Top tips for finding a PR job abroad

About the author

Caitlin Burridge is a communications specialist working in Hong Kong.

Caitlin Burridge
Caitlin Burridge

In January 2020, just as news was breaking of a mysterious virus in China, I moved to Hong Kong. My partner had longed to live in Hong Kong since his university years and I was desperate to experience the big, wide world. After securing a relocation with his company in London, I committed to making the move with him and, together, we boarded our one-way flight from Heathrow, London.

With just over one year under my belt in a Communications role, I was initially anxious about looking for (and finding) a job in a country that speaks a completely different language. Especially with my relatively junior experience.

Despite all my concerns, my hunt was successful, and I was offered a role in December. I consider myself very lucky to have found a job in Hong Kong, especially being so early into my career. However, it didn’t come easily and there was a lot of time and effort spent.

So, I’d like to share my top tips for the job hunt:

  • Spend time polishing your CV and develop a glowing portfolio

These are the biggest reflections of you! Finding a job abroad is hard, so give yourself the best chance possible. Get your family and friends to review; spend time away from it and always go back with a fresh pair of eyes; do not rush it!

  • Don’t expect it to happen overnight

Many, many companies shy away from employing people that require relocation and visas. Consider this and be realistic about it. You may not find a job quickly, and it can be disheartening when you apply for tens of jobs, even hundreds of jobs, and don’t hear back. It’s a tough process and takes work but it’s worth it in the end.

If you are struggling, especially with the fewer jobs currently because of COVID-19, turn that frustration into motivation to invest yourself in whichever way you can to enrich your career experience and strengthen your CV. Take up a course, volunteer your skills for a charity… Just keep active in looking for opportunities!

  • Consider language barriers and requirements

In a country where the local language is Cantonese, you can expect that in many, many communication roles, the language requirements are Cantonese and English. This was disheartening to me and made me question whether I would ever find a job. However, as an international city, I knew there were companies that need native English speakers.

It sounds obvious but do your research before choosing where you’d like to move. Months before we’d committed to moving, I was already looking at job postings to try and understand my chances of finding a job where I didn’t need to speak Cantonese.

On the flip side, you can always take lessons to learn the language!

  • Consider the time difference

In my case, Hong Kong was 8 hours ahead when I was applying and interviewing for jobs, which meant interviews as early as 6am. At one point, I had to start a two-hour test at 5am in the morning! Take this into consideration and be prepared for some long days.

Think about what you need from the job (healthcare, healthcare, healthcare… and maybe dental care).

Moving from the UK, we are used to free healthcare. As a young person, the thought of becoming seriously ill is quite distant in our minds. However, if there’s anything that COVID-19 has taught us, it’s that we may all urgently need healthcare at any given time in our lives.

Public service is different in all countries. Make sure you understand where you may be missing out and make sure to at least ask to be covered by your work in this area. Things can be expensive, and costs add up quickly – especially when it comes to your health, and teeth!

Oh, I do miss the NHS…

  • Visas, visas, visas…

Remember that once you’re offered a job, the process doesn’t stop there. You need to consider employment visas. Depending on the country, this process can be quite brutal so make sure you’re familiar with it – learn it inside out, so you know what you may need to provide or what hoops you need to jump through.

Remember that you’ll need to prove that your skills cannot be found locally in the country you’re applying. Be prepared to develop a business case for your skills and work with your employer on this for the best possible chance.

Consider that it’s not all about your work experience. Your qualifications come in handy too and strengthen any visa application. (Thanks PR Academy for my CIPR Professional PR Certificate!)

Take copies of EVERYTHING – your degree certificates and transcripts, your qualifications, your references… Anything with your name on it!

Prepare to wait quite a while. Especially in COVID-19 times. I was out of work for five months due to delays as a result of the pandemic.

The process is tiring, and it can be stressful. But it’s not impossible. Even in the thick of COVID-19, many people are still moving to work here in Hong Kong. If it’s your goal to work abroad, put the work in, be patient and you’ll one day be in an amazing spot, taking in the fruits of your labour. If you need any help or just want to have a chat, connect with me on LinkedIn. I’d love to help and hear about your next goals!