International Careers

October 15, 2018


Many people aspire to have an international career and this opportunity is no longer reserved only for career diplomats. Science, medicine, business, and education – to just name a few – are all fields that have more global career mobility than ever. Biomedical research has always had great reputation for being a very diverse and international field.

An international job search, though, can be more difficult and lengthier overall. It is challenging when you are thousands of miles away and most of your initial interviews are over Skype. Additionally, customs and etiquette around networking tend to vary widely by culture. For example, North Americans tend to feel more comfortable with the idea of networking; even more so than their western counterparts in Europe. However, many of the job search engines that you are used to, like Science, Nature, LinkedIn, and Indeed, have an international reach and can be an effective way to seek out positions abroad.

Like anything in life, there will be pros and cons to your decision to work abroad. It will likely have a large impact not only on your professional life but your personal life as well. If you are considering an international job offer, be sure to read this post “Before Accepting an International Job Offer”. A job in a new country can afford you the chance to improve your cross-cultural communication skills and competencies. Although, this learning might come because of “mistakes” you make at your new job. Rapidly replying to an email might be okay in your home country; whereas in you new country, it might be seen as rude and the proper etiquette would have been to reply in person. Other factors like how emotionally expressive and/or confrontational you are in communicating tends to vary widely by region and country. See our post on “Negotiating Across Cultures”. When accepting a job abroad, remember that there will be growing pains and moments when you don’t feel as competent as you did back at home. Having a job abroad also likely means that your job and visa (ability to live in that country) are linked. If for some reason you hate your new job and need to leave, you will have less job flexibility and it might mean heading back home.

The experience in the global market place, your increased professional network, and a chance to see life and work from another perspective is unmatched when you take a job abroad. The challenges can help build your resilience and experiencing a different way of doing reserach can open your mind up to a whole new range of possibilities — exponentially expanding your worldview.

If you are at the NIH, be sure to check out the International Opportunities Expo 2018 this week. You can find out more information about the event here, but this is an excellent chance to meet and network with science and technology representatives in order to explore research, funding, and career opportunities abroad. If this is of interest, you might also be interested in Science Voices From Home, which organizes brown bag series and different webinars on finding international opportunities. These are categorized by country and recent ones have included Brazil, Australia, India, Canada, and Sweden. If you would like to find out more about this series, you can contact OITE.



Before Accepting an International Job Offer

April 23, 2018

Picture of international flagsIn last week’s blog post, we discussed considerations for properly evaluating a job offer. On top of all those points, there are more things to consider if it is an international job offer. Here are some questions to ask:

  1. How and in what currency will you be paid?
  2. Will relocation costs be covered? Both to the new location and return?
  3. What else could they assist with in terms of relocation?
  4. What are the parameters of the commitment? If something comes up and you need to leave the job/country, what would they do to help? Would you be liable in some way if you needed to end the contract early for emergency (or non-emergency) reasons?
  5. Many international jobs mean that an organization has offices worldwide. Perhaps you won’t be working in the headquarters. What does this mean for your reporting structure? Will you have multiple reporting lines? Are these dotted line connections?
  6. If working with multiple offices worldwide, what are the expectations for weekly meetings/ check-ins? For example, an organization has an office in North America, Europe, and Asia and there are weekly staff meetings every Monday at 9:00 AM EDT/3:00PM CET. This means if you are one of the colleagues in Asia, you will have to log into meetings at 10:00PM on Monday nights. How would you feel about this?
  7. What kind of insurance is provided? Does it cover travel to neighboring countries? Does it cover you when you are in your home country? Does it cover repatriation if you become ill?
  8. What is the official (and unofficial) working language of the office?
  9. Will there be an English-speaking (fill in the blank with your language of choice) representative of the organization to assist with your in-country orientation and initial setup?
  10. Will you be offered an orientation before starting work?
  11. If needed, will this orientation include language and cultural classes to assist with your acclimation?
  12. Inquire about potential taxes owed in your new country as well as in your home country.
  13. Does your company offer any tax equalization benefits (usually only applicable if on a contract with your home country)?
  14. For example, if you are on an American contract working abroad, would you get credit for time in relation to Social Security?
  15. Are accommodations or a housing subsidy included in the job offer? If not, how will the organization assist you in finding housing?
  16. Can your employer sponsor your partner and dependents?

