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Returning Home for Work: How to Find Jobs Abroad

Submitted by Lori Conlan January 11, 2011
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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!

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