Moving to Turkey came with an understanding that most foreigners don’t heavily consider until it’s too late; finding a job. Now, there are many people who do come to Turkey with a previous contract already situated. They’ve made a deal with a Turkish company or an international company based in Istanbul or other parts of Anatolia, accompanied with legal documents which guarantee and protect their right to work abroad. However, there are many who wait until after arriving to start looking for work, or have ‘connections’ that may promise them an ‘opportunity’. I can surely say that if you don’t have a legitimate gaurantee protected by either the US or Turkish government, assume you will have major trouble establishing a profession in Turkey.
I have met and known many people who were so filled with life and energy with the thoughts of living in the magical city of Istanbul (Izmir, Ankara, or even Antalya are usually a last resort if considered at all). I know when I came to Turkey, my eyes were set on Istanbul, and although I love that city with all my heart, I am happy that I chose Izmir instead.
Istanbul can be a rat race, and with over 15 million people living there, can be very stressful and far removed from anything culturally different. For many people, it can become just another city. However, this doesn’t need to be the case. One of the great things about Turkey is that it can be anything you want it to be. You do come here with a blank slate, and at times will be offered the most interesting jobs you could imagine. But, the downside is that it doesn’t move at the speed of New York or LA. Finding work can take months if not a few years. So I recommend that people ask themselves the following BEFORE moving to Turkey:
1) What work do you WANT to do for work? Make sure you don’t have unreasonable expectations for this. If you are of a high profession (e.g. doctor, lawyer, corporate field, etc.) you have to establish a legitimate contract beforehand. Don’t expect a job offer AFTER you arrive. The serious companies are those who would have paid for your plane ticket to come.
2) What other work are you willing to do? (Most often not, you will end up teaching English. If you are okay with that, earn your TEFL certificate online quickly. It’s a very good system, takes only 60 hours, and could land you steady well-paying work within a month or two. It’s fun and a great way to meet people and understand the culture better.
3) Think of another city other than Istanbul. For example, there is Izmir, which is a beautiful Aegean city right on the water. It may not have the electric feeling of Istanbul, but is closer to an Eastern Mediterranean version of San Diego.
4) Take life one step at a time. If you think you will become a rich successful person on the merit that you are a foreigner, take into consideration that you are already in one of the most beautiful and historic countries in the entire world where wealth is measured by the quality of friends and food, not by how big your house is.
In the end, I recommend that people really do their research on HOW to be successful if moving to Turkey; not ‘if’ I can be. There is a major difference. As my favorite stand up comedian George Carlin put it, there are few winners and a whole lot of losers. Don’t put energy into what the nay-sayers think. If you want to move to Turkey, even just for a short time, I highly recommend it. Just keep in mind that it is a different system, in which if you don’t understand quickly, can chew you up and spit you out. And what a waste of an experience that would be. With just some solid work preparations and documented papers, you can really make Turkey your dream come true.