By Jimmy Cassells on September 9, 2015
"I want to work abroad. How do I make it happen?"
It's a question I often get asked by Filipinos.
Whether they're fresh graduates, longtime employees, or professionals, they all entertain thoughts of finding jobs abroad at some point. Although the reasons may vary, the primary motivation usually run along the lines of wanting a bigger salary, better opportunities, or an improved quality of life.
Working overseas can do all that, but only after you've properly weighed the pros and cons, as it's not a decision to be taken lightly. There are a few other factors besides salary to consider, some of which are not always clearly stated in your job offer or guidebooks.
As someone who has established a digital marketing company far from my country, I've learned a thing or two about working abroad myself. Here are some of the questions you need to resolve, as well as factors to consider before you head out to buy that one-way plane ticket to your dream job in a foreign land.
1. Determine Your Reasons
It's been ingrained in many Filipino households that to work abroad is mostly a good thing. But have you stopped to consider your personal reasons why?
Maybe you're fed up with the daily traffic, dreaming of a less congested drive to work. But instead of moving overseas, perhaps you can discuss the possibility of a work from home arrangement with your current employer first. If not, maybe you can moonlight as a home-based freelancer, and who knows? You might eventually make enough money to become your own boss.
Do you want a bigger salary? Scout for local alternatives first. Factor in your cost of living, too. Look for any available jobs in the Philippines first, as you might actually find a good fit without having to leave the country.
Do you need a change of scenery? Then going on an extended leave might do the trick. Go on an out of town vacation and travel at your own pace.
Whatever your reasons for leaving, do it because there are clear benefits for doing so and make sure to weigh the pros and cons. Perhaps moving abroad means widening your network in your chosen industry. The monetary gains are likely too good to pass up. Maybe it’s a rare opportunity for you to acquire skills or training you can't find anywhere else. Keep in mind that there are also downsides to moving abroad for work such as you won’t be with your family anymore, or that you will have to adjust to a different culture.
Try to exhaust all your acceptable options here before considering if there are better opportunities waiting for you elsewhere. Getting uprooted and starting over in a foreign land is a huge undertaking, so knowing your personal "why" will strengthen your resolve when the going gets tough.
2. Research the Cost of Living
You could be earning the equivalent of a million pesos abroad, but you might also end up spending more than half of that while you're there. Factor in the cost-of-living expenses when calculating your net take home pay, as taxes might eat up an enormous chunk of your salary.
For example, Australia's tax rate can range between 32.5% to 47% even for non-residents. In Singapore, owning your own car means dealing with huge tariff costs such as 31% import duty for the value of the car, registration fees, additional registration fees, and road tax, which increases every year after 10 years of ownership.
If you can, visit the country first and see what it's like to live there. You'll be able to gauge how much your daily expenses might be, and this will help you figure out if what you'll be making can justify the move.
If the daily expenses are the same or even lower, then see how else you can be enriched from the experience other than the salary, like training opportunities, the chance to be mentored by experts, or the possibility for better prospects in the future.
3. Get Your Paperwork in Order
Dealing with paperwork is an essential part of working abroad. Make sure that you have the usual travel documents at hand—and updated: an active passport, CV, personal records such as birth certificate, school records, medical records, NBI clearance, ID's, diploma and the like.
Familiarize yourself with these requirements through the POEA free pre-employment orientations. Before actively seeking employment, either as a direct hire or through agencies, get all these papers ready first to save you time later.
When looking at job postings abroad, read the fine print. Ask questions, get to know as much of the nitty gritty details as you can.
Who will pay the rent? What type of visa is required? How long can you stay in your host country as a worker? If you have dependents, can they get a working visa or not? Will the host country's tax breaks or government privileges be extended to a foreign worker like you?
Once you receive a job offer, have everything clearly spelled out on paper, and have all agreements signed and notarized. You need to have a clear idea of what you're getting into since you'll be removed from your country. Hence, you need to know what exactly to expect so that you won’t get into any problems once you’re abroad. You wouldn’t want to waste your time and money to fly to another country only to find out that you had a misunderstanding with your employer.
4. Be Open to Building a Community
Worried that you will be homesick once you get to work abroad? The initial high of being in a foreign land will wear off eventually, and homesickness will kick in after a few months. Seeing a familiar face or having someone speaking the same language can alleviate the loneliness somehow. So, don't neglect your social life.
Luckily, Filipinos can literally be found in every corner of the world. You're bound to have a relative, friend, or kababayan wherever you'll end up working, so it shouldn't be too hard to find a Filipino community out there.
You can also join clubs, find a hobby, and find ways to network with people who share the same interests. It’s so much easier with social media nowadays, and there will always be Filipinos somewhere, no matter how remote the location is.
5. Keep an Open Mind
Prepare yourself to leave room for flexibility, absorb as much as you can, and be a sponge.
Being in another country will give you a new perspective and insights like no other experience can, so don't squander the opportunity to learn. Study about their culture so that you will be respectful of their traditions and be eager in experiencing experience life as a local. You will need to try their cuisine, learn their language, and make an effort to understand their norms and culture.
For example, UAE is still a conservative country, so you have to dress modestly. In Thailand, one should never disrespect their king, because doing so can lead to imprisonment or even death penalty. Japanese customer demands that you leave your shoes outside the door before entering their home.
Taking the time to learn and follow local etiquette and customs will make the transition so much easier for you in the long run.
Working abroad can be a great way to find out more about your job, your new surroundings, and about life in general. It's a crash course rife with opportunities for growth—both career-wise and on the personal front.
You're bound to gain insights that you'll be hard pressed to find elsewhere. Keep these tips in mind before consider working overseas, and you'll get the experience of a lifetime you won't soon forget.