14 August 2012

4 Steps to Working Abroad

For months after I finished my college degree (ten years late!) I scrambled to find work here in Philadelphia. I came up with a decent office management position, but for reasons that would bore you, I left. Sandro had just finished up his contract working at the University, so the two of us found ourselves unemployed with an entire summer and a move to Buenos Aires ahead of us. This seemed really nice, except that I wasn't prepared to swing it without an income. I sent out one hundred emails and resumes in the hopes of just finding something that I could make money at but also get out of come October when we leave for Argentina. Once we reached Buenos Aires, I planned to hit the ground running looking for whatever work was available to me as a brand new expat.

Another couple of months later and my summer has been filled with cheap grill outs, thrift store shopping, and other penny pinchers. Then, this week, I got so many jobs! It's been really crazy actually. Rather than one full time, consistent job, I've gathered up a hand full of part time projects that are all really different and fun.

"How?", you ask? Well, like I said, it's been months in the making. My friend Claire (ex-Philly girl, current BA compadre) suggested remote freelance work as a way to secure some funds regardless of where I was planted. I honestly didn't even know what this meant. Freelancers, in my mind, were graphic designers, architects, and novelists and none of these skills could I lay claim to. But if that's what it was going to take for me to get to Buenos Aires with enough money for beef and wine, then by all means, I'd do it.

So I'm turning in my barista and administrative assistant cards for a ticket to cyberspace. So many other people work from home, on computers, with their cats, sipping coffee, and listening to music. Why can't I? When I really think about what I want and what could work for me at this point in my life, I'd say that pretty much sums it up.
So I began polishing up my resume I noticed some themes: lots of research, lots of writing. And when I thought about the things I do online in my free time, they fell under these same categories. I hunted down some remote positions in these fields and sold myself as a researcher and writer capable of putting my skills to work for the internet.
Word of mouth and experience go a long way, and all of the sudden I'm color coding my calender to keep my hours straight. When someone asks me what I do, I can now say I am a Freelance Writer. It feels great! Oh, and somewhere in the job application hurricane I also landed a temporary dog walking position. Some days I come back down to the real world and get to hang out with this kid:

So you say, "Good for you, Reeves. You got pretty lucky. How am I supposed to figure this out?". I will do my best to pass on my advice:

Pick a thing and pursue it.
Decide what you are going to do. Research the types of jobs that include the skills you have. Listen to what other people are saying about the opportunities and downfalls of the job. Read everything you can that relates. Reassess. Some job titles sound really fancy (Chief Auxillary Elutriater = Housekeeper) when in reality, the work they entail can be monotonous. In contrast, some titles sound like complete nonsense (Preparation Expert?), but allow you do some really cool things (I bet the Preparation Expert at the cupcake factory isn't complaining).

If you've done it, you are it.
Edit your resume. Highlight all of the skills and responsibilities you've acquired in all the jobs you've had, even the seemingly unrelated ones. Relate all of your skills to the requirements of the job you want. Recognize that if you've done something and succeeded at it, you can be that. A dog walker must be organized and able to multitask. If you are trying to make the move from professional dog walker to Online Project Manager, be sure to mention those qualities. You are organized and an excellent multitasker!

Put it all out there.
Get that resume into the hands of every person you can get a hold of. Look high and low. Explore every avenue. Don't be too insecure to check into the best opportunity in your field. There are connections to be made and valuable information to be gained. The worst they can say is No, Thank You. But don't be too cocky for the unpaid internships or the one-off projects. They are experience and resume builders that could lead to more promising opportunities down the road.

Follow up and work it out.
Just like with any job, follow up with the people you've contacted if you haven't heard from them in a week or so. Be prepared to negotiate with whatever opportunity comes along. Is it the lame data entry position that you hear back from first? Think about it...could you swing it part time if you heard back from something better? Is it an important step or connection to something bigger? Do you need the money right now and this is what's going to get you through til next month? Do what you gotta do. But don't be afraid to risk getting your feet wet. Some experience is better than nothing. I've taken every little thing that's come my way so far. And although it's been hectic to juggle at times, I've made some serious connections and steps down my path. It's been worth it.

My overall message is this: don't not move abroad because you're worried about money. Be responsible and take the time to work out some type of income if you're going to need it. Remember: If you have some type of experience in the professional job market, then with some work and follow through, you will be able to get some remote work that pays straight into your bank account in US dollars. This is ideal and will get you where you're going until you figure out the next step.
Happy hunting!


  1. I've been working remotely for four years, and I enjoy the flexibility and autonomy that being a freelancer offers. It's not for everyone, but if you can buckle down and work from home, it's a great option.

    By the way, I saw this ad on Craigslist just a few minutes ago, and it might be a good fit for you since you're looking for writing gigs. http://buenosaires.es.craigslist.org/wri/3209156064.html

  2. Katie,
    How sweet of you to send me a job possibility! Talk about 'community'! You're right, freelance work wouldn't be for everyone. I sacrifice a lot of human interaction while sitting in front of my screen all day. But I make it work! I'm glad it works for you too.