For those who have what it takes to say goodbye to the familiarities, securities and comforts of home for a life overseas, working abroad makes travel financially feasible.
And the good news is that finding work overseas can oftentimes be even easier than finding work at home. This is especially true for those without any work experience in the States. You essentially need experience to get experience and, overseas, there isn’t quite the same catch-22.
So how do you get work abroad without experience? In short: Professionalism and persistence.
1. Get Certified to Work Abroad Without Experience
OK, there isn't actually a certification for working abroad without experience. However, getting certified to do something will make you far more hireable.
You could get an RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) certification to travel and work in Australia in the hospitality sector (it's literally a one day class). Or you could get a plumbing certification. Or, really, a certification in any field that shows you have a skill and take it seriously.
These certifications give you the one up over everyone else and oftentimes they don't take much effort to get. Even if your qualification isn't accepted in the country you're traveling to, it proves—without a reasonable doubt—that you have some idea about what you're doing.
Many of the readily available jobs abroad are openings for English teachers since the use of the English language is evermore widespread across the globe. In fact, about 375 million people speak English around the world, and there are more than 50 English-speaking countries in which English is either the official or primary language.
This means that, for native English-speakers, it’s quite easy to get by in most corners of the globe. For non-English speakers, knowledge of the language is considered a coveted skill.
While it could certainly help you get a job, you don’t need to be a teacher or have a degree to teach English classes overseas. What you might need, however, are some qualifications for teaching English as a second language (ESL).
Though some schools don’t necessarily require any qualifications if you have an impressive résumé and are fluent in the language, preference tends to be given to those who have some sort of certification.
The Two Most Popular ESL Qualifications:
- TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate
- CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults)
The most common and easiest qualification for those interested in teaching English abroad is the former, which is a 120-hour online course.
I recommend getting your TEFL certificate through a program called i-to-i because it’s reasonably priced and it gives you access to an extensive job board upon completion. There are other companies which are slightly cheaper, but they don't offer the same kind of access to around-the-world job placements.
Ultimately, the TEFL course will give you a good idea of what to expect as a teacher and will prepare you for lesson plan ideas, behavior management skills and cultural sensitivity training.
Courses for a CELTA are more expensive and far more demanding. So you may want to research the school to find out more about their qualification preferences. Then decide which route to go.
Teaching English abroad is popular, but it isn't the only work abroad option. Anything that requires you to get a simple certification or any other easy qualification—run and get it.
This can be your golden ticket to working abroad without experience. And it doesn't involve having to sell your soul at a crappy job to gain experience beforehand!
2. Keep an Open Mind
Beggars can’t be choosers, right?
Okay, maybe you’re not actually begging for a job overseas, as enticing as a life abroad sounds. But if you’re at all interested, you still need to keep an open mind about the jobs available to you because the fact of the matter is: You're trying to get work abroad without experience.
Inevitably, a lack of experience limits your options—as in, you might not be able to land a job in some specialized field building AI robots, curing pandemic diseases or filing people’s taxes (because who really understands how to do that even with experience!?).
But your lack of experience doesn’t make landing a job an impossible feat. You just need to be open to different types of work.
Many of the readily available jobs overseas are part-time gigs like hostel work (which usually comes in exchange for free accommodation, too), manual labor like farming in Costa Rica, serving or bartending in Australia, care-taking in Italy or running tours or adventure excursions in Thailand.
The most popular overseas jobs, according to Go Overseas, include teaching English, supporting a family as an au pair, WWOOF-ing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, a network through which independent farms welcome international workers in exchange for food and accommodation), fostering tourism as a hostel employee and working as a freelancer in some way.
3. Consider Volunteering First
Maybe you don’t have paid experience just yet, but having any kind of experience is hugely advantageous. Volunteering, for one, proves that you’re a hard worker who is keenly interested in working in whatever field in which you choose to volunteer because you’ve spent your free time doing it without compensation anyway.
There is a wealth of volunteer work available, both at home and overseas. And the fact that you want work abroad without experience is often totally fine since you're not getting paid. They can't be too picky, right?
You can volunteer before you travel or go to your destination of interest and volunteer while you’re there. If you choose to do the latter, you might even have the option to move up. You could go from a volunteer to a paid employee eventually.
Most volunteer programs will pick you up, put you up and feed you; you usually just have to cover the cost of getting there. Travel and medical insurance are often added bonuses, plus support from on-site staff. Through programs like Go Overseas, Go Abroad, Projects Abroad and Cross-Cultural Solutions, you can sort your many options by country, price or cause.
