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5 Hacks To Start An International Career

career strategies digital job hunting Jun 04, 2021
5 Hacks To Start An International Career

I know many of you out there dream about an international career. You probably feel there is a big world to explore, and your life right now is not exactly what you wished for yourself and your family. So, I'll show you 5 hacks to start an international career.

But how to escape it and live a respectful international career?

I truly believe that an international career comes together with a growth mindset. You have to believe you’re capable of learning and adapting to different cultures and work realities. And I guarantee you, that is not as easy as it may sound.

A fundamental thing you must consider learning is a new language. There is no shortcut here, effectively learning a second or third language will make your life easier in an international company, as well as in terms of your career path development.

Another point to consider is your employer. If you are right now in a small family business, but your dream is big, you should start creating a strategy for changing your job. And by that, I mean with or without your current employer. If growing internationally is on their plans, why not be there and sum up to their strategy? If this is not the case, then moving on to a larger and multinational company may be your next challenge. 

Let me give you my personal perspective about an international career. Since early in life I dreamed of traveling and working for large multinationals. That was my idea of a successful career. At age 19 I conquered the proficiency in English certification and started a Bachelor’s degree in International Business Administration. My next move was to begin an internship in a multinational. It didn’t take too long to be hired as a full-time employee and be transferred to the company’s HQ. I had also the experience of pairing up with colleagues from other countries constantly. I felt really happy and fulfilled in this sense of achieving an international career. 

Occasionally, I was able to execute another international plan - the MBA. I had a company sponsoring my studies and also the possibility of being an exchange student abroad in my hometown. It was fantastic to live in a different culture, expand my network, and get more recognition for the new abilities I was developing.

My last step in this international life was to be an expat. That happened in 2018 via my husband. He was the one offered a work possibility that has changed our status to expats in Italy. That one was surely the biggest decision one can take in life. To get a whole family out of their comfort zone, their life systems, relatives, and everything else to a new reality.

In my opinion, it’s such a big step that has gone beyond whatever other life experiences I had before. It’s really different from pursuing an international career by traveling around and being exposed to cross-functional and cultural teams. It’s a permanent decision, one that supports you build resilience and union - or maybe will work the other way round.

“Okay, I’m ready for that, what should I do now?” - that may be in your head right now.

These are my practical hacks for you:

  1. The culture. Start with the language, then study the culture. You will definitely differentiate from others when you can communicate in the headquarter’s language and follow off work conversations, with co-workers, colleagues, and higher levels.
  2. The place. You have your lifestyle wherever you are right now. You may already know if you prefer crowded cities or quiet places. Analyze the infrastructure at the target destination. Ask yourself whether they fit your lifestyle or what would be required from you to adapt yourself to that new reality. If you have a family with kids, your concerns will also be linked to their comfort, mobility, and studies.
  3. The skills. Without overthinking, analyze your technical and behavioral skills. What can be improved, how can you be a better qualified professional? Why do you make a difference to your employer? What are your measurable results?
  4. The people. Companies hire because of technical skills, but the fire because of behavioral skills, right? Building strong relationships with people that can help you achieve your goals is crucial. Never forget the reciprocity, and be a giver before asking.
  5. The money. An international transfer has its own peculiarities when it comes to salary standards and taxes. Talk to Human Resources staff, understand how compensation is calculated. Negotiate as much as possible and be alert.

Moreover, if you plan to relocate, apart from practical strategies you must apply to act towards getting hired in a different country, I’d suggest you study cultural shock.

It’s absolutely impossible to neglect that all international professionals and their families experience the cultural shock phases when they move to a new land.

Take close attention to which those phases are and think about how you can prepare your resilience to recover fast from the negative ones.

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🙂 1. Honeymoon: everything is new and exciting.

😣 2. Rejection: tough times in getting to know how life is in the new place.

😒 3. Adaptation: realize what it needs to feel part of a different community.

😉 4. Acceptance: find new versions of yourself that came out after your life-changing decision.


Well, this chart is apparently very easy to follow. But things in life are not linear. It means that the cultural shock experience is also not linear. There are many ups and downs and each one of the phases intersects with each other all the time. That’s why I started this article stating that embracing an international career goes further than just traveling. It’s a matter of growing, of being taken out of your comfort zone every day. It’s not easy, but if you’re persistent, you will allow yourself to meet wonderful people and to be lighter.

If you’ve been through something similar, let me know in the comments. It would be awesome to know more about your experience and thoughts!



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