By Valerie Young
What if you could earn a living working not only at what you love but where you love as well? If location is everything for you, here is the low-down on locating your ideal work in your ideal place.
Over There, Over There
Is your idea of heaven-on-earth to live in a Paris flat, on a houseboat in Tahiti or seaside in Belize? Before booking a ticket or updating that resume, says Clay Hubbs, publisher of Transitions Abroad magazine, you need to ask yourself a few questions. Like:
1)Where do you want to go? If don’t have a clue, start with a general region of the world and start doing your homework from there.
2)What do you have to offer? Landing a job overseas is not much different than landing one at home. Much of it comes down to whether you have the skills or knowledge that a prospective employer needs. While jobs in China are easy to come by, in Western Europe and other developed nations (including the U.S.) getting a work permit can be tough. It requires proving that you – more so than a native – are uniquely qualified for the job. (Before you get too discouraged, keep in mind that your keen insight into the American psyche may prove invaluable to a company looking to tap the U.S. market.) Jobs for Americans, especially those teaching English as a second language, are more plentiful in Eastern Europe but the pay tends to be low, especially compared to Japan, Taiwan and Korea where such jobs pay considerably more.
3)What kinds of jobs are available? If you want to work for an American employer, seek out U.S.-based companies that have a strong overseas presence. Smaller but innovative flex-friendly companies typical of the high tech industry are also good bets. Or, track down the local English language newspaper on-line and peruse their employment section.
4)What kind of contacts do you have? No international connections leap to mind? Keep thinking. Doesn’t your uncle have a second cousin in Athens? And didn’t a former coworker’s wife once work for a company with an Argentine affiliate? If you really come up dry, hop on a plane and do the same thing you’d do in any new place – network like crazy!
Do Your Own Thing
Think warm sea breezes, swaying palm trees, white sand and clear blue waters. That’s what Vicki Phelps, a homemaker who had been working part-time in her husband’s software business pictured when she decided to move to the U.S. Virgin Islands to bake cookies.
On their numerous Caribbean vacations, Vicki noticed how few island-themed gift items were actually made locally. Spying an opportunity to relocate herself and her family to paradise, she decided the recipe for success lay in capitalizing on the island’s native fruits and spices. That was the start of The Original Caribbean Cookie Company. An immediate hit with the tourists, Vickie’s husband was soon able to close his business and join her full-time.
Starting your own small business, says Hubbs, is a smart move, especially since in countries like Italy, for instance, it can be all but impossible for a non-European to get a job. That’s what Jules Maidoff did. Bucking the stereotypic image of the struggling artist, Maidoff is living proof that, like Phelps, you can have your cookies and eat them too. Since his humble beginnings as a summer art class instructor to a handful of American students in Tuscany some 25 years ago, Maidoff went on to found Studio Art Center International in the heart of Florence, Italy. Billed as a “school with a view,” SACI’s 100+ students, many with no formal training or even a college degree, are drawn to the school’s wide range of offerings from fresco and lithography to ceramics and art conservation.
If you’re thinking about starting a business overseas Hubbs recommends you connect with that country’s branch of theAmerican Chamber of Commerce. Better yet, get the latest edition of Hubb’s book, Work Abroad: The Complete Guide to Finding a Job Overseas. The book offers a comprehensive guide to all aspects of international work, including work permits, short-term jobs, job listings by profession and region of the world, key employers by country, and starting your own business.
Paradise Without a Passport
Whether you want to move half way around the world or to the other side of the country, the same steps apply. Thankfully, you won’t need to track down local newspapers for employment listings. Thanks to affiliations with local resources from coast-to-coast, CareerBuilder.com lets you search 75+ sites for job openings nationwide. And while you’re at it, check out their new Salary Calculator and Wage Information. In seconds, a city-dwelling web designer torn between relocating to the tropics or the mountains can compare salaries in Honolulu with those in Helena.
Once again, you can always create your own job. Fearing that their stress-filled jobs and long commutes had them “heading for a heart attack,” Dean and Darlene Jacobson transplanted themselves from Philadelphia to Charlottesville, Virginia. Motivated by their love of horses they saw an unfilled niche and decided to tap it. With the help of the free one-to-one counseling they received from two volunteers from the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), the Dean’s now publish the Virginia Horse Journal right from their farm.
Like all major work/life transitions, this one took time. While Dean was getting the publication up and running, Darlene continued to work. When she was finally able to quit and join him, their combined income dropped about $100,000. But Darlene’s not complaining. “Every so often I ask Dean, ‘Are we working or are we having fun?’ and he says, ‘I think we’re working.’”
Testing the Waters
If you’re not ready for a permanent international move, try to short-term stint. A good place to start is Working Abroad, an international networking service for volunteers, workers and travelers. Projects can be short or long term, paid or unpaid, skilled or unskilled depending on your needs, qualifications and interests. You can go black bear tracking in Canada, excavate archaeological sites in France, work as a management trainer and administrator in Ghana, and more.
A creative, low-cost way to try out a new area in the U.S. is to live rent-free by taking care of someone else’s property. The Caretaker Gazette lists caretaking, professional estate management, work exchange and house swapping opportunities in the U.S. and elsewhere.
The number one rule in any real estate search is location, location, location. Apply this same principle to your work life and you may not only find your dream house but the life you’ve been dreaming of as well!
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