According to the most recent figures gathered by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were over half a million (581,480) long-term resident departures from Australia during the year ending February 2018. In fact, it’s said there are as many as one million Australians living and working abroad at any given time.
It’s no secret that Australia is a nation of enthusiastic travellers, and for many, working while overseas is a no brainer. Securing employment opportunities in new and exotic locations enables the most serious travellers among us to truly immerse themselves in new cultures – all while remaining financially secure and bolstering that resume with varied experiences and a newfound global outlook. Some reports even suggest employers will take a favourable view of international experiences citing initiative, flexibility and adaptability as some of the key reasons.
But all good things must come to an end, and when that happens, how does the time spent abroad stack up in reality? Does that career-boosting overseas work experience really turn out to be everything it was cracked up to be when it’s time to get back in the game on home soil?
A third of returning expats find it difficult to secure a suitable job
A survey into the attitudes and experiences of Australian expat workers sponsored by Indeed found the average time to find work after returning to Australia was 10 weeks.
What’s more, a third (33%) of returning expats surveyed said it was difficult to find a suitable role in Australia while one fifth (19%) said they accepted a lower level role on returning.
Over half (54%) of survey respondents said their main reason for working overseas was to experience another culture. This contrasts with only 21% who say they sought work overseas to specifically gain work experience. Is it any surprise then, that some Aussie expat workers find it difficult to pick up where they left off on their chosen career path? Some employers will simply view the time abroad as a year out and a gap in the resume.
Employers are looking for meaningful international experiences
For those who simply wish to fund their adventure in the advancement of personal goals, there’s certainly room for a relaxed attitude when securing overseas work opportunities.
But for those with high expectations to advance their careers, it could pay off to spend time carefully planning exactly what you want to get out of it and how you’ll go about achieving those objectives – because valuable international work experience isn’t just about being away from home.
How employers view work undertaken abroad could depend on a range of different factors. Here are some tips for gaining more meaningful experiences while working overseas:
- Ensure it’s relevant: While it can be tempting to lock in any job to cover the cost of living abroad, working in the conservation department at the Paris city council likely won’t improve your chances of landing a role in the finance sector at home. Think about the skills you want to acquire and ensure that they translate to your career aspirations and prospective employers – then your new global outlook will surely shine through as a real bonus.
- Stick it out for the long-haul: Avoid any risk that your international experience will look like an easy ‘tick box’ exercise or a fad. It’s important to remain in your chosen role and country for long enough to prove your motivation, staying power, adaptability, and that you’ve learned something from the organisation and culture.
- Choose your location wisely: It can be tempting to put your social goals first – after all, happiness and wellbeing on this exciting new journey will be key. But ensure you’ve picked a place that’ll make your experience stand out when you return home. For example, would time spent among the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong’s banking scene (and perhaps learning a little Cantonese) offer you more of a leg up than doing the nine-to-five in London’s Canary Wharf?
- Dare to be different: Unlike the above, this is about balancing the suitability of the location while demonstrating uniqueness. For example, everyone knows the US’ west coast is famous for its thriving tech industry, but why follow the crowd when Israel’s economy is racing off the back of tech? Travelling lesser trodden paths could set you apart from the competition at home by demonstrating you’re well-researched, adaptable and open-minded to new cultures.
Welcoming new skills and perspectives
Whether it be for personal or professional development, living and working in another country is incredibly rewarding—for both the individual and their prospective employers. This exposure to different work environments results in candidates who bring new thinking, energy and valuable international links into Australian workplaces.
Methodology: Sponsored by Indeed, the survey was conducted in June 2017 by MBA students from University of Technology Sydney (UTS) with the views of 200 people canvassed. The research was supported by Advance the leading network of global Australians.