Going global: Making an international career move in academia


Flickr: Niklas Morberg

Australia seems an obvious move for a Brit. I’m certainly not alone in my desire to come here for academic work as I’ve been contacted by quite a few people now who’ve asked me how I did it. How did you get an academic job in Australia? The simple answer is that I applied, interviewed by Skype, and got the job. Here’s the longer version:

I started to build an international network or ‘presence’, mainly through social media, but also through events and other academic activities. Getting a Fellow position with the International Social Science Council definitely increased my employability in a more global job market. I remember it got some of the most positive responses – ooo’s and ahhh’s – when I talked about it in interviews.

Interviews…plural! I applied for quite a few jobs. All in all, I’d say it took me just short of a year to get a new post. I was happy enough in my lecturing job in the UK but I’d worked out that I needed to move for career development. After a couple of rejections (i.e. out at the application stage) for posts I wasn’t suited for, I narrowed my job search to those where I met all the essential criteria and posts that I would genuinely enjoy doing. Sometimes submitting an application might be worth a shot but I found that knockbacks had a negative impact on my motivation to keep up the job hunt. The dilemmas of ‘I should just stay here’ plagued me, particularly when new commitments to projects and students kept coming along.

The jobs I applied for weren’t just in Australia. I liked the idea of Australia so I applied for a number of posts here. I also applied for jobs in Singapore and in the UK too. All required a significant relocation though.

Over the months I improved in job interviews through practice. Some of the early fails served me well in my later successes. I actually really enjoyed the Skype interviews because there’s no stress of a long journey. My worst interview involved travelling in the early hours to London and by the time I got there I just wasn’t on point. I hadn’t slept for fear of missing the train, nor eaten as my interview was at 12pm – it lasted 3 hours by the way! That one was to work for the UK Government and not a university. It wasn’t a pleasant experience but it did confirm I wanted to remain in academia!

How did I come to work at Western Sydney University? Well I interviewed twice. The first job I didn’t get. The second job, my job, was one the interview chair directed me towards and encouraged me to submit an application. I very nearly didn’t due to the first rejection but then I had enjoyed the Skype interview and got a good sense that I would enjoy working at the University from the interview panel. The job role was similar to the previous one and after a bit of tinkering with my original application, I applied for the role. I’m now really glad that I did.

In terms of finding jobs to apply for, all sorts of email alerts were coming in:

LinkedIn has some pretty nifty job search features. Even though it’s a bit tricky to set up sometimes, its worth playing around with the job search settings on there if you are looking for a post in a particular place or with a particular organisation. I find LinkedIn more useful for research jobs outside of academia. It can also throw out some intriguing suggestions…anyone want to be a ’thought leader’ for a tech company in Eindhoven?

I also got into a habit of searching Twitter for academic posts too. Lots of academics on Twitter share vacancies and opportunities that you might not see otherwise. I’m sure there are lots of other places to find job vacancies. If you have any other suggestions, add a comment and I’ll add them to the list.

Another point to note is that sometimes job advertisements either don’t mention or don’t make it 100% clear that international applicants are welcome to apply. Send a quick email to find out.

What I’ve come to understand further, since working here, is that the internationalisation of the higher education sector is influencing a more global approach to hiring strategies. Bringing an academic from overseas brings their international networks too and thus increases the potential for international research collaborations. Hiring an overseas academic makes sense in terms of global rankings and all that jazz. I know, not great news if you are looking for an academic position within commuting distance.

Taking a job at a university that you’ve never visited, and in a country that you’ve never been to (in my case), is definitely a risk. One of the deciding factors for me was that the role enabled me to focus on digital research yet remain based in the social sciences alongside urban studies and human geography scholars. I could see all my research strands coming together at the University. It felt right and it’s worked out well.

My move was made easier with a relocation package and the help of the University’s relocation consultant. As far as I am aware, most universities in Australia offer a good relocation package to help with the costs of moving across the world. My relocations consultant was brilliant with everything from visa applications to shipping my wordly goods, organising airport transfers and temporary accommodation, and suggesting good places to live.

This post is very much based on my experience as an early career researcher. I’m sure it’s a whole different ball game for more experienced academics. I would certainly love to hear about how others made their international move.

I promised a blog post on this subject ages ago. Finally, here it is! Any thoughts, stick them on a postcard! Also good luck to those on the job hunt right now 🙂




4 responses to “Going global: Making an international career move in academia

  1. That’s a great post Jenna. Thanks for that.
    You make some great points. I guess another thing that is worth mentioning is that if you ever intend to come back (which is not at all my purpose although I only moved from Portugal to the UK via Germany) is that you will then bring back that international experience with you – so you will forever be an International academic which is a great thing.
    Another aspect that most people don’t often consider is that changing Universities and sometimes countries (as painfully as it may be for someone who is longing for a stable life) is a great learning opportunity, not only academically but about life in general. I feel I am a much more open and tolerant person since I moved countries. And I also think that for those who end up getting a job at the University where they did their studies it is really helpful to move to another institution – even of down the road- because it will keep you on your toes as the ways things are done in one institution is not necessary the way things are done in another institution. So you get a chance to reinvent yourself. And then even you plan to go back to the institution where you started you come back with a different standing and status. I think that’s important to take into account.
    The disadvantage of moving often in my opinion though is that you leave a less stable life (economically too) as you have to start anew every time re: knowing the city you are in, friends you make, etc. You also wonder if you will stay in a place long enough to justify the purchase of a house, for example. Having said that I would have not done it any other way. I think I have grown a lot from changing countries and institutions,

    Liked by 1 person

    • thanks Cris, I totally get what you are saying now, now that I’ve moved. I’m enjoying being an international academic and moving away from the UK has made me realise the value of my UK network so much more, still working with great people (e.g. you!) across the miles and its leading to some very interesting projects that wouldn’t have happened otherwise, without this new context. I’m learning so much about HE and also my life (personal) has changed so much too. It’s definitely a chance for reinvention!

      You’ve pointed out my main dilemma there though, will I ever go ‘home’?


  2. Great post, thanks 🙂 I would be really interested in having you speak at our early career group at the university of Leeds, perhaps via Skype! I will share your post with our group. I find it really resonant that moving felt like the right career move for you. You hear about difficulties being promoted within a university; it can make a lot of sense to go where the oportunities are but not everyone can do this (plus moving is tough; I’ve moved three times in five years and don’t want to do it again just yet!). I am also intrigued and impressed by your development of an international presence. Thank you for sharing!


    • Hi Cheryl, thank you for your comments! I’m actually highly likely to be in the UK in March so I could come and speak in person then, would love to share my experiences and hear others stories too.


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