Earn your way around the world

Working abroad is a lot of fun and can boost your career. So, what's stopping you, asks Emma Jayne Jones
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The Independent Online

Many people dream of spending a year working in another country, but believe that once they have a steady career it's no longer an option. But temporary jobs abroad are not just the domain of students. A growing number of professionals are using their specialist skills as a tool to gain short-term work overseas.

Not only does working in another country give you great life experiences, but it can also have a positive impact on your long-term career. Michelle Brown, from the international jobsite Monster.co.uk, says: "The internet has made everything global and you need to have that perspective. International experience, and especially a foreign language, can be the factor that makes you stand out."

Ami Stewart is a maths teacher who, although she found the work at her inner-city London school rewarding, yearned for a bit of excitement. Her housemates were both taking time off to travel, but with her debt commitments, Stewart still needed a steady paycheck.

After checking postings on the teachers' website www.tesjobs.com, and applying to a number of international schools, she took a job in Madrid. As she found, there are practical considerations to consider before you jet off across the world in search of work.

"Make sure you sort out any financial issues and any other paperwork before you leave, as it's a lot harder once you've actually moved," says Stewart. "Try to build up a profile of the area that you're moving to - through the internet, travel books and word of mouth - so that you gain some sort of idea about the areas you might like to live in. It will save time (and your legs) later on."

She admits that it was difficult dealing with a whole new language. "Only speaking basic Spanish has definitely been the most difficult aspect of working in Madrid, but within my job I've developed many extra skills because of the constraints that have been placed upon me. The most valuable skill that I hope to take back to the UK is a European language."

If you want to work in an English-speaking country, there are still plenty of opportunities. While her friends were taking gap years, Catherine Thomas was studying medicine. She finally decided it was her turn for a bit of adventure and found an eight-month job in an emergency room in Melbourne, Australia.

"Australia is crying out for doctors, especially in rural areas or outer suburbs," she says. "I found a job by e-mailing hospitals directly, but there are agencies such as Wavelength International that will handle all the paperwork for you."

Thomas wanted to sustain her career while taking a break from the UK. "After going straight from school to five years of university and long hours as a junior doctor, I needed a holiday. Going abroad meant that, although I was working for three-quarters of the year, the rest of my time could be spent seeing a country I'd never visited before. It's easier to justify that on a CV than taking a few months off just to travel."

More and more companies are acknowledging the benefits that working abroad can produce. An employee who has worked in a foreign environment has a greater understanding of international issues and global concerns. In the business world, many overseas workers are actually transferred by their current employer, especially in America, where work visas are difficult to come by.

Richard Cox works for a large investment bank in London. He decided he wanted to gain some international experience and asked for a transfer abroad. His company sent him to New York for a year where he says the work environment is very different from the UK. "They work long hours in America and take hardly any holiday, which is difficult to adjust to. New York has a very work-hard, play-hard lifestyle, but as long as you are prepared to throw yourself into it, it is a lot of fun."

Brown says that, while it is important to make the most of your time abroad, you mustn't neglect the UK job market. "Being away for too long can be detrimental if you are behind developments in your career field. Keep in touch with contacts and abreast of trends. Be prepared, and, if possible, try to line up a job before you return."

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