Move Abroad Work Abroad

Step by Step How to Find a Job Abroad (Part 1: Less Wanderlust)

The most frequently asked question I get after telling someone I lived and worked in the Middle East is “did you have to cover your hair?” After accepting the answer – it’s no – the second question is “how did you find such a great job?”

I like to think, I looked in the right places.

See, I didn’t have a company sending me abroad as an expat. I didn’t have a family member or even a friend living in the Middle East. I had Google and optimism. A winning combination!

Over the years, I’ve compared my stories of moving abroad to other successful expats stories. And while certainly there is no one way or right way to get abroad, I have noticed a pattern to how many of us found great work.  

Whether we knew it or not, we had a systematic way of uncovering and pursuing opportunities. While sometimes it seemed like we were lucky, I think that luck is hard work paying off.

Over the next few posts I’ve outlined step by step how I (and many other successful expats) secured great work abroad.


“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Lewis Carrol

The same went for finding work abroad. For me I first needed to make a decision on where I wanted to go. I selected Dubai based on two criteria. One, I had to be passionate and excited by the location. Two, needed to work. Not volunteer work, but work that would propel my career, pay bills, and allow me to travel.

Based on my research: reading business articles about market growth, conversing with people on the ground (friends of friends of friends), and researching job openings online, I knew Dubai had quality jobs available.

Focusing my energy on one location was a successful strategy that gave me momentum.

I’ve spoken with other expats who found work by applying to a ton of different roles in many different countries. And while they did succeed, it took them much, much longer than me. I found a job in three months. They were about a year.

Focus. It will save you a lot of time and energy.

[Note to those with a current employer] I was coming out of school, so I didn’t have to think about a current company. However, I absolutely recommend that you investigate your options to work abroad with your current employer. You never know when a new position is being created, or a new office is opening. Voice your interest – and more than once. Employers aren’t mind readers. If you’re confident you’ve turned over every stone internally, start looking outside.


Once I knew Dubai, I started to get in the loop on what was happening on the ground there especially in my job industries of interest: public relations and communications.

I needed to get a baseline of knowledge so that I knew where to begin my job search and to know what I was talking about.

Here is how I started my research:

  1. Set-up Google Alerts I used Google to research and sign-up for all the marketing, communication, and public relations trade journals in the region. I set Google alerts with keywords and location filters so that I could stay up on any regional industry news.
  2. Identified Top Firms I Googled to confirm the top international PR / marketing agencies in Dubai. I wanted to know what companies were winning awards, who was serving the best clients, and where the talent was going. I also read any recent press releases. I started an excel sheet where I listed out all of these agencies and any included my findings and notes.
  3. Played the Match Game I then went to LinkedIn to see if I had any 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree connections to the top agencies I had identified. To be honest, I had very few 1st degree connection in Dubai. My list was mostly 2nd degree connections. I added everything to my excel sheet.

At this point, I was getting Google alerts and reading for at least 15 minutes a day about what was going on in the Middle East in PR and communications. I was also adding new agencies and interesting companies to my excel list. And, as I remembered random contacts I added them to my excel list.

My excel list was growing every day as was my regional market knowledge. I had not yet written a single email or applied for any jobs. My thinking was that to make the machine work, you first have to turn it on and let it get warm.

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