How I Got My Overseas Job

One of the first things people generally ask me is, “How did you get your job?”

My experience in finding an overseas job is akin to how I find vintage dresses. Primarily, it takes time and you shouldn’t force it. Seek out opportunities where/when you can but don’t let it consume your life, and know what works for you but try not to have too many preconditions.

I occasionally checked websites to see what was out there, subscribed to the UN’s career site using library and non-library terms, alike, and I made sure I knew what my preconditions were – the most important of which, was the type of work I’d potentially be doing. I noticed that a lot of international work comes up in records management and archives, cataloguing, and systems management, which are not areas I’m interested in at all. I focused on postings that involved the work I know I do like, which in general terms is working directly with people and researching, organizing and producing information tailored to specific user groups and formats.

Broken down, here are the different resources I used:

Library Friends/Network

Essentially, I found out about this particular job posting because my librarian friends knew that I’ve always wanted to work internationally. I never made a point of asking around or letting people know about this aspiration. It came up naturally in conversations, the same way that my friends found out that I love Taco Bell and that polyester dresses are my favourite thing to wear.

Because these things became common knowledge among my pals, a very thoughtful librarian friend who visited from New York last month gave me a perfect blue vintage polyester dress as a thank you gift for letting her stay with me. Another friend asked if I wanted to stop and eat in a town with a Taco Bell last week on our way home from a road trip (there are no Taco Bells in Vancouver!). And another library friend sent me the job posting she would have normally glossed over, while checking the listserv emails at work.

When these things happen, I joke that I’ve Secret-ed it ( à la The Secret, which I haven’t actually read but has somehow become an inside joke with friends who also haven’t read it) but there’s a truth to it. Be proactive and open without becoming obsessive and the things you envision will sometimes materialize.

Listservs

I’m not sure which listserv my librarian pal spotted the job posting on, but I’m sure a quick online search would reveal many options. Or maybe your workplace already has a listserv that you can look through. Mine does!

Websites/Twitter Feeds

Your school’s job board. I used my alma mater’s job board to recently do an internship by distance for the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia. It didn’t lead to any international work/travel, but it led to me gaining experience in an area I’m interested in (research & policy institutions) and forming contacts that may be useful later.

Other job boards, school and non-school alike, such as SLIS jobs – which also had the Kazakhstan posting I applied to!

If there is a specific place you want to go to – search if the country has a library association and if the association’s website has a job board. Also, look for twitter accounts. For example, here are a couple for library jobs in the UK. Or there are twitter accounts that post library jobs from all over, including internationally.

Specific large, international organizations such as, the UN. I’m not really sure how one actually achieves getting a job with the UN – it was difficult enough for me to figure out how to apply for a UN job since they have their own quirky system. But there are a lot of resources out there. One librarian, who did the same library program as me a few years before I did, now works for the UN (every Vancouver librarian speaks of her in awed tones). She chalked it up to “right time, right place.” And the other piece of advice she gave me that I found helpful is that if you’ve only got a couple years’ experience, you’re not going to be above a P2 level.

Look Beyond the Term “Library”

Larger institutions’ job postings or postings in different regions sometimes use titles like, “Public Information Officer”, and may not require an MLIS, but fall into the realm of library/information experience. Dig around through the expansive list of postings to get ideas for search terms.

Miscellaneous

Unless you live in the place you want to work, or have citizenship or a visa already, it’s unlikely you’ll be hired at a public library, or for any smaller organization. Focus on universities, research & policy institutions, and larger international organizations.

Ask yourself if you would really like this lifestyle. Have you lived abroad before? Or have you lived in a place where you know absolutely no one? Even when you’re somewhere exciting, or a place that speaks the same language and won’t be as much of a culture shock – if you don’t know anyone, it can be difficult! Some organizations are also hesitant to hire candidates who haven’t spent more then a few months abroad. Doing an exchange year or a library practicum/internship somewhere internationally helps!

My last piece of advice is don’t take a job just for the sake of going somewhere different. Your job is such a large component of your daily life and happiness and I imagine it’s doubly so when you’re moving to a place where you don’t know anyone and will be experiencing the frustrations involved in culture shock.

 

How I will look this winter.

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