In addition to these specific questions about the job itself, it is important to consider your life outside of work and to evaluate how this move could have a larger impact on you and your life.

  1. How will the move impact your hobbies/values?
  2. What are the cultural differences that may impact your lifestyle? (Example: does the country prohibit alcohol?)
  3. What are the cultural underpinnings that may impact the way you are perceived in the job? (Example: countries where women’s access to education/employment may be severely limited and hence it impacts the way female employees are perceived by their male and female colleagues/clients)
  4. Even if your employer can sponsor partners/dependents, what exactly will they do during the day while you are at work?
  5. Does the country you’re moving to afford the opportunity for you to practice your faith?
  6. Are there organizational affiliations that are important to you that you’ll be asked to forfeit by taking the job? (Example: volunteering with specific organizations; engaging with community groups)
  7. The availability of therapists and support groups vary quite a lot by the country and region you are in. How will you cope if you don’t have easy access to groups (example: Alcoholics Anonymous, LGBTQ, etc.)
  8. Will you have dietary challenges in the country (vegetarian/vegan/gluten free)?

Have you taken a job abroad? If so, what do you wish you had asked or known before doing so? Comment below with your own questions and tips for others considering international job offers!

Returning Home for Work: How to Find Jobs Abroad

January 11, 2011

Recent news stories have highlighted the drive of several growing, global economies to entice native scientists back to their home countries for work. Some governments, such as China’s, are offering incentives, including funding and resources, to scientific workers willing to bring knowledge and training gained abroad back to their home country for work.

Another benefit to returning home for work, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal exit icon1, is an existing understanding of one’s native culture and language. Whether you hail from Germany, China, India, or Argentina, it may be significantly easier for you than for a non-native speaker to navigate the job market in your country.

Still, you may be unsure of where to look for jobs, which steps to take for your job search, what your job search materials should look like, etc. Many of the same job search strategies used by job seekers in the U.S. may prove useful in your job search abroad. For starters:

1) Network, network, network!

This refrain is a popular one among career counselors in the U.S., but will still be essential for you as you seek work in your home country. Consider the following sources to establish contacts abroad:

  • NIH alumni – Take a look through the OITE Alumni Database to find a connection. Keep your search for contacts broad, looking not only at where someone is currently employed (the UK, India, etc.), but also considering former trainees who may be working in the U.S. but completed their studies in a different country.
  • Alumni from your undergraduate or graduate institution – whether you completed undergraduate and/or graduate training in the U.S. or abroad, you may find that your university keeps an alumni/ae database similar to the one above. Using such a resource will help you connect with people currently living or working in the region you would like to work in.
  • Faculty and staff from your undergraduate or graduate institution
  • Your professional association – Many professional associations grant members access to membership listings/databases that include countries where members are working. Check with your association, and if membership is required to view member listings, look for a graduate student/postdoc rate to join.
  • exit icon1 – I cannot stress enough the importance of being active on this professional networking site, and of ensuring that your own profile is up-to-date and polished. You can use LinkedIn to search for contacts in other countries just as easily as you can look for people in the U.S. (For example, I ran a quick search for 1st- and 2nd-level contacts in China and generated a list of 235 names!)

2) Use international job listing websites.

The following sites have an interesting array of opportunities for scientists in a variety of regions:

  • exit icon1 – This site features a search engine designed to assist job seekers in finding current job listings abroad.
  • exit icon1 – This site serves as a repository of job listing sites by country or region.
  • NIRA’s World Directory of Think Tanks exit icon1 – This site contains a listing of think tanks, or public policy research institutes. If impacting science policy in your home country appeals to you, take a look through the work of some of these organizations.
  • Foreign Policy Association exit icon1 – This non-profit organization, dedicated to increasing awareness about world issues, runs a job board with job listings both in the U.S. and abroad.

3) Use the correct materials.

Be aware that different countries have different norms when it comes to résumé, CV, and cover letter writing. Familiarize yourself with these different styles by reviewing exit icon1 and similar sites–and be sure to have your documents reviewed by a career counselor in OITE, a colleague, and others to ensure that it is error-free.

Finally, give yourself plenty of time to search abroad. While the typical job search in the U.S. can take anywhere from 6 months to a year, an international search may take even longer.

Good luck!