Tuesday, 2 April 2013

They're a Different Type

We've always been fascinated with the international arena and the many interesting people who work abroad. We wonder how and why they got involved with international work rather than stay home to follow traditional careers up someone's corporate ladder or pursue a standard American lifestyle complete with a home mortgage and stable community life.

What we've learned over the years is that these people are different from the people we know back home in terms of motivations, personalities, and lifestyles. While some go international for the money, most are simply restless, curious, or stricken with that unexplained addiction to travel and a desire to pursue an idea, cause, or lifestyle that cannot be satisfied in some job back home. Some are international junkies who thrive in the international arena.

Others literally dropped out of their own societies and work-driven lifestyles back home for more easy-going and personally rewarding lives abroad. For many of these people, their ideas of getting ahead and achieving career success are to move on to another interesting. challenging, and satisfying international job.

Someday they may have to return home to "settle down," but in the meantime many believe they are having the time of their lives; they want to continue this lifestyle indefinitelyas long as they can remain employed abroad in some type of job. Many work in jobs that are not particularly glamorous nor interesting, but their jobs enable them to do what they most enjoyliving abroad. Most are successful in changing jobs to continue their international lifestyles.

These people are different from the people we know back home in terms of motivations, personalities, and lifestyles.

What concerns us most are the motivations and job search behavior exhibited by individuals who have never worked abroad but who want to "break into" the field. Many of these, people are students who have some foreign language competency, traveled or studied abroad, or pursued an international course of study.

Others are ex-military personnel who have lived abroad but now want to become international consultants or literally "make big bucks" abroad to compensate them for their many lean years working for Uncle Sam. Many are ex-Peace Corps volunteers and medical personnel who have worked in health care and rural development for a few years and now want to find another interesting and personally rewarding international job.

Some are frustrated State Department and USAID employees who work in organizations most recently noted for low morale and blocked career advancement opportunities. And some are construction workersheavy equipment operators, electricians, carpenterswho have never worked abroad but who heard they can make big money in a hurry working abroad. We also hear from numerous entrepreneurs who seek our advice on developing contacts for importing products from the Asian and Pacific regionsunexpected contacts with individuals who have become attracted to our travel book series"Impact Guides".

What motivates these people to pursue international jobs and careers or strike out on their own into an unfamiliar employment frontier? What is it they really want to do? How do they differ from the ordinary job seeker? The career and motivation patterns for experienced international workers are fairly evident.

Many for example, got started by accident rather than by design. They lived abroad as children of international workers. Some signed up for the military or Peace Corps and received interesting assignments that convinced them that they should pursue an international career.

Many began as students who took a course, joined a study program abroad, or just traveled abroad during their summer break. They found die international experience and lifestyle interesting, so much so that they wanted to do it full-time. Many journalists, corporate executives, and business people also got involved accidentally; many were transferred abroad as part of the corporate promotion process. Missionaries, Peace Corps Volunteers, development workers, and many government personnel seem to initially pursue international jobs and careers by design.

Many have totally unrealistic expectations and questionable motivations.

We also see patterns among those who are interested in "breaking into" the international jobs market. Many have totally unrealistic expectations and questionable motivations. Like perceptions of Hollywood, they see international jobs as being glamorous and high profile jobs that are well paid and result in major changes in peoples' lives and relations between nations. And like Hollywood, there are a few such international jobs, but they are few and far between the many other types of less glamorous, low profile, and low to average paying jobs most commonly found abroad.

Let's take a look at some of the most common myths that motivate individuals to pursue international jobs as well as prevent them from achieving success in the international job market. By examining these myths and corresponding realities, we should get a clearer picture of our motivations and how to best organize ourselves for finding an international job.