South African Expats: Tips On Finding Work Overseas

South African Expats: Tips On Finding Work Overseas

Finding Work Overseas As A South African Expat

Moving overseas is usually an easy decision for most prospective emigrants. Once that decision has been made, most individuals tend to have an idea where they are heading and what they want to do there.

But although choosing a destination for your new life usually leaves one with some sense of peace and achievement, it’s a whole different ballgame when choosing how you’re going to make a living. 

Finding work overseas and income which will sate your lifestyle and experience can be a nightmare. We give you some tips on establishing your new life as a global employee.

Understand that things will never be the same

The first step towards landing a job abroad is to understand that things will never be the same. Indeed, there are companies and countries which share similar cultures or values as your current employer or South Africa as a whole – but there will be vast differences you should be prepared for.

The human resources system as well as requirements, administrative process and requirements for entering any career will differ. You’ll find that employee rights and privileges will not be the same. There will be cultural and social norms you will need to conform to and quite often the working hours, environments and practices are as alien to you as you are in your new environment.

Do some research about these practices and requirements to save yourself some stress and heartache and prepare yourself for these changes.

Qualification? What qualification?

One of the drawbacks of having lived in a third world country, you will find, is realising that your qualifications may not equate to much abroad. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but you will need to be prepared for being turned down based on your existing experience or knowledge. 

Some of the ways in which you can tackle this problem is by pre-empting such issues. Some expats choose to gain international experience before finding work overseas, taking supplementary courses to improve their skills or by stepping into new fields.

This may not be an easy task, but you’ll find a wealth of resources available to you should you be willing to upskill and expand on your current trade. Enrol for free or paid-for courses through Udemy, Shaw Academy, Alison, Coursera, EdX, Open2Study or even through Harvard, Oxford or other renowned educational institutions.

Also assure prospective employers that you are willing to acquire new skills in order to grab your dream job.

Links to course providers:

Overhaul your CV

South Africa is pretty lenient with regards to CV formatting. Although most recruiters will require a standard format for your curriculum or resume, things may differ if you’re finding work overseas.

Firstly, it’s important to research the country as well as the institution where you are applying. Although there are regional norms, you will gain much from looking at the company culture and community and utilise this knowledge to speak to the needs and perceptions of your prospective employers.

Furthermore, be sure to standardise your resume to include the following sections:

  • Your name
  • Your contact details (including website and social media links provided this is information you want your employer to know)
  • A professional summary (one to two paragraphs)
  • Your qualifications
  • Your work experience

You may also want to add additional information such as:

  • Your areas of expertise
  • Professional memberships, awards or achievements
  • Your skills, extracurricular activities and other relevant information.

Tips for a winning job application

  • Proper grammar and spelling
  • Legible font and formatting
  • Check your CV for buzz words or colloquialisms which your prospective employer won’t understand
  • Add a cover letter which gives a brief overview of your experience, your strengths and try to mention things which are unique to your personality and skillset without being overly emotional or exaggerating
  • Try to address questions or areas you know the recruiter will be looking for, such as technical knowledge, social skills, supplementary experience or a personal touch – but keep these things concise
  • Approach an institution capable of assessing and converting your qualifications and work experience for the local market. If you haven’t done this yet – indicate to your prospective employer that you are aware of the necessity to do so and busy with the process.

Remember that you need to sell yourself – it may not be an easy task, but your resume is the marketing brochure you send out into the world. It needs to be enticing, honest and unique – but remain professional and keep it clean, short and sweet.

Leverage your network

One of the hazards of starting a new life is undoubtedly having to rebuild a social and professional network from scratch.

Luckily, we live in an online era where connecting with others abroad is as simple as the click of a button. Us South Africans are a proud bunch and don’t like asking for favours, but rest assured that the network of expats living abroad understands your needs and fears and are ready to assist. Join some social networks online, such as Facebook groups, forums like, Transitions Abroad, Internations,, and so forth.

Remember that most people on these forums have either been through the process or are facing the same challenges as you and the information and support provided is generally honest, open, and helpful.

Furthermore, don’t hesitate to inform your existing network that you are moving. You’ll be surprised to see who knows whom and which people are willing to assist you with your move and with finding work overseas.

And what about moving your funds?

Moving abroad is not only stressful, but also costly. Consider transferring your funds abroad or reinvesting your retirement savings in a local equivalent which will allow you the opportunity to earn interest in a stronger currency.

Leave your details below and Rand Rescue will assist you in moving your money to your new home.


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