Companies throughout the world are shedding jobs as a result of the fallout of the global economic crisis and even expatriates are not immune to the fall of the recessionary axe. If you live overseas and lose your job, you may suddenly find yourself transported into a life of uncertainty, stressful decisions and mounting bills and you may suddenly feel very, very alone. While the situation you find yourself in may be far from ideal, it is the way in which you cope with the stresses and challenges that will determine your chances of emerging relatively unscathed. Here are some top tips for dealing with expat unemployment.
Decide whether you should stay or go
You need to make a relatively quick decision about whether you have more chance of finding a job in your host country than you do in your home country. You may feel that you have already committed to your host country, perhaps by signing a long-term rental contract or purchasing a property. However, if there’s going to be very little chance of finding gainful employment and the required sponsorship in your host country, it may be pertinent to start to examine the cold hard facts and estimate how long you can survive within your current location without working. If you have a limited budget then finding work has to be your priority and you should go wherever that work may be, even if it means leaving behind the place you have come to call home.
Start to cut your living expenses where possible
Regardless of how much money you have in the bank, you need to be aware of the fact that you now have no income and, until you find another job, you should try and preserve what money you do have. Your life doesn’t have to completely stop but you should try and cut out any unnecessary expenditure, such as luxuries, holidays, gym subscriptions, etc. The harsh truth is that you really don’t know how long you are going to be out of work and you should try to avoid burdening yourself with additional financial pressure where possible.
Get straight to work on your resume and cover letter
Before you can start looking for another job you need to focus on producing a resume and cover letter that will secure introductions and interviews. Don’t rush this. Take time to really consider what potential employees are looking for and how you can sell your skills and experience to meet these requirements. If you identify skill areas that are lacking, consider getting straight onto training courses that will help you to close any gaps and increase your attractiveness as an employee.
If you really want to remain in your host country but don’t possess the skills that are deemed to be in shortage in that area of the world, consider retraining. Attend university or complete a skilled training course to arm yourself with the knowledge and skillset that is needed to be work in that area of the world. For example, if you were employed as a banker in China, you may wish to consider training to become an English teacher. Of course this may mean a completely different change of lifestyle and career, but if remaining in your host country is extremely important to you, it may be a tradeoff that is worth making.
Follow your dreams
For some people, losing their job can turn out to be the best thing that ever happened. Being out of work can force you to reflect on the life you lead and whether or not it is what you actually want. Are you doing the things that you want to do or the things that you have just found yourself doing? Perhaps you have always dreamed of starting your own company or training to become a teacher? Maybe you want to work in interior design or would like to write a novel? Being out of work can give you the opportunity you need to follow your dreams.
Get out and speak to as many people as possible. Explain your situation and that you’re seeking work. Losing your job can be a humiliating experience and you may feel low in confidence and self-esteem. However, it is a fact that the majority of people do not pass through their entire career without being made redundant at least once. As such, many people will be able to empahise with your situation and you may be surprised by just how far people are prepared to go to help you out. For some tips on networking, see our guide to The Seven Deadly Sins of Expat Networking.
There will undoubtedly be days when you feel down about your situation. However, it is important that you stay positive and focused and don’t give up. Remember to give yourself some free time every now and again to reflect on what is happening and what the course of action may be. Treat yourself to a couple of hours by the pool or time enjoying a relaxing walk. While making every effort to find a new job is important, you don’t want to burn yourself out in the process. Giving yourself a break every now and again will help you to stay positive and focused.
Unemployment is something that can affect expats at any given moment. Higher redundancies are an inevitable by-product of the current global economy and if you lose your job while working overseas, you will certainly not be alone. It is how you handle your situation that can truly impact how expat unemployment can determine your future.