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How to tap into growing overseas job market

By Mark Tutton, CNN
Asian economies are recovering faster than Europe and the U.S.
Asian economies are recovering faster than Europe and the U.S.
  • Adventurous workers can take advantage of healthier job markets overseas
  • Work permit and visa regulations are the main barriers to working abroad
  • Immigration offices and embassies can help identify skills shortages in different countries
  • Companies increasingly want international employees to be adaptable to different cultures

London, England (CNN) -- Adventurous job seekers may have their sight sets on more favorable job markets in foreign countries, but there's more to working abroad than just buying a plane ticket to the nearest country with a growing economy.

While Europe and the U.S. are still facing high unemployment and a sluggish exit from recession, other parts of the world are fast emerging from the economic crisis.

The IMF's World Economic Outlook report for October identifies East Asian and South Asian economies as leading the way out of recession and in this era of globalization, forward-thinking workers may want to tap into overseas job markets.

But working abroad isn't without its difficulties, and the first obstacle is getting a work permit.

Mary Anne Thompson, president of Going Global, and author of international career guides told CNN, "Work permit and visa regulations are the number one barrier to working overseas, but they are fairly generic around the world.

"In order to apply for a work permit or visa on your behalf, most employers have to prove there's no one in that country with the credentials to do the job, and show that they advertised the job and no locals applied for it."

To boost your chances of getting a permit, Thompson says you need to identify the skills that set you apart from the local workforce.

Working Overseas
Which countries have the best opportunities?

"Australia has come out of this better than most and still has a shortage of IT workers," says Mary Anne Thompson of Going Global.

"China is doing well because it's thrown more money at coming out of the crisis than anyone else. Hong Kong and Brazil are also looking pretty good."

Which skills are in demand?

"Most countries have some sort of a stimulus package and money going to the same place in every country -- green jobs and infrastructure," says Thompson.

"Wind and water energy are hot areas. Anything to do with energy savings will be looking good for decades."

"You need to think about what you bring to the table that a local doesn't," she said.

"Is it an international education? The fact that you worked for a multinational company in different countries? It's up to you to build that business case for your employer."

Thompson says some countries' immigration offices can provide information on skills shortages in that country. Checking out job Web sites in your target country can also help you identify in-demand skills, and your home country's foreign embassies can also be a valuable source of information.

An established way of overcoming work permit restrictions is to apply for a job with an international company in your home country and wait for an overseas position to come up. But the era of long-term foreign postings may be coming to an end, according Jean Marc Hachey, author of the "Big Guide to Living and Working Overseas."

These days, much of a company's international work can be carried out without employees having to go overseas. Hachey says remote working technologies such as video conferencing have reduced the need for business travel, and if employees do need to work abroad, it's usually for a short stint.

That means global companies are increasingly looking for adaptable employees who can show they are able to work for short periods in a variety of countries and work cultures.

"No longer are businesses simply looking for the Asia specialist or the Latin America specialist," Hachey told CNN.

"What they are especially interested in is that you can demonstrate that you have crossed over various cultures at various times, and you have a set of skills that mean you can quickly be up and running in new cultures."

He says almost all employers want their international workers to have previous overseas experience, but the good news is that you can demonstrate that experience simply by having studied, interned, or learned a language abroad.

"If you can demonstrate to future employers that you understand international work environments, that you can function in a culture other than your own, away from the support units and friends, then you have the prerequisites for working abroad," he said.

If you're not sure whether you're ready to work overseas, it may be that the best thing to do is just take plunge. Volunteering or interning for a business in another country can be a way to show off your skills and, crucially, see whether you like the reality of living there.

Thompson told CNN, "The number one way to find a job is by networking and personal contacts. Nothing beats buying a plane ticket, going to a country and doing an actual job search."