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3 Things Nobody Tells You About Moving Around The World For Work

When I moved to London, England from Ottawa, Canada, I had to make a lot of adjustments—especially when it came to finding a job. Because I didn’t come to London with a VISA program or tour group, I didn’t have a lot of tools available to me, and had to do a lot on my own. If you’re trying to find work in a new country, here are three things you should know:

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#1 Networking is important—and very, very hard

You’ve probably read any of the 1,000 articles out there telling you how important it is to network early and often to ensure career success. But building a network from scratch is a difficult task, especially when you don’t have a job to connect with someone over. This isn’t just important for job leads when you move to a new city—when you get interviews, employers want references, and giving them email-only contacts seems sketchy. However, long-distance phone numbers and a five-hour time difference also made reference checking a hassle for the HR teams at new companies.

Learn from my mistake: Ideally I should have had verified reference letters before I left old jobs, and passed those on to my new employers. Be sure to get these before you leave home!
Another way to get experience when you have none is to freelance. I managed to find some work building a web page for a friend of the family, which lead to a referral to an internship. Websites like PeoplePerHour, Elance or TaskRabbit can help you find the type of part-time work you’re looking for, and will give you local contacts who can vouch for your work ethic. Volunteering is another great way to build up references! For regular networking and meeting new people, sites like Meetup or Funzing are a great place to meet people with similar interests.

#2 Institutions don’t make it easy

When I first landed in London, I lived with my uncle temporarily until I could find a job, and after that, a flat. I figured it would be best to get a bank account first. That’s where the trouble began. The bank required a proof of address or a letter from my employer, neither of which I had yet. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get those things without a bank account, either—who would rent an apartment or give a job to someone without a bank account? As a visitor at my uncle’s, I couldn’t get any bills put in my name, so I couldn’t claim residency there.

Learn from my mistake: I tried everything I could think of to work around it, which turned out to be a massive waste of time and effort. It was impossible to start my life without these things, so eventually, I went to an international bank and registered with my Canadian address. The HSBC has a program where they’ll put you on a probation account for 6 months based on your old address. Or, plan ahead and set up an international bank account before you leave.

#3 Writing your CV becomes very tricky

I had plenty of work experience in local events, federal government, and university groups—but nothing from organizations that anyone in England would have recognized. Sending out my usual CV without explanation almost seemed like I made up the jobs, but trying to keep my CV to two pages meant that I couldn’t afford paragraphs of wasted space based on company description.

Learn from my mistake: There might not be a one-size-fits-all solution to this problem, depending on how important details of your previous workplaces are to you. But I searched for several different CV templates online, and found one that allowed me to put a one-line memo about each company I worked for in a way that didn’t get in the way of the information I wanted to convey. Look for different ways to move around the information so that the story you’re telling with your CV comes across clearly!

Written by Charlotte Bailey.

Filed under: Career


Beth is the editor of CGD and lives in London surrounded by piles of papers and highlighters. In her spare time she has conversations with dogs and writes short stories.


  1. sommer ann says

    Some great and useful tips for ambitious career women who are looking to move abroad and find a new position. Finding and creating a brand new network can be a difficult and daunting task in a new city, especially in a new country with different cultural expectations. A great place to start is using blogs, forums, and MeetUp type websites to find networking groups you can easily join. Another great resource can be your college alumni group, as most have abroad chapters to cater towards their expat alumni. As you mentioned, freelancing and volunteering is another way to get new references and potential job leads, you just need to put yourself out there and be confident!

  2. Brona O'Connor says

    As someone who moved from Ireland to Canada on my own, with no job lined up, my number one tip would be to request informative interviews with the HR Directors, relevant Managers or even someone working in your desired role in your field. Do this for all the companies you are interested in working at. Do your research and go to the meeting with objectives to achieve. My number one objective was, even if they did not know of/ have a position available, I would ask them for an introduction to someone else who I should meet. This way you come away from the meeting with something valuable and you build your network in a new city. This is how I ultimately found my job in my ideal company! Another tip is to meet as many recruiters as possible in the city. Even if they don’t have positions on their books, or even a positive outlook on your market at the moment, you will gather valuable information about your industry in that city and the conversation will help give you practice for the important job interview that will come along!


    great tips, and what bank you recomend in usa or canada?


  4. Vicky T. says

    This is so useful. Thank you!


  5. Maja says

    I agree – networking is very very hard and it takes up a lot of my time. I mean, I am glad and excited to meet new acquaintances and get new opportunities, but sometimes I get so tired of it. Plus, always updating my CV and never settling at one job, it gets old. I am a restless soul, but noe when I am pregnant, I would love to have some stability. Great post.
    x M.

  6. Shelli says

    I think these are great tips. I remember when I briefly moved from the Caribbean to NY and encountered some of those things you mentioned… especially need proof of residence from bills and such, and not having any. Now in my late 20s, I finally see the value of networking.

    Great post!

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