Work overseas

For many Australians, working overseas can be a personal career goal. Along with opportunities to experience a new culture, adding international work experience to your resume can provide lasting benefits to your career, demonstrating your depth of experience and a global outlook. However, turning the dream of working abroad into a reality calls for careful planning. There is plenty to organise – from meeting visa requirements and work permits to making contact with overseas employers or recruitment agencies.

Choosing where to work overseas

There is no shortage of job opportunities in the global workplace. So many in fact, that you may be unsure about which destination is the best choice for you. Several factors can help to shape your decision.

On a practical level, language barriers can impact your choice of destination – more so if you only speak English. Bear in mind, English is commonly spoken internationally especially in Commonwealth countries, and also in the larger cities and commercial districts of other nations. However, it is worth checking how much of a challenge the language barrier could be before you settle on a location.

If you’re keen to enhance your professional experience, it can pay to focus on countries where your skills and qualifications can be put to best use. Australian universities and technical colleges are well-regarded internationally, and many Australian professional bodies have affiliate organisations across the globe. This means qualifications you have gained in Australia will often be valid for work overseas.

Visa requirements for working overseas

If you have your heart set to work overseas, you need to be aware of the relevant visa requirements and any conditions foreigners must meet in order to work in the country.

The Australian government does not provide visas for overseas travel. For up-to-date information and to apply for a visa, you will need to contact the embassy or consulate of the country you intend to work in. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provides a list of consulates in Australia though not all countries have a diplomatic presence in Australia.

Be sure to arrange your visa and work permits well in advance of your planned departure date as it can take time to arrange these documents.

Understand the financial impact

Working in a foreign country is very exciting but don’t overlook the financial realities. Some countries are more affordable than Australia meaning it can be very lucrative to work there. Other nations have a high cost of living and you could find that living and working overseas leaves you financially stretched, especially if you land a job that doesn’t have the same level of responsibility or seniority as your role in Australia.

Some background research before you start your work overseas can let you know what you’re likely to face in terms of living costs and average wages/salaries while overseas. Pay particular attention to basic expenses like rent, which can be very high in destinations that are popular among expatriate workers.

Unless you have a job lined up before you leave Australia, it’s a smart move to save a decent pool of savings to tide you over until you secure employment in your destination country. 

Working Holiday Maker Scheme

If you are aged 18-30 years you may be eligible for the Working Holiday Maker program. This scheme allows younger Australians to combine an overseas holiday with short-term work in participating partner countries. The program may have a different name in other countries however the common thread is that the job opportunities are generally fairly low paid. You may earn enough money to get by but it’s unlikely to be a road to riches – rather a good addition to your resume.

Be job ready

Checking job boards in other countries will show you the types of jobs available for professionals in the destination of your choice and highlight any possible gaps in your experience or skillset that could be worth addressing before you leave.

Be sure to pack hard copies of your resume, references and any professional certificates, or scan these documents and save the files to the cloud so you can work on them from anywhere in the world. Remember, even when you’re travelling, it pays to tailor job cover letters to individual roles.

How to find work abroad

There are a number of ways to achieve your goal of working outside Australia, and it’s worth exploring every avenue.

If you currently work for a multinational company, it can be worth requesting an overseas transfer or secondment. Or, if your organisation has plans to establish a global footprint, consider putting your name forward to be part of an overseas team. A key advantage here is that the company will often arrange (and pay for) the necessary visas and work permits on your behalf.

Another option is to register with a global recruitment firm. As a global company, Robert Half has more than 325 offices across Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, North America and South American markets. This can help you connect with employers all over the world, and by making contact with an overseas recruitment specialist you will have a better idea of the steps you need to take to secure a job overseas.

Visit our various country websites to see the jobs currently available in other countries:

Working internationally is an experience that can see you develop both personally and professionally, and it is achievable. Just be sure to allow plenty of time to plan your trip, do lots of research – and take along an open mind. After all, you’ll be dealing with new companies, new cultures and new people. But that’s all part of the thrill of those who choose to work overseas and it can hold you in good stead when you’re ready to build on your career back in Australia.   

Are you looking to come to Australia? If you're returning home or have just decided that Australia is your next stop, visit our Working in Australia page for more information.

Take a look at our "find a job hub" for more job search tips and advice.