Tips for Securing a Job Abroad – Gabriella Jibunoh

Imagine scrolling through LinkedIn, and discovering that one of your classmates is now working in Canada as a legal advisor. If you have ever wondered how they could get a job abroad, this article is for you. 

I have set out below some tips and tricks that could help you get a job outside your home country. 

1.      Research! Research! Research!

It is important to check if there is a healthy job market within your respective industry in the country of your choice. 

Try to find out sectors/countries that easily accept international lawyers and the kind of opportunities that may be available.  You could also try targeting smaller companies, less competitive cities, or countries that attract international talent like the U.A.E. It is also important to look out for companies or firms that have business activities in Africa because they may be keen to hire African- trained lawyers. Most companies set up their African headquarters in the Middle East or the UK. 

Another way to find out popular industries is to look through LinkedIn profiles of lawyers who were educated in your home country and currently have international roles. You can research the sectors they are working in and see if you could be interested in them. Popular sectors for international legal opportunities include energy, alternative dispute resolution, technology, maritime, data privacy, and regulatory compliance. 

2.      Pay attention to visa processes and immigration policies 

Before you start applying for international jobs, it’s important that you understand the employment visa process. It is important to tailor your job search to countries or industries that have immigration-friendly policies or countries where employers are more likely to sponsor your visa, if your application is successful. 

3.      Write articles on topical issues

Writing short articles, blog posts on topical issues in your sector of interest, or co-authoring articles with well-known lawyers is a good way to attract international opportunities. You can publish the articles on LinkedIn, Substack, or Medium. You can get article ideas from monitoring google alerts or reading articles. Try to write the articles in simple language that is generally easy to understand. 

If you would like to relocate through the academic route, try to also submit articles to relevant journals in your industry. If you do not have a graduate degree yet, these articles serve as writing samples and could be an important part of your graduate application process. 

4.      Get a second legal qualification

It is not mandatory but having a legal qualification from the US, UK or a common law country could increase your chances of securing a job abroad. Before getting a second qualification, ensure that it is relevant for the country or sector that you are applying to. If you are still in your early career years, you could target firms that have training contracts for international applicants. 

5.      Consider alternative career paths 

It is very common for international/foreign qualified lawyers to work as paralegal/legal assistant/professional support lawyer before they become qualified to practice in that country. Lawyers can also apply to procurement roles, management trainee programs, compliance roles, human resources, or management consulting roles. 

6.      Reach out to others (the right way)

Your personal and professional network can yield great opportunities. Does anyone who went to your school, work internationally?  Is there someone you have worked with that has a job in your target city? Any connection you have can help you get your foot in the door and start a conversation. 

Sending messages to people you don’t know yet (cold emailing) can be quite beneficial. When sending cold emails, try to keep the message short, personalise the emails, and avoid asking questions that you can find on Google or LinkedIn profile of your prospect. Leaving meaningful comments on an article or post made by your prospect is a good way to build relationships and enhance your chances of getting your email read by your prospect. 

7.      Attend conferences & fellowships and join international associations. 

Applying for relevant conferences and fellowships allows you to expand your network. I actually got an opportunity to apply for my first job in Dubai by attending a popular conference/industry event in the energy sector. You can find such opportunities on websites like www.opportunitiesforafrica.com.

8.      Set up news alerts 

If you would like to work abroad, try setting up news alerts like google alerts on specific issues in your sector of interest. Sharing your opinion on some of these issues on Twitter helps you to interact with more people and positions you as an authority in that sector. 

9.      Tweak your resume and expand your interests

Get an experienced person to review your resume and tweak your resume to the role you are applying for. You can consider taking up more volunteering and leadership opportunities because these are attractive to international recruiters. Try to also develop interests outside of work as these could help you navigate through interviews and could present you as a well-rounded person. I spent over 20 minutes discussing a popular soap opera with a potential employer. The interview process was very seamless and I ended up getting the offer.

10.      Apply for a Graduate Degree 

One way to enter the international job market is by applying for a graduate degree in the country you are targeting. Some countries have graduate route visas that could allow students to apply for jobs after studies. For example, the UK graduate route visa will open applications from 1 July 2021. Get In Educational Consulting and Legally Engaged have resources that will help you make successful graduate degree applications.   

If you’re ready to start a legal career abroad, I hope these tips would help you land the international job of your dreams.

Gabriella Jibunoh is a Legal Counsel at ENGIE (UK & Ireland). She is a corporate, energy and projects lawyer with experience advising on traditional and renewable energy projects, facility management services, cross-border mergers and acquisitions, project finance and corporate transactions across Africa, Middle East, GCC, and South Asia. She is a law graduate of the University of Nigeria and was called to the bar in 2014. 

She is passionate about providing lawyers and students with the guidance required to launch a successful legal career. She is currently a Legal Counsel at ENGIE, UK & Ireland.

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