There are essentially two philosophies to employment abroad: establishing career overseas, and working as a means to travel. Both have the wonderful advantage of exploring a new culture as an insider, though the lifestyles afforded each are very different. Both styles offer the opportunity to escape the daily grind at home as well as experience another country as a local, rather than as an outside observer.
At this point, I am going to take a guess. Maybe you studied abroad in your sophomore or junior year in college, gathered your handful of units to bring back to the U.S., and now are close to graduating. After a year of (trying to) settle back into American culture, your heart begs for foreign scents and sights, and working abroad at least makes the idea of a job after graduation or during the summer seem more palatable. That was the case for me when I worked at a chateau in Switzerland for six months during my junior year. Maybe it's time for you to follow that urge too.
There are two basic ways to plan to work abroad legally or under the table. If you prefer to take on the work search yourself, remember these key points. First, figure out which jobs are most important to you. Are you set in utilizing a job relating to your hard-earned degree? Or can you bartend, wait tables or even clean floors? Obviously, opportunities in pouring a great stout are more available, then say, finding a bio-engineering job in England.
If you prefer the legal route, then planning ahead is key. Luckily, a handful of companies now help students to work abroad. They offer services for attaining work permits, working regulations and even finding a job. Alliances Abroad, LEAP Now, BUNAC and I to I are some of the most well-known organizations. Working within the structure of these companies run the gamut of options, but their connections may help in furthering your career. EscapeArtist.com is a huge database of work opportunities worldwide and offers additional information on visas and work permits. GoAbroad.com/embassy offers a convenient link directly to embassies worldwide to further find out about work abroad permits.
Once you know the work restrictions in your chosen country, then the job search begins in earnest. Searching for jobs overseas is not so different from here in the States. You still need a resume and to network like crazy to find a good fit. Luckily, there is the Internet and some books and magazines to help you out. JobsAbroad.com offers one of the better work abroad searches, giving you options for country or for a given field. For instance, a simple search for "communications" turned up over 28 jobs throughout Ireland, Costa Rica, Korea, and China. The jobs are out there - you just have to find them, and hope they hire you.
Cold, hard cash
That's part of the crux. Just like finding a job back home can be months of anxious waiting, discovering the marketing position you covet in Venice or the reporter post in Japan can be frustrating. That's when you might need look for more "alternative" work abroad options. Working illegally is just a matter of course for many travelers. Because of its very nature, it's not terribly conducive to resume and career enhancement. But to pay the bill to get to Bali, it's great.
The most important part to getting hooked up is just being there. Seriously. Walking in an office door to introduce yourself does more than any resume ever could. Many under the table jobs are last minute affairs -someone's quit and the restaurant's just about to get slammed for dinner. Can you start washing dishes right away?
In Europe, working under the table is about the only option available. Due to agreements within the European Union, EU countries must hire one of their own citizens for any job unless it's proven that no one within the EU can do that job. Chances are, someone can. That doesn't mean all of Europe is blackballed, just that Western Europe is tougher to break into than the East and it'll take more perseverance on your part. Maybe a little more desperation too.
So choose your country, research the visa and work permit arrangements, ignore them if necessary, and start thinking about pouring Pilsners in Prague, tutoring English in Thailand, picking apples in Umbria, and getting paid to see the world.
(Though you probably won't be paid much, it'll be worth it.)
Photo by Jeff Booth