How to advance your international career

How to advance your international career

Working abroad can bring many challenges, but it is also a great way to develop yourself. It broadens your horizons, teaches you about yourself, and makes you more attractive to a potential employer.

Here is a list of ideas to consider in order to give your career a big push:

Develop yourself

I believe that whatever you want to achieve in life starts with self-exploration.

Invest in yourself

You are your own best asset. So invest in it. Money is obviously the first thing we think about when we talk about investing, but time and positive energy are equally important. You can go to a fancy training session, but if you don't put your time and focus into implementing what it taught you into your life, the money you spent is wasted.

An additional tip that I keep telling my clients is: “Invest in your strengths, not in your weaknesses.” It is easier to apply this to people who have their own business, as often the company culture is to send people for training sessions in something that they are not that good at.

A great book on this topic, “Strengths Finder 2.0” written by Tom Rath, states it clearly; forget your weaknesses and focus on your top five strengths, only this way you can achieve greatness.

Know yourself

Become your own best friend and learn as much as you can about yourself. What is important to you in life and in your career? What are your talents? What makes you unique? What do you really care about? Once you know that, it will be much easier to make big decisions like moving abroad or changing your career.

Take care of yourself

As mentioned before, you are your own best asset. Do you act accordingly? Imagine you own the car of your dreams. How would you take care of it? You would make sure that it shines, the tank is full, the check-ups are done and you would definitely not drive with the control functions lighting up. Do you take care of yourself with the same level of attention? I know I often don’t, but as they often say, “We teach best what we need most ourselves”.

Often, I have to remind myself that my body is my vehicle, and I MUST treat it with love; otherwise, I will not get very far.

Build your personal brand

The times when brands were only for products and companies are over. Do you want people to hire you, see you as an expert, want to meet you and talk to you? Be(come) interesting!

Invest in building your own powerhouse, your personal brand. Again, know yourself and build consciously on that. Be consistent and spread your message online in places where your potential clients and employers virtually live (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter etc.).

If you are employed, don’t think that this doesn’t apply to you, because it does. Not many people who are employed are working on their brand, so this is your chance to stand out. Start your own blog, post on LinkedIn, share content that is relevant for your audience.

Develop your network

Your career will be as great as the people who support you and promote you.

Know your supporters 

I moved to the Netherlands some 14 years ago. Looking back now, I realise this move was mainly made possible by my two bosses back in Poland who supported me and told the big chiefs in the Netherlands about me. I could have been a great expert, but without their support I wouldn’t get far.

But how did I make that happen? How did I convince them to support me? The answer is simple. By helping them. By making their lives easier, meaning doing my job not 100% but 2000%. I often made long hours, continuing work when they had gone home. I was young and ambitious, so I didn’t really mind. My work made them sleep peacefully; they knew that they could rely on me.

At the time, I didn’t have a clue, but later on I found out that one of the best influencing principles, according to Dr. Robert Cialdini, is reciprocity: “You do something for me, I do something for you.”

So, who is out there for you? Who supports you? Build strong relationships with these people, and, remember, always be the first in these relationships to offer value!

Know your gatekeepers

You know the saying: “Keep your friends close, but your enemies even closer”? Who stands in front of the door to your dream or to your success? So, who are the gatekeepers?

Do you remember the last time you went to a fancy club? Do you remember the bouncers standing in front of the door and checking if you were on the guest list, then checking whether you were wearing the right shoes, jacket, tie, dress etc.?

Think about who is keeping the doors closed for you. Is it a recruiter, hiring manager, or your boss?

When I wanted to change my career and start coaching studies, I had an interview with the school admission board. The programme was in Dutch (a language I had just learned), my background was not in social studies, nor did my experience match the profile of the programme. I had a couple of meetings with them to convince them that it was something I really wanted to do.

What’s the best advise here? Anticipate and start early enough to identify who your gatekeepers are and start building relationships with them. It will take time and effort, but it is worth it. Also, make sure to use the help of your supporters / promoters.

Know your direction

Is your career driven by a country, specific job or perhaps love (like in my case)? My primary motivation to move to the Netherlands was to be with my boyfriend, the career followed. But I also know that some of my clients really wanted to move to a specific country because it was their dream or they simply wanted to have more sun in their life and enjoy an outdoor lifestyle.

Other clients were driven by job opportunities and moved abroad purely for the position. What is it in your case? What is really important to you? What type of lifestyle do you want to have? Are you happy with where you are (country and job wise)?

What do you think is the best way to keep your international career moving? Share in the comments below!

Dorota Klop-Sowinska


Dorota Klop-Sowinska

Official Member of Forbes Coaches Council. I specialize in international career and expat coaching. I am the author of the book Career Jump! How to Successfully Change Your Professional Path...

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Leave a comment

José Plata 07:27 | 7 July 2018

This is the best article I’ve seen in this blog/page. Thanks and congratulations

DoSoCoach 09:46 | 7 July 2018

Thanks a lot José!!! Very glad to hear that. What did you like the most about this article? What was most useful?

iliana 20:08 | 13 July 2018

One of these great articles that I like to keep and reread every now and then...because we forget things especially when life overwhelms us. For me personally the last ‘Know’’ is the key - direction gives me clarity and structure. thanks for writing, Dorota, and sharing some personal bits.