Why You Should Work in Business Development Abroad

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Written By Matt Shannon

You’ve decided you want to go abroad but you aren’t sure where to start? If you are like most potential expats, you are likely unsure if your experience at home will be relevant in the country you have chosen. Maybe your language skills are good, but you aren’t able to read a balance sheet or create financial statements for the board of directors in that language. Don’t let this stop you from following your dreams. There are jobs in every country for which expats, especially native English speakers, have a distinct advantage. That isn’t to say that the local language is not important, but most likely, you will be of value because you can communicate with potential clients in their native language on a different level than someone who speaks English as their second language.

Fortunately, most large companies in every country are likely doing business internationally and this presents an excellent opportunity for native English speakers to bring expertise to a job interview discussion, which they might underestimate. Business development is one of the top job options for expats in just about any country in the world. Why is this? Well, as mentioned above, many large domestic companies are looking to promote their product in international markets and to do this they need people who understand the markets that are of strategic importance. The United States and most of Western Europe are very developed markets, which have enormous middle-class purchasing power. This translates to a massive opportunity for any Thai, Russian, Argentinian, Kenyan, or any other national company that has exhausted the domestic market. 

Hopefully, this article will give you a good idea of what it is like working in business development abroad. If you are interested in more strategies for how to find a job in business development abroad, take a look at these articles.

What is business development?

Most importantly, you must have a good understanding of what business development is and how it interacts with the other business functions in a company. At its core, business development is the development of strategic opportunities for business growth. It is looking at a company’s core competencies and determining where to allocate sales and marketing resources. This means you will work quite closely with sales and marketing, and unfortunately, sometimes, business development can simply be a glorified sales function. There will certainly be sales focused aspects to any job in business development, but a great organization knows that separating these two functions will give the business development team time to focus on strategy in addition to just sales. A great business developer will be able to see the big picture, focus in on opportunities in the market and come up with actionable ideas for sales and marketing, typically assisting both teams in some capacity. 

Depending on the company or firm, business development can also mean client relations or account management. This can mean making client visits or attending industry events to introduce new potential clients to your company or firm. Therefore, you will need to enjoy professional networking and generally be an outgoing person. If all of this sounds interesting to you, then a career abroad in business development could be for you. Business development skills are very relevant if you are going to work in multiple countries or return home. 

Why is business development a good career option abroad?

Business development abroad is a great career option for many reasons. If you come from a global target market (like the US or German), likely you will have industry connections and insight that will be valuable to a large foreign company doing business in your home market. For example, if you are in Thailand and realize that local law firms are targeting potential US clients to assist US subsidiary companies in Russia, you are likely much better positioned to guide lawyers on how to connect with companies of interest. 

Which industries and companies are the best to target?

Probably the easiest industry is professional services. This industry is very heavily focused on personal connections and cross border consulting work. Many law firms, accounting firms, managing consulting firms, and other various business consulting firms would be quite interested in hiring an American or European to help develop relationships with referral firms in the US, UK, Germany, France, etc. In many countries, you will find consulting firms that provide services exclusively for foreign companies looking to enter the local market. This is probably the best type of firm to target if you come from a country, which invests heavily in the country where you live. 

All of the worlds largest law firms and the Big 4 accounting firms are present in most global cities. There are usually several expat managers who work there and can provide you with some insight into getting a job at their company. If you get to know the major players in the foreign market, at home you can start making connections before you go. Often, if you have connected with people in the foreign country on LinkedIn, you might even be able to find connections in your home country that have spent time in the foreign country you are targeting. 

If you are thinking about going to law school, going to a foreign country and talking to law firms about helping with business development will give you experience that none of your classmates will have. Likely you will be the only native speaker in the office and while your job may be business development, you will likely be roped into matters to assist from time to time. At the very least, you will get a great look at how law firms work internationally. The same goes for the Big 4 or any global consulting firm. 

The hospitality industry is another great option. In developing countries, you will find that many luxury hotel chains have a business development team that is either managed by expats or at least includes an expat in the team. If you have any hotel or hospitality experience, working in business development would be a fantastic opportunity. If you don’t have experience in this industry and it sounds interesting to help a luxury hotel chain find clients and develop its strategy in a foreign country, the best place to start is LinkedIn. You can find people who work in business development in your home country at the top hotels in the country you are looking to move to in the future. You might even find out that a number of these people have international experience themselves, which would be a huge help to your search.

Technology companies are also a fantastic opportunity abroad. Most large tech companies are almost certainly doing business in the developed markets of the world. If you have any tech experience in business development, you will have a significant advantage when searching for work abroad. The local startup scene in many smaller Eastern European countries and Asia are on fire. Many of these companies are looking for investors and clients in the US and Europe. If you think it sounds interesting to develop the strategy for budding tech startups abroad, this is a great opportunity. You will likely be assisting in client acquisition, sales, client relations, and marketing if you work in business development abroad. The startup scene is not for everyone, but it can certainly be lucrative if you end up at a company that becomes popular worldwide. 

Where to Find a Job

Here at Expatriant, we believe in networking, in person, and on LinkedIn. Yes, you may be able to find jobs in business development by applying online, but a key skill of a great business developer is the ability to network and meet new people. You may even find that law firms have never even considered hiring an expat to help them develop business and referral networks abroad. Remember that if a company has never considered hiring an expat, it is a great opportunity to demonstrate your potential value to the company. 

Take a look at our country guides for more detailed local resources to search for jobs in business development.


As you have hopefully been able to see, business development is a very diverse job, but it is an essential function for any company in any industry or country. While you are likely going to need to be on the ground to start interviewing for any business development positions, you can lay a great foundation before you leave using LinkedIn. Take a look at our articles about networking abroad and using LinkedIn. With a bit of perseverance and determination, you should have no trouble finding a job in business development if you focus on the three industries we have focused on here.