Some time ago I made a post to the worlds most popular social network insinuating that I “discovered” that I needed to work to sustain myself. That being without a job was really quite depressing and that there was only one way out. Now, those who know me, already knew I was full of it. That I simply don’t sit still well, can’t retire and won’t be put out of the ranks voluntarily. They called my bluff.
Honestly, the point of the “discovery” was to send a message that you don’t have to look too hard to see that there is something of a lethargy culture in the USA among workers. Not hard to see why in this age, where greater productivity is required, wages are falling and stress increases as the result. The theme for the last 5 years was presented to me by my management in multiple organizations as “do more with less”. I’ve known quite a few professionals in my career that are depressed with the present state of things and find themselves looking for a way out, into early retirement, as the alternatives are so few. It’s a cycle that further spirals into more depression to think that there are no outs and then you just sit still, until you find (or will) yourself physically ill. It’s a phenomenon that’s actually been heavily studied, and it’s called learned helplessness. I am not known to suffer from it, usually… I try to stay as busy as I can in creating my solution. I’ll simply try to evaluate every option, try every approach and drive my friends crazy with my half baked ideas. I spent the last 6 months consulting for a start-up, an international payments company, then I was teaching English to tweens, and then I started taking tests/completing requirements. The situ is, you gotta will yourself up and out of it. So here is my story from the end, and we’ll work back to the beginning, Pulp Fiction style:
Nearly 3 months ago, I finished a second interview with a Jakarta company that creates technology solutions (mainly in fraud and money laundering prevention) for banks. We negotiated over one weekend and I am now preparing begin my contract. The position will be Sr. Consultant, Anti-Fraud, which is a significant title and carries the genuine flavor of “Executive”, which is a novel concept for me… with room for growth in the organization, which is just an 18 month-old startup. It’s an earnest, decent and real way to improve my station, like earning an MBA in life. My contract is for one year, and would likely be renewed provided I do all the good things I’ve suggested I can achieve. They’ve also dangled a significant bonus structure and paid my VISA costs for another year. Best part, I no longer will be a monkey in a cubicle. Sounds so attractive you are thinking about hopping on the next plane, right?
Finding, landing and participating in expatriate work is a very difficult process. Expats are not the most attractive hire, are not frequently offered interviews and are crossed off of near every list. Why?
-You require a business/working VISA which will have to be sponsored by the hiring company. This can be very expensive to the hiring company to permit, process and validate your need to work for them. They will need to do it every year, and every time they do, cha-ching, there’s that fee again.
-You don’t speak the language and are likely going to make more cultural faux-paus than the average local.
-You require 10x the pay, which around here is still about 25-33% less than what I made stateside, but cost of living locally evens that out, until you try to buy something like an iPhone. I love iPhones 😦
-You may also require benefits such as a car and driver, housing, and/or family benefits including international school for the kids.
Needless to say, you bring unique talents as well… which can offset the costs. A new degree of sophistication, which may include novel ways of thinking and actual experience in a field which may not have been developed locally yet. Networks that are already mature that can’t really be forged by the locals. The understanding where the trends and technology is headed from the perspective of the developed world. So, it can be a good balance for the company, overall. Finally, you also create an image, bringing an Orang Bule (direct translation: albino person) to the table, is sometimes a point of pride (I anticipate going to some weddings that I have no other business being at). OK, so that’s the short list pros and cons, here’s how I actually did it. I hope this comes in handy for someone.
Most often, you’ll find expat work through one of two channels:
1. You are recruited from your home country, as Jennifer was, which brought us here
2. You are socially networked into this new job, through a local referral. Alternatively, your buddy brings you in, or you use angles from new networks developed locally.
As a “trailing spouse” which is what they call a person in my position, we are left to use channel two or try to locate the job locally on their own. I was successful in the latter and it’s the hard way, so if you are in this position, you can use the following approach.
Using the big job boards to push a resume in front of a HR or hiring manager is utterly useless… they will usually filter you out. If you apply through one of their networks and try to use this approach to push out resumes, you’ll have found you wasted your energy, it is an exercise in futility, but can instead be a good source of leads to apply through the companies internal recruitment website.
Focus on that approach and/or research the type of business you want to be in, identify organizations that offer your target job, and find/visit their websites directly. Use generalized terms, and instead of trying to just get to the target job/company, research the news/articles and recent developments of the businesses. This will point you in the direction that work is going. Who attended what conference on what topics and left a powerpoint deck on the internet respectful of it.
This is what I did, I found a competitor for one of my old vendors, who was offering a service/solution offered by an organization and I went to their corporate website. They had a position which was not listed on the job boards. I wrote a genuine and directly-to-them cover letter, and they pursued me.
For me, the best part is that I did it all on my own. Completely and without any others’ intervention, this job is mine, which is a point of pride and a continuing career pattern.
We all derive our value from the things in life that we do, some from being a parent or partner, from being a volunteer, from being a leader in the community, and others from the way they make a living. I feel like I will be back in the game, a valued and purposeful member of society who will solve problems professionally for others. I will help to secure networks from the bad guys who lie, steal and cheat which increases the costs on the rest of us. I will also secure a better future for my family and advance my skills in a challenging environment. I will fight a minimum of 4 hours of traffic each day, learn to conduct myself in a language and in a cultural setting I am not native to. I will do all this and more for much less than I can accept back at home. I will do this and succeed because I simply can’t sit still.
Retirement is just not in the cards.