By Larry McCrary, Executive Director, from his soon-to-be-released book, The Marketspace: Essential Relationships Between the Sending Church, Marketplace Worker, and Missionary Team
It is not only important that a person find a legitimate reason to serve overseas, but he or she also has to find a way to stay there — a sustainable way for the amount of time he or she will be living abroad.
But this is not just for the potential worker. The church also needs to be involved, because its members are the ones who will shepherd and equip the worker in the best way possible. Who could assess the potential of a person better than the church?
The missions organization and the missionary also need to be involved. It is equally important for the church to send well and the missionary team to receive well, bringing these workers into community and strategic involvement as team members.
At this point, if you are dreaming of working overseas, you’re probably asking, “What is the best pathway for me?” It is a question I often receive from people in the church interested in going overseas to live intentionally. There are multiple pathways to being salt and light in a cross-cultural context.
How do I find a job? Where should I look? We have learned a few things over the last four years regarding landing that job. If you’re currently job searching, this may be just what you need. If you are in the position to help people explore this pathway to missions and they are looking for a job, please pass this along. It can be very helpful in finding work overseas. How can we as pastors, missionaries, or professors help our students prepare for this type of work?
These are some things you should consider:
1 | Choose your major
If you are wanting to work abroad, your university years are a great time to start preparing. Do some research on the job market over- seas. Look into various sectors that interest you and talk to expats on the ground. From there, you can make a wise and informed choice for your major.
For example, some useful areas of study include:
Information Technology (IT)
Adding a strategic minor, such as foreign language or business, can also open doors and improve your chances. Internships and semesters abroad should be considered as well.
2 | Learn another language
Ask anyone in human resources, and they’ll tell you that North Americans looking to work abroad have a great advantage: they are native English speakers. But they’ll also tell you that you should speak at least one other language well. Depending on the region that interests you, this could be a major business language such as Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, or French.
3 | Experience life abroad
Study abroad programs abound, and they vary widely in destination, focus, duration, and cost. Make an appointment with your college/university study abroad advisor, or look into an independent program or language school. If the option exists, consider staying with a host family to maximize the international experience and get first-hand exposure to the language, culture, and values of the country. This kind of experience can really boost your résumé, even if you are applying for a job in another region of the world than your study abroad experience.
4 | Do an internship overseas
It’s true that you may not find a paying internship opportunity, but if at all possible, find a way to dip your toes in the international job market. It will probably take some networking, and maybe even some waiting tables to pay the bills, but an internship abroad will pay off by showing future employers that you are motivated and experienced.
Although it may seem easier (and it probably is) to get an internship in your current city, consider looking for one overseas. Working as an intern in another country will open you up to countless experiences, one of them being that you may be offered a job. At the very least, you will be well-networked to know how to find a job in that country, and who is hiring. Because you will have already worked in that environment, people will be much more likely to consider you, even though you are a foreigner. They will see that you are not just some outsider, but someone who has spent time and energy in their country or place of business.
5 | Ask, and be flexible
If you work for a multinational company, or are interviewing with one, ask their human resources department about possible job openings overseas. By proactively asking and showing your interest, you’ll stand out! Here’s a tip from a VP in a large company: when the HR representative asks where you are willing to go, be willing to go anywhere! The kind of people they want to hire for overseas jobs are exible and adaptable.