Career > Working > How to Find a Job in South Africa – Tips for Expats

How to Find a Job in South Africa – Tips for Expats

Are you looking to find a job in South Africa? These tips for expats who haven’t yet moved overseas are based on my experience working in Kenya, Africa for three years.

how to find a job in south africaThe Big Guide to Living And Working Overseas: 3,045 Career Building Resources by Jean-Marc Hachey has the largest available list of US NGOs (with more than 400) and more than 300 US private sector firms that regularly hire for international positions. These organizations are indexed in the book and their carefully written profiles are located on the CD-ROM. The Big Guide to Living and Working Overseas also offers professional career building advice and un-paralleled expertise on international job hunting, writing resumes for overseas work, and information about the transitions you’ll encounter when living overseas. No publication does international careers better than this guide.

This post is inspired by a reader’s comment. “I’d really like to go to help people, whether it be teaching related or medical aid related, I’d like to offer my services,” said Jeremy on Best Jobs for Introverts and People Who Like to Be Alone. “I just graduated from high school. My girlfriend and I have been talking about it for about a year now, and I think it would serve us well to go out of our comfort zone and see what life is like across the world.” He wants to find himself, and says he’ can’t do that while surrounded by first world problems.

Tips for People Who Want to be Ex Pats

If finding a job overseas is your passion, I’m thrilled for you! I never felt more alive and excited about life than when I lived in Africa. My only regret about living and working in Africa is that I was afraid a lot of the time. I was never, ever under a direct threat of any kind of attack or violence, but I was unsettled and uncomfortable about being so far from Canada. That’s one of the most difficult parts of being an expat: living in a whole different world.

Africa is a long way away (geographically, culturally, socially, economically, spiritually, professionally), and I was out of my comfort zone for the whole time. I didn’t trust God or lean on my faith nearly as much as I should have – or as I would have if I was working overseas today.

Keep working towards your dream

If you want to find a job in South Africa, you need to have big dreams and lots of faith. Faith in God, faith in yourself, and faith that the world is NOT a dangerous place. Sure, bad things happen. Yesterday there was a break-and-enter in my neighborhood, and the woman who was attacked is traumatized. Bad and scary things happen everywhere, and should not stop you from trying to find a job in South Africa.

In How to Find Your Dream Job – 5 Simple Steps, I share general tips for people who don’t know what their dream job is yet, but who know they want to live and find a job abroad. People like me! These tips in this article are specifically for finding a job in South Africa. I traveled through Durban, Johannesburg, Cape Town, and other parts of South Africa – as well as Swaziland and Soweto. But, I didn’t actually live and work in South Africa…so if you have any tips on how to find a job and a place to live in South Africa, please share below.

How to Find a Job in South Africa

Here’s my reader’s specific question: How much money should I take with me, to live on while I figure out how to find a job overseas? Also, what are the names of organizations that I can join and help the people?

How much money do you need to travel to South Africa?

finding a job in south africa for expats

“How to Find a Job in South Africa” image by Diriye Amey via flickr

It depends where you live, how expensive your tastes are, what type of food you like to eat, and how money and travel savvy you are. I could live on a few dollars a day in South Africa, but you might need to spend $50 a day. I’m accustomed to living cheaply – I stay in youth hostels or cheap hotels, and I make my own meals after shopping at the grocery store. How much money you need really depends on your lifestyle.

To find out how much money you need to live in South Africa, start looking for accommodations. Stay in a youth hostel for a month. Meet the locals, and visit the American embassy. South Africa is open minded and quite modern – depending on where you live. Cape Town is beautiful, and safer than Pretoria and Jo’burg (although this is debated by many people and expats). It also depends on where in the city you live – I lived in a very safe part of an African city. But crime happens everywhere, right? And there are periods of unrest in different parts of South Africa, depending on the political and economic climate.

Watch the news – but talk to South Africans who actually live there. My family lives in Jerusalem, Israel. I’ve been three four or five times, and never had a problem with violence. But if you watch the news, you have a totally different perspective about Israel! What you see on the news is not 100% representative of what is happening in that country. To get a balanced perspective of what working overseas is like, do NOT rely on the news. If you want to know how to find a job in South Africa, you need to think like a South African.

Learn about finding a job in South Africa as an American

Visit the South African government’s website to find out about travel and work visas. Can you just go and get a job in South Africa – especially as an American? I don’t know. It’s important to look into this before you go. But, don’t let it stop you from traveling to Cape Town! You can always look for a job that pays cash, and spend a few months visiting the country of your dreams.

Visit blogs and forums for job seekers in South Africa

job finding South Africa expats

“Tips for Expats Finding a Job in South Africa” image by OneLifeOnEarth via Flickr

Find blogs and forums for people who live and work where you want to go, and ask them for tips for working overseas. This is the best way to find a job in South Africa, and to learn the inside scoop about a particular city or neighborhood. To find the right blogs and forums, do an internet search for “South Africa jobs” and “forums for expats in South Africa.”

