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Why startups are good for expats

Why startups are good for expats

So, you’re planning to move to another country. How exciting! A new culture, different food, different weather, a new language…the list goes on. But what are you going to do for work? Most people who are going to live abroad for a while, when asked, just say that they’ll work in a bar or coffee shop, or teach a language to get by. These are great professions, especially as a new expat, but it’s not as easy as it may seem. These jobs are often oversubscribed by other people like you, and to be a teacher of any kind, even to teach your native language, can require you to have a qualification.

Startups, on the other hand, are great places for an expat to work. Here’s why:

The startup industry is hot right now

In Berlin alone, there are over 700 startups, and that’s only just in the top 10 cities for startups. In London, the number of new startups increased by 21% from 2014 to 2015. In Amsterdam, there are over 850 startups, with approximately 6000 investors and several hundred open job positions. In most big European cities, you’ll find a sizable startup and, often, plenty of jobs available in the sector, depending on your skills of course. Have a look at some vacancies in Europe here.

Startups value passion over experience/qualifications

Most startups tend to value ‘softer’ virtues such as determination and ambition, over ‘harder’, technical skills. Of course, certain roles, such as engineering, require particular skills that aren’t so transferable; but on the whole, startups are great for people looking to make a career change or graduates fresh out of university. You’ll often find that people working in startups studied very different subjects to what their job is. If a startup likes you for who you are (i.e. the virtues you possess), they’ll likely hire you even if certain skills are lacking.

You’ll learn, and then some

Unlike most traditional jobs, in a startup, it’s unlikely that you’ll be confined to a particular task or department. This may seem rather strange and disorganised, but it’s great for your learning and development, in both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills. You’ll learn the particular skills from each department, for example, some coding from the engineers, some marketing from the marketers, and some overall strategy from the founders/CEO; as well as skills like time management, organisation, and adaptability. Startups love having and creating ‘full-stack’ employees, that is, someone who can pretty much ‘do it all’.

English is usually the lingua franca

Startups can be ideal for an English speaker moving to a non-English speaking country. Where such a person may struggle to find work in a more traditional setting, startups often have their primary business language as English. Even if they only work domestically, having English proficiency is often described, if not essential for startups.

Multi-lingual? Prepare to be multi-valued

Despite what we’ve just said about speaking English, if you can speak more than one language, then you’re even more valuable (as with most professions all over the world). Multi-linguists are sought after in departments from sales and customer service to marketing and PR. If your language skills are strong enough, you could even find work as a translator for slightly larger startups.

You’ll make a difference

Promotion and progression can happen much more quickly in startups than in traditional businesses. The typically more fluid and ‘flat’ structure of startups mean that you can’t get lost in the bureaucracy, waiting for years to be recognised. Startups require you to ‘get stuck in’ from day one, and the learning curve is very steep. Responsibility and project ownership is much higher in startups, meaning you have more impact on the actual day-to-day business, so your work is noticed more, meaning promotions can come around much more quickly. In some ways, it’s a very effective example of a meritocracy at work.

Every day is different

Speaking of difference, the fast-paced and almost impulsive nature of startups means it’s unlikely that you will have a ‘day-to-day’ routine. Things are often very ad hoc and your tasks, colleagues, and even job title can change from one day to the next. This way of working may put you under a lot of pressure, but it can be incredibly exciting and means you’ll be far from bored. If you can make it here, you’ll make it anywhere.

You’ll meet interesting people

It’s akin to university in that you’ll meet so many interesting people from all over the world and all walks of life. Also, many of your colleagues will also be expats, so they’ll be in a similar situation to you and likely open to new friendships. Startups inherently help cultivate this because they actively promote a culture of openness and a ‘family feel’, with things like company socials, language classes, etc. Startups, like universities, have their own network amongst each other, with regular networking events and even competitions, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to meet new people.

So, there you have it. We hope we’ve opened your eyes to a new possibility – you don’t have to be confined to coffee shops or classrooms as an expat. Startups can offer a very immersive experience in your new culture, while also helping you actively progress in your career too, should you wish to return home after a while. If you’d like to discuss the currency side of things, book a slot with one of our experts.


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