There are so many good reasons for academics to consider seeking work abroad, whether you are looking for your first post, feeling “stuck” in the same routine or unable to advance where you are, or simply wanting a change of place and pace. So—what do you need to know to get started?
If you have a PhD, and especially if you have teaching experience, a successful funding history and/or publications, you have something of value to universities and research centres around the world. It’s all about locating opportunities using international sites like jobs.ac.uk, and crafting the right approach.
Tailor your tactics
Every country has its own rules about how an academic CV and cover letter should be formatted and what they should contain. The application and interview process may also be different, and you need to research institutions and programmes very carefully to make sure you present your skills in the most attractive way possible.
For example, there are areas of academic work where there is an oversupply of qualified staff in the US, but a strong demand overseas—especially in rapidly developing nations like China, India and Brazil. The way higher education is delivered may differ from what you are used to, however, so it’s important to learn about different academic cultures and professional expectations as well as specific programmes and courses where you might fit. Referring to this information in your application will show that you are serious about working internationally, not just taking a casual, long-shot approach.
Your own background and experiences are one of your greatest selling factors. Think carefully about how these could be of value to your future students and colleagues, but also make it clear that you want to broaden your knowledge through international work.
Pros and cons of working overseas
There is much less use of adjunct staff and graduate students as lecturers in most overseas universities, and both research and teaching can command respect. That can mean a positive working environment.
Pay and other benefits can also be better, although this is not always the case. Be sure to consider the impact on income of things like mandatory health insurance, local housing costs, and moving.
If you are single, seeking work overseas is easier. Those with family commitments must also consider the needs of their partner and/or children. There may be visa and work permit issues, and education and lifestyle changes could be problems or attracting factors.
Tenure can also be an issue. Overseas experience can help you land your first tenure-track post later, but could also take you off the track. Consult with a trusted colleague about how best to proceed.
Things to think about
First, consider whether you are open to long-term relocation or just a short break, such as a semester abroad or a one-year temporary post. You could dip your toe in the water by trying academic exchange programme first, which you can do without leaving your current job.
Second, consider which countries make the most sense based on your academic discipline. Working overseas can be used as a way to gain access to key research sources and networks, and to work alongside world-renowned colleagues in your field.
These steps will allow you to narrow down the list of potential targets to a manageable number, and research only those that meet your criteria.
About the author
Dr Mitzi Waltz is Associate Lecturer in Autism Studies with Sheffield Hallam University in England, and a contract researcher with Disability Studies in Nederland in Holland. She has been a lecturer at three British universities, and worked in collaboration with universities and research organisations across Europe.
This contribution has been provided by HERC Trustee-level partner www.jobs.ac.uk, the leading international online recruitment website for academic, research, science and related professions in the UK and worldwide.