You can do alot of preliminary expat groundwork over the internet, but the best way to find the right organization and job is to go there. It’s scary to take this leap of faith, but it’s the most effective way to find a job in South Africa.

To learn more, read Moving to Africa? 10 Things You Need to Know.

Explore the US embassy’s South Africa website

Visit all the pages on both the US and Canadian embassy websites in South Africa. This may be not the number one tip on how to find a job in South Africa, but it’ll give you an idea of what to expect. You’ll find dozens of tips for expats in South Africa on those sites.

Watching the South African news is also a good way to start thinking about which cities are safe for expats to live and work in. But that’s just the first step; the next step is to research what the American government or embassy is saying about that country. Often, embassies share alerts and information about the countries they’re based in.

Research jobs you want to do in South Africa

expats how to find a job in africa

“Find a Job in South Africa – Tips for Expats” image by Warren Tyrer via Flickr

If I wanted to work as an expat again, I’d start by doing an internet search for my profession and a specific country. For instance, if I wanted to be a counselor to expats in South Africa, I’d search for “counseling jobs for expats in South Africa.” If I wanted to work as a teacher in Cape Town (the most beautiful city in South Africa), I’d search for “English teachers in Cape Town.” It might be good to start with a general search “where to find a job in South Africa” and narrow it down from there.

Do you know what career or job you want to work at overseas? If not – and if you’re introverted – read Best Jobs for Introverts and Quiet People.

Set up Google Alerts

I’d also search Google alerts for the terms “South Africa jobs” and “finding work in South Africa.” I love Google Alerts – it gives you the most recent search results for a specific term. It’s like searching the internet, but it provides the most current results from blogs, websites, internet forums, etc. Search for the job you want and the country you want to work in. Do a fresh search every couple of days, so you get the latest tips on where to work overseas. You can even set a Google Alert on your search terms and get the results emailed to you.

Working overseas was the best thing I ever did. I love my husband, my dogs, my blogs, and my God…but living in Africa was the deepest, richest, most painful, best experience of my life. I hope you get to experience what it’s like to find a job in South Africa and live as an expat!

I welcome your thoughts on how to find a job in South Africa below, especially if you have tips for expats! There are as many different avenues to finding work in Africa as there are African languages and dialects. Your job, as an expat adventurer, is to find what works for you. After doing a bit of research, of course :-)

If you’re an introvert, read What Introverts Need to Know About Going On Mission Trips.

And remember: it’s not an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons (or lions, as the case may be).


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4 thoughts on “How to Find a Job in South Africa – Tips for Expats”

  1. Hello Sally, thanks for your comments – and congratulations on your plans to move overseas to Africa and work with elephants and lions! How exciting, and I am sure it’ll be the most fulfilling and adventurous part of your life. Living in Africa was the deepest, richest experience of my life.

    Here’s another article that may help you:
    Moving to Africa? 10 Things You Need to Know

    I don’t have advice or information about what to look for in specific companies, but I encourage you to talk to the current employees of any company you’re interested in. Find out what their favorite parts of the jobs are, and what they like least. Every company has pros and cons, of course, so you probably won’t find exact perfect place to work! All you can do is research the company you’re interested in, ask them lots of questions, and trust your gut instincts.

    If you’re at university or college, I encourage you to talk to the professor or teaching assistants there. Profs often have many contacts and connections, and might be able to point you in the right direction. Universities and colleges often have fantastic bridges between Canada and Africa, and can help you find the right organization to work with.

    Also – I just got back from 3 weeks in Vietnam, and many of my travel experiences are applicable to African excursions….
    10 Things You Need to Know About Traveling in Vietnam

    Keep me posted! I wish you all the best as you move forward. I know you’ll find the right job in Africa if you keep looking and don’t give up. And, allow yourself to see everything as an adventure :-)

    All good things,

  2. Hey Laurie!!

    I’m really interested in going to Africa to work with animals (elephants and lions are at the top of my list)… do you have any advice on what to look out for (company wise)? Or any advice at all really would be amazing. It’s reassuring finding this blog from a fellow British Columbian! I’d like to work for a few months down there on a sanctuary of some sort.

  3. I hadn’t thought about paying for a guide who will also act as a bodyguard – that’s a great idea! And it may even making finding a job in South Africa or Kenya or wherever you want to go overseas easier.

    MoJoMan…where in the world are you now?

  4. I found these tips on how to find a job in south africa very interesting as preliminary info, just getting started. I will likely move to Kenya, I don’t know where but I’m getting emails now. I’ll figure it out soon enough. As far as jobs go, I am self employed and I will likely figure out some service or products to sell what will be fun.

    I did like the idea about “teaching English” as I speak and write English perfectly. I’m also a singer,
    and have other talents. I’m wondering if I can get a job as a Night Club Entertainer and how safe
    that option might be, since you run into all kinds of factions in that atmosphere. I think I can find
    a band, and book myself into more responsible places too. That’s a thought.

    Make just enough to eat on, or equivalent to about $50/day. I can live well. Paying for a guide
    in Kenya who can show me to all of the safe places, and act as a body guard too, would be a plus.

    Well thanks for this.