Career Hotspots for 2014: Part VI – UK, US, Europe

Career Hotspots for 2014: Part VI – UK, US, Europe

Focus on: UK, US, Europe

To explore other international career destinations, click to read parts one, two, three & four of this series. 

Latest research from global talent and remuneration consultancy Mercer indicates international assignments are set to rise this year, with over 70% of organizations expecting to place more of their staff in positions abroad. The United States of America and the United Kingdom emerged as the top destinations in their respective regions in Mercer’s Worldwide Survey of International Assignments Policies and Practices.

Meanwhile, the Global Snapshot project shows companies in major markets are aggressively hiring at professional and managerial levels across the globe. Professionals most sought after are from the following sectors:

  • Manufacturing
  • Shared services
  • Fashion
  • Automotive & aerospace
  • Consumer goods

For assignments ranging from just over one year to almost 5.5 years, this positive hiring trend was found at the highest levels in Malta (82%), Luxembourg (69%), Norway (68%) and Sweden (68%), and was the lowest in Spain (27%). At the same time, recruiting in the UK is expected to rise to 58% in the coming quarter, even as the US registers 60% hiring activity at professional and managerial levels. In order to be considered for one of these vacancies, expatriate candidates need to possess specialized technical skills, meet specific project needs or specific management needs.


The World Bank’s latest EU11 Regular Economic Report has projected gradual recovery in growth. Steady increase in exports and supportive domestic policies helped improve economic prospects for 2014 and have stabilized the situation in the region.

Europe is channelling intelligently-managed immigration to its economic advantage; increasing talent mobility helps their businesses remain competitive in the global marketplace. This is good news for international professionals who are increasingly in demand in the European countries.

With backing from the government(s), European employer mindsets are shifting towards embracing highly-skilled immigrants, helping to enhance the countries’ productivity and competitiveness by improving the quality of their workforce. Several companies offer training and education to interested young workers. This apprenticeship-style training and development, which runs over several years, can be a stepping-stone to permanent employment.

The roles most difficult to fill are for skilled trade workers, engineers and sales representatives. Additionally, employers report that accounting, finance, management and executive positions are increasingly hard to fill. In the Information Technology (IT) sector, application developers are still the most sought-after. The demand for project managers and IT consultants too has risen, with demand for SAP consultants remaining constant.

The latest European Vacancy Monitor shows healthcare is one of the sectors with the greatest potential for job creation in Europe. Ranked in the Top 25 growing professions are: nursing and midwifery professionals, medical and pharmaceutical technicians, and other health associated professionals such as dentists, pharmacists, and physiotherapists.

United Kingdom (UK)

London in particular is an appealing option for foreign employees. This financial capital attracts plenty of international businesses, and almost every multinational company has a branch located here. The 2013 Resourcing and Talent Planning Survey* found management professionals are particularly difficult to recruit.

Based on the role, qualifications may or may not be important. For instance, to work in a general business role, past experience is taken into account rather than qualification via a business degree. Foreign workers who do not require a work permit (EU/EEA or Swiss citizens) will find some great working opportunities in the UK. Expats fluent in more than one foreign language are always in high demand. The demand for multi-linguists is spread across domains – engineers, teachers, local government officials, sales personnel, et al. Despite the demand for fluency in foreign languages, English language ability is a mandate for majority of professional and well-remunerated positions.

If you are not eligible to work in the UK, it may be more difficult to obtain a permit than a job. This, however, is not a roadblock for expats working in senior management, IT and other high-qualification positions. Foreign workers arriving in the UK on an intra-company transfer, or with a ready job offer, will get their work permit sponsored by the employer. It is the individual professional’s responsibility to ascertain that they meet the minimum requirements for working in the United Kingdom.

The Manpower Employment Outlook Survey (MEOS) found that in Q1 2014, for the first time in six years, employers across the UK have reported a positive hiring trend. Over 66% of employers in the UK are experiencing increased competition for talent, up from 20% in 2009. UK’s flexible labour market, with concentrated economic growth in the South-East of the country, has dropped unemployment and produced a competitive job market in recent years.

The Robert Walters Pay and Compensation Guide revealed greater increases in pay and bonuses for marketing, accounts, operations and compliance professionals in 2014. While Finance and Business Services have reported the strongest hiring intentions, industries such as oil and gas are also performing well. Niche professionals in IT, finance and construction will continue to remain in high demand.

Along with full-time, salaried work, you can explore several other options in the UK’s labour market:

  • UK companies often hire temps, and it is quite easy to find such a job. Candidates who qualify can actually earn more money doing temp work rather than working on a fixed contract.
  • Freelance workers specialized in engineering, accounts, electronics and computing are often very well-paid. These contractors also have the option to work from home and enjoy a better work-life balance.
  • Part-time jobs are also commonly available in pubs, restaurants, shops and offices

United States of America (USA)

The prospect of working in the US is attractive because of the sheer possibilities available here. The economic success of the USA is often credited to its human wealth. However, in recent years, the high rate of unemployment and choppy economic conditions made it difficult for an expatriate to bag a job in America.

Now, as the American economy recovers from the deep recession of 2008, the labour market is struggling with skills shortages. Workers who possess skills in mid to senior-level sales, IT and engineering can find rewarding long-term employment opportunities. While finding a job in the USA is not that difficult anymore, similar to the UK, most expats face many hurdles trying to obtain a work visa.

The average workplace in America is highly competitive. A study conducted by the UN found the average American works 250 hours more than a British worker, and 500 more than a German employee, per year. Mobility is an important aspect if you want to get ahead in your career.

Employment in the technology sphere has increased significantly. The struggle to find talented candidates has pushed employers to offer significantly higher salaries. Product management professionals with advanced computer and math degrees enjoy high demand in the mobile application development space. Top sales and marketing professionals with user acquisition experience in the cloud/ SaaS space are also highly sought-after. In the pursuit to retain high-calibre candidates, companies offer large sign-on bonuses, sizeable equity stakes, and various other perks.

While America is deemed the ‘land of opportunity’, decisions are chiefly made at the executive level without much say from the workforce. But this doesn’t deter progression; showing initiative and motivation can fast-track you up the career ladder.

Within the USA, geographical location often influences the way business is done. The East Coast is more conservative and formal in dress code and manners compared to the West Coast of America. The relaxed climate and lifestyle in California reflects on the pace and informality, but the city is no less professional than New York.

Before signing on the dotted line, international workers should discuss the following points with their potential employer in the US:

  • Relocation assistance, either financial or practical support
  • Benefits package offered, including health insurance, pension plan, spending account
  • Sign-on bonus component, which covers the cost of visa application process for foreign employees, is sometime applicable for expats

While working knowledge of English is essential to work in the US, expats seeking jobs in retail, restaurants or teaching foreign languages can turn their multi-linguistic abilities into an advantage.

*conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and Hays


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