An international job search is always challenging, and it becomes increasingly hard when you are looking to move to a new country following several years of work elsewhere. It’s not an easy transition when your contacts are on one continent and you are trying to relocate to another, where people may not always appreciate your transferrable skills.
If you are an expat returning to your native country after being away for more than five years, home may now seem especially distant as your friends and former colleagues have moved on with their own careers and lives; as much as social media today connects people virtually, it’s never the same as being physically present, so transitioning back ‘home’ is not that easy.

Go Beyond Job Postings

As an HBS alumnus/ae, you have access to Alumni Career Hub where, at any given time, there are approximately 400-600 active job postings. You also have access to, which has additional job postings for MBA graduates. These are both great ways to identify job openings (and there are certainly others!), but it will likely require a lot more than identifying opportunities and submitting your application to make an international career switch.
You need to dig deeper. Alumni Career Hub has profiles of more than 7000 organizations around the world that have engaged with our office over the past several years. By searching under the “Company Activity/Contacts” tab, you could potentially identify contacts and review notes about organizations you had not known before. Baker Library also has resources for alumni that can help you create a target list of companies through E-Baker.

Strengthen Your Weak Ties

It may have been several years since you’ve had to network for a job so utilize the resources on the Alumni Career & Professional Development site as a guide and refresher. Networking becomes even more critical when you are making an international career transition because, although the people who know you well are generally interested in helping you the most, they generally run in the same circles as you. You need to look beyond these strong connections and utilize weaker ties, the acquaintances that move in different circles than you and your friends.  It’s actually the weaker ties who may be in a better position to connect you to a wider world. Malcolm Gladwell said it best in The Tipping Point, “Acquaintances represent a source of social power, and the more acquaintances you have, the more powerful you are.”

Don’t Get Lost in Translation

You need to help the hiring manager understand how the skills you honed in the foreign country are relevant to the new market by showing that your functional expertise can be transferred and used in the new market. Only highlight the transferrable skills you gained from your experience in the foreign country that will show clear relevance to the new geography.

About the Author

Kurt Piemonte has worked in HBS Career & Professional Development since 2005, helping students and alumni with their international career searches.