaching, all the better, so long as you start moving towards your future goals quickly. By being decisive you have more time to network, make connections, and allow relationships to blossom to fruition. The clock is ticking from the moment you land on the ground abroad, so use your time wisely.
  • Freelance, Intern, and Work Part-Time—If you’re not in an immediate rush to find a long-term job you also free yourself up to take on part-time or freelance work to prove your worth. When you do finish your contract, there may be a job waiting for you. You will also build skills that transfer over to a new career such that when your job has completed you not only have teaching skills but other skills as well. 
  • Typical Transitions — I often see English teachers transition to the following types of roles:

    • Sales and Business Development
    • Digital Marketing
    • Writing
    • Project Management

  • Typical Industries — I often see English teachers become interested in the following industries:

    • Education Technology or “Ed-Tech”
    • Social Enterprise
    • NGO/Non-Profits
    • Impact Investment


In the end, 90% of the battle is putting yourself out there. The more you expose yourself to new people, the more you will open the doors to new opportunities. Seems easy, but very few have the hustle and initiative to do so properly.

Moreover, so much of what I have outlined is simply a matter of being proactive and avoiding laziness. Networking, learning new skills, and building a portfolio all require that you to hustle after you have finished your day job, which involves self-discipline.

Nevertheless, if you follow the detailed tips described above, I guarantee that you will be able to land a new gig.

Related Topics
Jobs Abroad
International Careers
More by Troy Erstling
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