There are few topics as emotionally wrought and polarizing to South Africans as the one of emigration. South Africa has a deeply complicated political history that has over the years seem to grow more troubling the further it gets from the end of apartheid. Unfortunately, South Africans understand all too well that they aren’t afforded the same luxuries as their “first world” peers when it comes to job hunting.
With constant, grinding unemployment, the precariousness of the economy and the awful reality of a corrupt elite enriching themselves at the expense of everyone else, being gainfully employed in South Africa can feel like swimming upstream. Economists are alarmed at the rate at which investment is being sucked out of the country and how quickly corporate interest is dwindling.
It isn’t a pretty picture, and if you’ve borne witness to family or friends emigrating, it may have crossed your mind to do the same. Every choice we make affects our career in the long term, and no career choice can have a greater impact than that of emigrating. But before you make the difficult choice of taking your skills abroad and building a career in another country, consider the following.
Be very honest with your priorities
Everyone knows of someone who emigrated… and came back. On paper, a choice may seem perfect, but in reality it all falls apart. It can be difficult to judge ahead of time what your priorities are and what you could compromise on, but the first step to emigration is an honest appraisal of what you really want – in the long term.
How important is it to be with your friends and family? How important is safety? Access to good education? Arts and culture? Weather? If you had to choose the single most important factor, what would it be? These can be tricky questions, but it helps to focus your mind on whether a big move would realistically fulfil you.
Be very honest about what you have to offer
The other side, of course, is what you have to offer another country. Take a long hard look at your work history and education. Do a little research to see what your chances are of earning a job offer abroad, of applying for a skills programme or being sponsored. If your prospects aren’t good, it might be a good time to consider how you might enrich yourself – can you take a course, become accredited by an international body or otherwise enhance your hireability?
Make a rational decision, not an emotional one
Is the decision to leave the country you were born in an emotional one? Of course. But deciding to leave out of spite, fear or any other strong emotion is a recipe for disaster. Just like another career move, emigrating should be done with a level head, sober goals and a clear idea of what you want. If you feel conflicted, it might be worthwhile to consult with an emigration agent.
Though emigration is a thorny topic, it nevertheless is a valid possibility for people with certain skills. Emigration is expensive, emotionally draining and whether it works out for the best or isn’t what you hoped for, it will end up changing your life forever. If you feel like you’ve hit a wall, like you’re missing out on opportunities to grow or whether you’re pessimistic about the South African political and economic environment, emigration can be one of the smartest choices you make. Just be sure to do your homework and make the smart choice.