Mobile Developers Seeking International Jobs

For all of the talk about global mobile, it is appropriate to look at considerations for working abroad.  There are lots of jobs out there.  Often enough, they are not local to you.    Are you up to the challenge?   How do you get a foreign job?  What are the pros and cons?

A Challenge for Families.  If you have a family or are deeply attached to your family, working abroad will be very hard for you and your family, too.   Working abroad can be an excellent opportunity for the young and unmarried.   Under the right circumstances, if you can bring your family along (wife/husband and children), it can also be a wonderful experience for everyone.

Language can be (but is not always) a major hurdle to cross.    If your place of work conducts business in your language, it may not be an issue – depends upon the job description and responsibilities.  If you are already fluent in two or more languages, you are in great shape.   Otherwise, unless you are very creative or can afford a full time interpreter, your opportunities will be much more limited.  Even so, that does not exclude possibilities – it just makes them harder to find, or create.

Visas, Immigration and Work Permits - can be massive hurdles, but here you need to do your research.  It is all on a per country basis – relative to your country and citizenship.   The best way to go about this is to develop a short list of the places you would want to go based upon the places you can go with little to no restriction.  Typically, any employer will be able to help you with a work permit.   Check with your embassy and follow-up with  embassies of the countries that make your short list.

Research - Overall, your research will have the greatest impact on what you decide to do and where you decide to go.  You will want to evaluate your destination based upon its standards of living, costs of living, purchasing power parity, access to essential services, political-social-economic stability, crime levels, tolerance for foreigners, climate, and whether there are other expatriates from your country living there.  You also must assess your tolerance for risk along with your own tendencies for self-reliance and ingenuity.

A study of purchasing power parity also goes a long way.   For someone living in Ukraine making, for example, $15-18k per year (well above the national average), to hear that the same job in the United States pays $28 -30k a year — makes it sound, on a surface level, that one should move to the United States.  While a lot of variables are involved, that $15-18k per year in Ukraine can be (and probably is) worth more than that $30k in the United States.

Get Specific – When looking to move to a different country, each region, each city and even county or district can vary quite substantially across any number of factors.  You might consider employment laws on a state by state basis, minimum wage laws, prices of gasoline, etc.  All of these factors and many more should be included in your evaluations and decisions.

Taxes – Not only can wages and cost of living vary from one city to the next, but so can taxes.   As somewhat of an extreme example, if you decided to live in southern Maine and work in Boston Massachusetts (a 1 hour drive), you would pay a state income tax in both states, in addition to US federal taxes, social security, and sales taxes, and get hit by toll booths coming and going to work each day.  There are people who do just that.

Research whether your country provides tax exemption on your foreign earned income.   For Americans, the IRS provides a foreign earned income exemption that is almost twice the average US salary provided you stay outside the United States for more than 330 days during a 1 year period (reference IRS Form 2555).

Your Short List - My recommendation is to develop a short list of countries that you find attractive considering all of the factors above – the top 3 or 5 countries where you would most like to go based upon where you can go “easiest”.   But, if you can validate why another country that may have more stringent visa and work permit policies should be on that list, include it, too.

You can use this list to focus further research and particularly to try to talk to expats from your country living there to validate your research.  This is absolutely critical.  We’re not talking about people who have gone on vacation someplace, but who have lived there on a long-term basis.   You need to verify whether the “grass is actually greener on the other side of the fence” and not merely AstroTurf.

How do you get a foreign job?

Research.  Yes, again, more research.   Once you have a short list of prospective destination countries, it is much easier to home in on opportunities that fit what you have to offer.  This lets you do conventional job searches, connect with recruiters, and potentially identify specific companies that you should approach first.

You can approach companies even if they do not have job openings corresponding to what you have to offer.   If you can show key decision makers in a company that they can make money by hiring you – at least some of them will want to hear more.  Don’t expect all companies to welcome unsolicited applications.  Social networking coupled with introductions from respected professionals who can validate your capabilities will go a long way.

Consider the law of supply and demand on language.  Odds are you won’t get a job in a different country with different language/s based upon your ability in that language.  What you do offer is the ability for a company to do business in your language.   So, if you are willing to relocate – you are able to put a lot on the table, by virtue of language and mobile app development skill alone – localization, networking, web site development, and helping with marketing materials.  You can radically expand your own functionality if you don’t pigeonhole your abilities strictly to app development.

Pros & Cons to International Jobs

Listing just the main ones that come to mind:

The Pros

  • Potential for far better pay OR purchasing power
  • Excellent opportunities to learn new skills
  • All around learning experience – social and cultural, history and economics
  • Meeting people, expanding and diversifying long-term career and social relationships
  • Inherently increases your self-confidence and willingness to consider new adventures

The Cons

  • Away from family and friends
  • Always a slightly higher measure of risk simply for being a non-native environment
  • Having to navigate bureaucracy and red-tape on visas and work permits
  • Fewer social-entertainment venues in your native language

Concluding Notes

While it is possible to go on at length, I believe this covers most of the important stuff.   Resumes, cover letters, interviews and the like are individual topics unto themselves.  Moving from one country to another should not be a quick decision or based upon hearsay… and definitely not based upon what you see on television.

In my own case, though from Tacoma, Washington, I lived throughout the United States – South Carolina, Texas, New Hampshire, and Kentucky.   I provided logistical support in Iraq for 16 months from 2004-2005 and came to see the world in a completely and totally different light.   My personal circumstances were such that I decided to use my spare time there to decide, “If I could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?”

If  you can make it there, you can make it anywhere…

And no, I didn’t choose New York.  I chose Odessa.  No… not Texas.  Ukraine.


Project Manager at the Opera Mobile Store providing Sales-Marketing support. Content development and research.

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