4. Make Yourself Easy to Hire
The application process for a lot of jobs can be grueling and, oftentimes, long. You may have to go through multiple rounds of interviews since the job is located abroad and, therefore, your employers won’t necessarily get to meet you in person before they hand the job over to you.
They’ll want to feel confident that they’re hiring someone they can trust to do the job and do it well, but they’ll need to build that trust virtually, which can take some more time and effort.
You can make this process easier for them by having all of your documents ready before even applying—this shows them that you are both prepared and eager to work.
If you haven’t gotten your passport yet, that should be the first thing you acquire. Without it, forget getting work abroad without experience since you won't even make it on a plane!
You should also make sure you have any necessary qualifications the job requires, as well as any certificates to prove those qualifications, at the ready.
Then, if you go to a country’s official government website, it’ll tell you what your work visa options are based on if already have a job offer, your citizenship and your age.
You may also want to gather information like your bank account and routing numbers or have a PayPal account already set up, depending on how the company for which you’ll work pays employees. While this may seem like jumping the gun, you don’t want to waste anyone’s time during the application or on-boarding process.
At the end of the day, you're trying to obtain work abroad without experience. Make the process as seamless as possible for the employer so you are a more enticing hire.
5. Go Through a Working Holiday Program
To take some of the edge off, there are programs that help expats find work overseas while they’re abroad.
First, you’ll need to get yourself a working holiday visa like this one in New Zealand or this one in Australia. Once you obtain a proper visa, you can join programs that would help you to more easily find odd work abroad without experience.
Programs like Placement International, for example, will give you access to job portals and a staff that can help place you. Green Heart is another organization that will actually hire and host you, so you’ll get a job and a place to post up. That's hard to beat!
6. Harness the Skills You Already Have
Boast the experience you do already have—and we all have experience in something, whether those are skills applicable to a teaching position or a career as a digital nomad of some kind.
Whatever it is that you can do well, put together a portfolio to showcase those skills.
Someone may not pay you at first, but you have to start somewhere! You should have something tangible to prove to prospective employers that you are, indeed, a practiced professional.
If you have a niche skill, you should look into obtaining a work visa for it. Some countries actually provide work visas for certain skillsets.
If you're thinking about finding work abroad without in experience in New Zealand, for example, first look into the aforementioned Working Holiday program. And if that doesn't suit, you might be able to apply to one of the following visas depending on your skillset:
- The Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa—for people with skills, experience and qualifications for New Zealand to grow its economy
- The Essential Skills Work Visa—for those offered full-time jobs in New Zealand by employers who’ve already checked if any New Zealanders were available to do the work
- The Specific Purpose Work Visa—for those who have skills or expertise that’ll benefit New Zealand
- The Post Study Work Visa—for recent graduates who studied in New Zealand and were offered an opportunity to work in the same area as their qualification
- And plenty more, too!
You may possess a needed skill and not even know it yet! New Zealand and Australia are two of the easiest countries to work abroad for Americans. But, depending on your circumstances, there may be other countries you're eligible to work in, too.
7. Be Willing to Accept the Risk, and Reap the Rewards of Working Abroad
You won’t always get the exact job you want the first time around. And you can’t always get jobs before you travel. Sometimes, you just have to show up and wing it.
Seasoned travelers seldom have fixed plans. And, as someone who is going to be working and living in a new place for an extended period of time, you cannot have the mindset of someone who's just on vacation.
That means no stress. No strict agenda. And no fixed timeline by which to abide—just be willing to go out there and give it your best shot. You have to be open to what happens.
When you get there, you need to be confident and persistent. You should be just as you when applying for jobs at home. That means sending hundreds of applications to the gaping abyss that is the internet.
Bring copies of your résumé with you as you roam the city. Stop in to speak with managers at bars and restaurants, at tour companies, in schools and more. Just put it out there that you are looking for work.
When we put things out into the universe, it conspires to help us.
The more people you speak with, the more connections you’ll make. Eventually, someone will know someone who will know someone who needs a worker. And that worker will be you.
8. Take Advantage of Your Social Networks
Social networks are called social networks for a reason—they exist to connect people. Utilize networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. You can connect with hiring managers or people who’ve worked abroad where you want to work. Then they could possibly recommend you.
You could also join Facebook groups for specific niches within particular regions (i.e. bartenders in Melbourne, jobs in Queenstown, NZ). Leverage those groups to help yourself find work by letting people know that you are coming and looking for employment. A lot of these groups are solely for helping people find work and helping managers find employees.
If you conduct yourself like a professional and persist, you will find work abroad without experience. And you'll work your way up if it’s not the job you wanted. Keep an open mind and keep confident, and you could travel the world and make money while doing it.
Are you thinking about working abroad but don't have any experience? Let us know what your sticking points are in the comments below!