In this so-called jobless recovery, you might be wondering who in the world is hiring. Job markets in some countries are a little hotter than in the United States right now, and the New York Times recently reported how professionals shut out of jobs in the U.S. found their career calling in China and elsewhere.
Such reports may make it seem like it's easier for everyone to land a job overseas. Not so.
"If you are a true hotshot in your field, you may be wooed by another country, but everyone else has to do their homework first," says Jean-Marc Hachey, author and online publisher of "The Big Guide to Living and Working Overseas."
There are other considerations. In a September Yahoo! HotJobs poll, 45% of respondents said they were willing to work abroad, and an additional 28% would be willing to move abroad for the right job. But there's a difference between "willing to" and "well prepared to."
Before you look for an overseas job, you should determine whether you would even want to work in another culture, and if so, how "foreign" are you willing to go? Do you enjoy change? Do you mind learning new and sometimes odd protocol for everything from conducting a meeting to buying tomatoes?
If you are sure overseas work is for you, Hachey and other career experts recommend several steps.
1. Look for an American-based company.
The vast majority of professionals working overseas landed their job stateside, and it's much easier to land a job overseas before hopping on the plane. If you want to work abroad, look for international employers in your line of work. While some companies with a worldwide presence offer no mobility between countries, others encourage their employees to go all over the world. If you're the right fit, the company will handle your Visa and work permit, and will do their best to convince the local authorities that only you -- over anyone in their country -- could do the job in question.
2. Don't be picky about the country.
It is much harder to look for a professional job abroad if you limit your search to a particular country, according to Hachey. "If you just love Italy, for example, and won't go anywhere else, you'll have to find a company there who wants you, get a work permit from the Italian government, and prove to officials there's nobody in their country who can do that professional job better," he says. "If you want to pick grapes or do something low-skilled, that's another matter."
3. Boost your 'I.Q.'
To land a job overseas you'll need evidence you understand different cultures and are willing and eager to immerse yourself in them, Hachey says. That weeklong trip you took to Ireland five years ago won't cut it. He recommends boosting your International Quotient by learning a language -- any language -- and spending at least a month abroad, whether volunteering for a non-governmental organization (NGO) or working at an internship.
4. Find an international mentor.
An expert in your field who has worked overseas can help share where the opportunities are, and how to act, and not act, in, say India. How do you find these mentors? The same way you find any mentor (which every professional should be doing anyway): Network. A good place to find a mentor, or at least advice, is the Expat Forum.
5. Leave, now.
If you really must leave and have the resources to do so, go to the country of your choice on a tourist visa. Once there, meet with potential employers and consider volunteering, interning, or other work alternatives while you continue to search for that ideal position. "When job-hunting, nothing beats meeting with prospective employers face-to-face," says Randall Hansen, founder and president of Quintessential Careers.
6. Teach English.
Experts recommend teaching English as a foreign language overseas as a springboard to other jobs. Even if you don't want to make a career of teaching, you'll gain valuable insight into the culture and you'll already be in the country. There are a large number of English teaching job postings on the Web, and generally it's easier to get hired before you hop on the plane. You will, however, have to demonstrate some aptitude for teaching and a strong command for the English language.
7. Work while you wait.
The average job search abroad ranges between six to 12 months, and searching for a job in any country is a full-time job itself, Hansen says. In his working abroad tutorial at QuintCareers.com, Hansen recommends using your time productively before you get that offer. That means obtaining a passport (which can take six weeks or more), learning a language or two, and even taking some classes.
Visit the U.S. State Department to find travel advisories and other helpful information. Access the local tourism site for the countries where you may be interviewing for information about local customs. If there's a good chance you'll land a job abroad, check out what vaccinations are required, and obtain them before you leave.