It is a well-known fact that networking is an essential element of any successful job search. But there are several reasons why it is even more critical for an international job search.
Every country has a unique combination of economic, social and cultural influences that affect their employment climate. Often these influences can present unique challenges or opportunities not present in other countries or markets.
Understanding these factors can help you effectively position yourself and refine the goals and strategies of your international job search.
Often the only way to access much of this information is through the people operating in those countries and markets. They usually have the greatest insight into the variety of these forces at work and their impact on job opportunities.
Taking the time to build and nurture relationships and so you can get access to this intelligence is extremely important to international job search success.
One of the reasons why networking is so critical to any job search is that up to 75% of jobs are not advertised. The primary way to find out about these jobs is through other people.
Hence the breadth, depth and strength of someone's network will significantly impact the number of opportunities they'd potentially be aware of and/or for which they'd be considered.
The size of this hidden job market can vary from country to country. But in many cases the percentage of jobs never advertised is much higher than 75%. - particularly in emerging markets and more relationship based economies.
Since many people have spent much of their life in the country in which they were born, they've had the opportunity to build and nurture their network since childhood. This could happen through their family, friends, going to school and participating in any number of activities outside work.
Years in the workplace will have provided countless additional opportunities to expand their network and build advocates of which they may not even be aware - that is if they have the history of performance to warrant a recommendation or referral.
Of course it is very possible to build a strong network of relationships in support of one's international job search in their target country via others or their own work, study or outreach overseas.
However it's important to recognize the potentially dramatic differences between the world of opportunities available to you when starting a domestic job search versus when starting an international one.
This is because those differences mean a successful international job search can require significantly more time to build the right network - so schedule accordingly.
Building strong relationships does not happen overnight. They take time. And in a busy professional's, consultant's, or executive's schedule, time can be somewhat scarce.
You simply cannot wait to start building your global network - particularly in your country of choice - until you are looking for a new job. You want to be sure when opportunities arise you have the network to support you in landing them.
Building relationships and rapport with people is generally much more effective in person. In some cultures, it is an essential way to build relationships based in trust. The lack of opportunities for in-person networking due to the lack of being co-located makes prioritizing your networking efforts all the more important. That lack of in-person engagement can mean building connections and trust take even more time.
When possible, scheduling time to visit the country to do some networking "in country" is highly recommended.
Every country and culture has their own networking etiquette and way of doing business. Though there can be many similarities, no two countries are exactly alike in this regard. Even within a country there can be regional differences.
These differences in networking styles can create challenges to building a network in your target country. Even a small cultural faux pas can have a big impact on relationship building. And because you will rarely get direct feedback when you've made these faux pas, you often won't know you are making them.
Hence learning about the networking style and relationship building etiquette in your target country is another essential element to international job search success.
For those considering, or actively involved in, an international job search, the importance of networking cannot be emphasized enough. It's a critical tool for accessing important foreign market intelligence and opportunities in them as well as having the relationships you need to support your candidacy when opportunities arise.
As developing a strong network can take time, it is never too early to start building your network in your country of choice.
About this author...
Megan Fitzgerald is an expat career and personal branding coach, CEO of Career By Choice, and your guide to the world of international careers. With two decades of experience supporting professionals and entrepreneurs in 40+ countries across 6 continents, Megan uses a 360°approach to help expats and international job seekers become highly visible, sought after, and land work abroad. You can read about expat careers at CareerbyChoiceBlog, and also find her on Twitter as @ExpatCoachMegan, on Facebook, and, of course, on LinkedIn.