Working overseas

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You've been in the mining industry for a few years and think it might be time to spread your wings and gain some overseas experience. What to do next? Well, Cowan International is a Canadian-based firm that's been in the international recruitment business for more than 50 years. Here's some great suggestions from one of Cowan's senior recruiters Michelle Walsh, who's spent more than a decade helping expats find work around the world...  

Q: An Aussie miner decides 'I want to work overseas'. What's the next step? 

A: Talk it over with friends or colleagues who have previous experience in working overseas. Then make sure you are aware of the current Australian tax laws for overseas employment. If you're still convinced, speak with your spouse and get their agreement on this possible lifestyle change. And finally, research websites that feature overseas mining jobs like SEEK or Cowan International.

Q: Should Aussies reach a certain management/professional level before even considering work overseas?  

A: A minimum of three to five years' work experience should be gained in your field before you apply for an overseas job. This gives the employer comfort that you are proficient in your specialty before they commit to the extra time and cost of relocating you. 

Q: What are the most in-demand mining jobs overseas? Does it differ depending on the country?  

A: Most in-demand mining jobs currently are in exploration (and production geology) and mine engineering. Almost every mining operation (regardless of country) requires these positions to be filled and rarely can enough talent be found from the local population. 

Q: What do you look for on a CV?  

A: Stability in one's career. Not jumping around. A degree in one's specialty followed by a career progression that makes sense. 

Q: What don’t you want to see on a CV? 

A: Hobbies that include "gardening + whiskey drinking" or "underwater combat training". Photos are also not necessary. 

Q: Do you encourage people to learn at least a bit of the local language before starting in a particular country? 

A: It's a great idea and buys you a lot of goodwill with locals when you try to speak their language. 

Q: Are some people better suited to overseas work than others (ie personality traits/cultural sensitivities)? 

A: Patience is the quality we look for most often. Working overseas often requires a training or mentoring component that transfers knowledge to local workers. If you aren't patient or don't want that responsibility, you should be clear that you are there to get the job done but not interested in the additional responsibilities. It might still work out for some employers/locations. 

Q: What if the miner has a family in tow? Are companies general happy to relocate entire families these days or is it the family’s responsibility?  

A: Almost any company that hires an employee with a family will have staff responsible for logistics and relocation. Although family residential locations are becoming more and more rare, those companies will still take care of the many details that are required to get everyone resettled including medical considerations and schooling. 

Q: Is FIFO (fly-in, fly-out) an option out of Australia to some countries? 

A: Absolutely. Australians are known for their mining expertise and their hardiness in remote locations.   

Q: What are the most common problems that people face in the first few months?  

A: Adjusting to the new location will have plenty of ups and downs. Electrical blackouts or technology issues often frustrate expatriates, but as long as you realize that everyday conveniences will not be the same as back home, then you are on the right track to adjustment.   

Q: Anything else Aussies should be considering?  

A: Health. Take care of any major health or dental issues before you travel. Also verify that you have the proper vaccinations or preventative medicines (ie anti-malarials) for the destination where you are headed. 

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