Whether you are abroad looking for a corporate job or working as a digital nomad, consistently growing your network abroad networking is an essential part of expat life. Networking is important at home as well, but an extensive network abroad, which you trust is an important part of your success. The larger your network, the fewer problems you will face alone and the more eyes you will have on the market.
There are many resources that you can use to network, and unfortunately, none of them are perfect. Here, we will try to outline the best options and how to use them effectively.
LinkedIn is the best place to start expanding your network abroad before you are on the ground. We have a great article that details all of the ways that LinkedIn can help you network. LinkedIn has a robust search function that you can use to find potential connections in any given industry or company. Once you have connected, it is important to reach out with a meaningful message or ask for advice. Most people are happy to advise if prompted, and if you have nothing else to start the conversation with, this is the best option. Simply mention that you noticed they have been in “x country” for quite some time and you are relocating there soon and looking for advice. Make sure you are specific about what type of advice you are looking for, as no one wants to try to read your mind. You can ask about their industry or their company, for example. In any case, before going abroad, make sure you have a robust LinkedIn profile, and it is up to date. It is best to arrange meetings with your connections before you even arrive.
Local Networking Groups
Once you are in the country, there will likely be a variety of local networking groups available in any large city. You are best off asking local friends to point you in the right direction, especially if you do not know the local language well. Usually, these groups are segregated by industry or job type.
Facebook isn’t known as a professional networking platform, but there are many valuable groups. In every large city around the world, there is an expat group. For example, here is the Moscow group. These groups have a wealth of information, including advice on how to find an apartment and even how to solve legal issues. Most of these groups also have an active community, and a hot topic is always jobs. You will regularly see people asking for recommendations for vacancies, many of which will be English teachers or editors. My first real job in Russia came from a post in the Moscow Expats group on Facebook. Mail.ru, a large tech company in Moscow, was looking for someone to help with marketing and translation of mobile games. I quickly got in touch with the person who posted and began to work almost immediately. Facebook isn’t a go-to resource to job search or network, but it is a great place to find local events where other expats spend their time. This makes it invaluable for anyone getting acquainted with a new country.
Internations is another social network directly marketed to expats. The website is free with limited features, but if you are attending events, it makes sense to buy a paid membership. Many events, which can cost $50 or more, are free for paid members. The monthly membership fee is less than $10. According to Internations, 53% of members are in senior leadership positions at their company. The events are, therefore, attended by high-level expats. This is great for networking as these are the types of expats who are in a position to give advice and even potentially offer a job.
While at first glance Couchsurfing might not seem like a great place to network, that isn’t the case. Many events organized on Couchsurfing are attended by expats who are not part of the Couchsurfing platform. Your networking opportunities will depend on the type of event you attend and the city. That being said, Couchsurfing is a great place to make friends with locals and expats. Of course, if you are looking for a professional networking setting, this isn’t one. You should at least take a look at the events and people attending before deciding that there isn’t any value.
Local Professional Organizations
Local professional organizations offer many great opportunities to expand your network abroad. International chambers of commerce are some of the best places to start. In any large global city, there is usually an American Chamber of Commerce. The American Chamber of Commerce usually caters to all nationalities, though other countries are a bit restrictive, either by conducting meetings in their local languages (i.e., French, German, etc.) or by restricting membership to local companies and companies from the chamber’s home country. Chambers of commerce typically have the most expats who are employed in high-level executive positions, and while these people are usually busy, they like to help. One potential negative of these types of professional organizations is that you usually must be a member. Employees from member companies are always invited to events, but sometimes you can call the chamber of commerce and ask to attend an event. This doesn’t always work, but it is worth a shot.
A directory of all American Chambers of Commerce can be found here.
It doesn’t matter which platform you use to network abroad. All you need to do is find people in your industry with experience, and ask them to have a quick coffee. Ask them for advice. You will find that most people when asked to give specific advice based on their career, love to do so. When you are abroad, don’t be shy, get out there and talk to people. The only way to find your dream job in another country is to expand your international network. You will usually find it where you least expect. Remember, the more places you actively network, the more likely you are to meet someone who can help you find the job of your dreams.