The boom in internationalization has spread a high degree of mobility and global competition all around the world. Terms such as “relocation”, “work abroad” or even “self-initiated expatriation” are becoming more common in career decisions, while the phenomena keeps growing. If you are thinking about working abroad, then here is an expert’s insight from Aarhus BSS Career on how to navigate your experience abroad.

“Luck happens when preparation meets coincidence”. That is Susanne Søes Hejlsvig’s (MA '04) life motto. At Aarhus BSS Career, she works as a Senior Career Consultant helping students and graduates become more employable. When referring to her reasons for working with career counselling Susanne is clear: “Knowing, that what we do for students and companies matters, makes it worth going to work every day”.  

Based on her daily experience with students and graduates, we asked Susanne to share her best advice on how to navigate the experience of living and working abroad. We’ve boiled her most important recommendations down to what you might experience before, during and after taking off.

1. Plan the move

Always consider what you are looking to gain and learn. “Language and culture could be key elements to look at before choosing destination”, says Susanne. What is the magic formula for choosing the right destination? For her, it has to be clear from the beginning: is it for the sake of adventure, to learn from a completely new culture or for nailing a specific skill. Once the goal is established, the possibilities are narrowed down. After deciding the destination, you also need to consider how to network best with the locals. “I would always suggest any foreigner to join a club”, recommends Susanne while stressing that even though it’s an informal space, it could also be a way into a specific company or industry. “It’s about the skills but also about the right attitude and connection on a personal note”, she sums up.

What’s next? To find job opportunities that suits your needs, Susanne recommends researching and following them on LinkedIn, job portals and company databases - often available from local libraries.

When it comes to your networking strategy, Susanne has a 3-step recipe: 1) Prepare your elevator pitch (see toolbox below) and practice it in meetings, events and seminars 2) Be active on LinkedIn and indulge in discussions to be seen and heard and 3) Again: join that club you like! 

To take it it to the next level, Susanne has some extra tips. Before attending events, it’s a good idea to do some research about the participants and the companies they represent. It is also useful to make a good use of what you have in common: for instance your connection with the University. Remember to ask for information, NOT for a job - that may come later. "First you need to create your own luck!”, says Susanne.

2. Get out there

When researching for job openings, Susanne encourages you to use the career tips on Aarhus BSS Career website, which also offers plenty of guidance and links to job portals, including international ones. Outside Denmark, she suggests giving a look to GoinGlobal, an online service offering global career updates.

But before applying, it is a good idea to get head-hunters or recruiters to have a look at your CV. They know exactly what the companies are looking for and screen thousands of CVs a day. To research potential companies and opportunities in Aarhus she says:

“my two favourites are LinkedIn and the Aarhus BSS Alumni Network where you can find former Aarhus BSS students and get inspired by their career paths and a forum for networking”.

Bonus tip: make an effort with unsolicited applications! According to a recent survey in Denmark about recruiting trends, 74 % of the employers have experienced hiring someone who has applied unsolicited. Do you know what your dream job looks like? If not, there's an exercise in the career toolbox that can help you discover it.

3. On board and beyond

Even though it may take some time to really make use of the network you have built up when abroad, there are plenty of ways to keep it active. To maintain your network online, Susanne suggests indulging in discussions on LinkedIn, where you can share latest trends and research you come across and send articles targeted to people interested in your groups. “You need to be aware that the effort you put into the connections will vary”, she emphasises. What’s important for her is the fact that networking is not about tracking who did what but “giving and receiving”. It will all balance out in the end. In terms of giving back, she points out: “Don’t be cheap with sharing connections. You never know which connections you’ll end up getting yourself when opening a door for someone”.

Read more about Susanne on LinkedIn

Written by Pamela Leiva Jacquelín