How to work overseas as a Singaporean

For many Singapore professionals, working overseas is a personal career goal, and along with opportunities to experience new cities and cultures, gaining international work experience can provide long term career benefits.

Taking the opportunity to work overseas can be both exciting and daunting, and good planning is essential to streamline the process.

There is plenty to organise – from meeting visa requirements and work permits to making contact with overseas employers or recruitment agencies.

So before you start packing your bags and passport, here are four important points to consider before booking your flight.

1. Narrowing down your destination

The global workplace offers a wealth of job opportunities. But when it comes to working overseas, it can pay to select a destination based on what will serve your career best over the long term.

On a practical level, language barriers may impact your choice of destination. Many Singaporeans are multilingual, and as English is commonly spoken, this opens up a broad range of destinations – more so as English is the international language of business. Nevertheless, it always makes sense to consider potential language barriers before you settle on a location.

If you’re keen on using overseas employment to enhance your professional experience, it can be worth focusing on countries where your skills and qualifications will be recognised and put to good use.

Singapore’s universities are highly regarded internationally, and many professional bodies in Singapore have affiliate organisations across the globe, so qualifications you have gained in Singapore will often be valid for work overseas.

Related: How to plan a career change

2. Visa requirements for working overseas

A key aspect of working overseas involves checking the relevant visa requirements and any conditions that Singapore nationals must meet in order to work in a particular country.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides links to the various visa requirements for Singaporeans hoping to work in other countries. Be sure to arrange your visa and work permits well in advance of your planned departure date as these documents can take time to arrange.

3. Understand the financial impact

Working overseas is exciting but don’t overlook the financial realities. Singapore has a high cost of living compared to many countries , so it can be financially lucrative to work overseas. However, this may not always be the case especially if you land a job that doesn’t have the same level of salary or seniority as your role in Singapore.

Some background research can let you know what you’re likely to face in terms of living costs and average wages/salaries while overseas. Pay particular attention to basic expenses like rent, which can be very high in destinations that are popular among expatriate workers.

Unless you have a job lined up before you leave Singapore, it’s a smart move to save a decent pool of savings to tide you over until you secure employment in your destination country.

Related: How to write a career change cover letter

4. Be job ready

Checking job boards in other countries will show you the types of jobs available for professionals in the destination of your choice and highlight any possible gaps in your experience or skill set that could be worth addressing before you leave.

Be sure to pack hard copies of your resume, references and any professional certificates, or scan these documents and save the files to the cloud so you can work on them from anywhere in the world. Remember, even when you’re travelling, it pays to tailor job cover letters to individual roles.

Related: 3 tips to attain the best character and job reference

How to work overseas as a Singaporean

There are a number of ways to achieve your goal of working overseas and it’s worth exploring every avenue.
If you currently work for a multinational company, it can be worth requesting an overseas transfer or secondment.

Or, if your organisation has plans to establish a global footprint, consider putting your name forward to be part of an overseas team. A key advantages here is that the company will often arrange (and pay for) the necessary visas and work permits on your behalf.

Another option is to register with a global recruitment firm. As a global company, Robert Half has over 300 offices across the Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, North America and South American markets. This can help you connect with employers all over the world, and by making contact with an overseas recruitment specialist you will have a better idea of the steps you need to take to secure overseas employment.

Visit our various country websites to see the jobs currently available in other countries:

Working internationally is an experience that can see you develop both personally and professionally, and it is achievable. Just be sure to allow plenty of time to plan your trip, do lots of research – and take along an open mind.

After all, you’ll be dealing with new companies, new cultures and new people. But that’s all part of the thrill of working overseas and it can hold you in good stead when you’re ready to build on your career back in Singapore.