Job hunting from overseas: good or bad idea?
April 2, 2008 9:22 PM   Subscribe

Job hunting from across the ocean: in a foreign country, looking to move back to home country. Which is better? Apply and interview from here, or quit current job and search from there?

I've been saying it for years, but I'm finally ready to move back home after a great stint abroad. I've selected the location, now all I need is the job. I'd really like to begin inquiring from here, but friends have suggested that I should pack up and search from there. Which would maximize my chance of getting the job I want?

Apply from here:
- Security. I continue working my job, less crazy-making for me.
- Gainfully employed people are more attractive prospects. (?) "I'm a serious professional."
- Interview logistics. Can't drop everything and pop in for a chat, time zone nightmares, might turn off employers.
- I need at least one month of lead time to settle my affairs here. Is this a deal breaker?

Apply from there:
- More convenient for the employer.
- I would be able to start right away.
- Make me appear to be a confident risk-taker and go-getter. (?)
- Unemployment. Gap in my resume. Money worries.
- Major stress = less than my ideal confident, professional self.
- Setting up shop in a new city, may not be ideally located for new job.

Other details:
I live in Japan, relocating to the West coast of the US. (Most likely not my home state of residency.)
I am unmarried and have no dependents.
I will be able to plan some trips for in-person interviews.
Will be targeting specific companies and industries. Some with a similar job description to my current position, some a slight stretch, but none are entry-level.
My current job experience here will be directly valuable to future employers (I'd be bringing something extra to the table compared with the typical in-town hire).
Relocation package not required but would be welcome, of course.

I'd appreciate opinions, anecdotes and suggestions from both sides of the fence (job seeker, HR/hiring manager). Thanks AskMe!
posted by QueSeraSera to Work & Money (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Way too much information.

Begin there and, if you don't find anything, do it here. Right? Am I missing something?
posted by 1 at 10:08 PM on April 2, 2008

Best answer: I can only offer third-person anecdotes, since I'm a Lifer. As such I've watched an awful lot of friends return to their home countries...and quite a few end up back here after several months/years of struggle with the acquisition of gainful employment. Also, three of the "U-turners" were attempting a return to California and Oregon.

Definitely don't wait. At least for your initial inquiries.

The overwhelming majority who applied *from* here (here being Gifu, central Japan) made a more successful transition. The companies/universities which hired them knew they couldn't "pop in for a chat" and as long as they were able to make themselves available for at least one in-person interviews (obviously they scheduled several for one journey when possible) the fact that they were out of the country at first contact did not make much of a difference. As for the time-zone should simply make as much of an effort to contact companies during *their* working hours. What's a few hours of lost sleep compared to the security of a positive interaction with a potential employer?

Obvious caveat: applying from abroad is feasible when you have a skill set clearly outlined in a CV or resume, or you are going to work for a company that intends to completely retrain you in their image.

Then, they seem to like that you've been in a different marketplace. This was the case with a friend who went to work for Bloomberg, and has had an excellent transition.
posted by squasha at 10:40 PM on April 2, 2008

When my brother decided he was ready to come home from Japan he began applying for jobs there and didn't get anything. I guess employers weren't interested in conducting such an inconvenient interview. However, he moved back home with my parents and found a job right away. His field is education and it sounds like yours is business, though, so YMMV.

I agree with 1...why not start your job search while in Japan, and move back home if it doesn't go well? That seems reasonable to me.
posted by christinetheslp at 3:11 AM on April 3, 2008

The big thing in your favor is that you're looking for a job in your home country, where you have permission to work. The reverse situation (looking for a job in a foreign country in which you do not reside and for which you have no work visa) is much more difficult to do.

It depends entirely on what industry you're looking into, as well as the size of the companies you're applying to. Smaller companies generally won't have the financial means to fly you somewhere for an interview, though they may be more flexible than larger ones.
posted by armage at 4:40 AM on April 3, 2008

I would suggest:
- plan for a trip to the desired new location for two weeks of job-hunting.
- start searching and applying from where you are, but only apply to specific positions that are a good fit and a good opportunity. Don't just "shotgun" applications from Japan. If one of these applications bear fruit, you can try to schedule an interview during your trip.
posted by Artful Codger at 6:40 AM on April 3, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, this was exactly what I was looking for!
posted by QueSeraSera at 6:40 PM on April 3, 2008

Generally, the rule is that you have to be in-country in order to get a job, but it depends on your field.

For what it's worth, I returned to Canada in 2004 after spending ten years in Japan. I was a teacher (B.Ed) and I started sending out resumes in 2002. No luck (which has more to do with the school system than anything else).

I realized I would have to do something else besides teaching, so I decided to focus on communications. About one month after I returned to Canada I got some contract work. Three months after I returned I became a government speechwriter.

People weren't particularly worried about gaps in my resume.

But if you are a software developer or an engineer, you shouldn't have any problems finding work.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:26 PM on April 3, 2008

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