Moving abroad can be daunting. It’s not a decision to take lightly. I’ve been fortunate to have experienced several moves in my career, not just in the UK but globally.
I started my career in my hometown of Edinburgh, before moving to Glasgow. 5 years later, I decided to change up that 50 mile shift and replace it with a little over 4,500 miles as I set off for Dallas, TX.
I’ve since lived and worked in Bournemouth and Reading back in the UK and having recently arrived in Austin… my second time in the state which often refers to itself as ‘the best country in the world’ and it’s hard to argue!
I thought it would be a good time to share some advice to those looking to consider their options overseas.
1. Research the local market
Obvious as this may seem, you NEED to do your homework. Sure it’ll depend on what you do for a living as to what how much research is required… but I can’t stress how easy it is to underestimate this task.
For me, working in Tech Sales Recruitment, it’s critical to get to grips with local firms and the key players and top performers operating within industry. This can be even more challenging if you’re switching verticals. In my case, I worked US hours in Reading, at the Roc Search HQ which helped me to ramp up and understand the local market in advance. It wasn’t easy but I’m glad I did it!
Top takeaway: whichever sector you’re working in, you must prepare thoroughly before your move.
2. Appreciate cultural differences
You’re going to be a long way from ‘home’, likely with no friends or family for support. You will need to adapt very quickly. If it’s your first experience working abroad, talk to friends, colleagues or anyone in your network that have already taken the plunge. If you are moving with family, you’ll need to think about houses, schools etc. In the US, each state not only has a different character but a unique way of doing things.
Oh and that nice credit score you’ve worked on for the last decade plus in the UK, doesn’t transfer… so make sure you work on that thin file as soon as possible (some banks, credit unions etc. allow you to set up an account before you move, without an SSN).
Top takeaway: never underestimate local cultural nuances and customs. Each country, State & City is different.
3. Know the real cost of living
In the US, higher salaries will generate higher placement fees, so as a recruiter your earning potential is greater (than in the UK). But you need to investigate the actual cost of living: local taxes, employment laws, rent, health insurance, buying a car etc. All the stuff you need to do your job. The price you see for most items, is rarely all encompassing, there’s nothing convenient about a ‘convenience charge!’
Deposits can quickly tally up and even utility companies may ask for a few hundred bucks if you’re new to the country.
Your earnings may be higher in New York City or San Francisco, but might you be better off working in Seattle?
Top takeaway: calculate your actual take home pay, factoring in all expenses and make sure you’ve a cushion for unexpected fees.
4. Change your mindset
The allure of moving abroad is that you get to enjoy a better quality of life, explore new locations and broaden your horizons. If you’re considering a warmer climate than the UK, which is most of the planet… it’s worth bearing in mind, that you will spend most of your waking life in an office environment.
You may have already visited the location where you’re moving to while on vacation, but you need to focus on the job at hand (literally). Ask yourself the question, ‘Do I really know what it’s like to live and work there?’
Top takeaway:As a Scot now living in a warmer client, my experience of ‘sunshine & swimming pools’ was associated with being on vacation, so when I arrived in Texas I had to forget about the mid-week cocktails and remember to shift gears from holiday to work mode.
5. Understand your client personas
In my specialist market, candidates typically ask more questions than in the UK. Because many organisations in the Austin area are start-ups and SMBs (small and medium sized businesses), jobseekers want more in-depth information about a company’s financial performance. There are so many organizations vying for the same skill set, that it’s imperative to truly understand each business, their mission and company ethos.
Understand what’s important to candidates you are representing and if an employer doesn’t embody that, educate them or find one that does.
Top takeaway: adapt your approach and find out what makes your customers tick.
A previous secondment abroad is certainly helpful. In my case, having worked in Dallas for a few years gave me a head start in terms of understanding employment laws (which differ state to state!), talent pools, networking events, etc. But I still had to source new clients and candidates, so whatever sector you’re in, there will always be an element of having to start afresh.
A solid industry background is also important, as it will enable you immediately focus on building a new market. It also helps you to meet local visa requirements, which is something you need to appreciate whether you’re considering the Middle East, Far East, Australia or the Americas.
Moving isn’t easy, but it might just be the best thing you ever do.