Question: "My degree will be from an American university, but I'm spending the last year of my doctoral program on the other side of the world, where I'm finishing up my writing and research. Even though I have Internet access, the U.S. job market seems very far away. How can I minimize the effects of the distance? I'll fly back to attend the main convention in my field, but I'm worried about subsequent interviews. Will schools be willing to pay my air fare?"
Julie: It's good that you're planning to return to the United States for your annual convention. As you apply for positions, make it very clear that you'll be at the meeting so that a department could arrange to have someone meet with you. When you're at the conference, try to meet as many people as you can. Be sure that your e-mail address is on all your written materials to make departments feel more at ease about contacting you at the last minute.
Mary: Speaking of short notice, arrange with someone in the States who will be able to mail out materials for you on short notice. Leave that person a set of vitas, information for contacting references, and letterhead which can be printed with cover letters which you e-mail to them. If you're having letters of recommendation forwarded by a central credentials service, speak with the service to see if they have any special shortcuts for candidates who are overseas.
Julie: And, be sure that your adviser, dissertation committee members, and other faculty members who support your candidacy know that you are now on the job market. They may be contacted by institutions to which you are applying. As you send out applications, notify those who've written recommendations for you, because that is a particularly good time to have someone also put in a more informal good word about you by phone or e-mail.
You also might ask faculty members to include in their recommendations that although you are out of the country completing your work, you are applying for U.S. positions for the next academic year.
Mary: You also mentioned a concern about the willingness of institutions to pay your air fare. Yes, I'm afraid air fare will sometimes be a deterrent to an interview invitation. Try to devise some alternatives. I don't know what the phone service is like where you are, but, if practical, be prepared to suggest a conference call as a first step. A committee might be more willing to undertake the travel expense for someone who's already been through a screening interview, whether at a convention or by phone.
Julie: You might look into buying a cheap airline ticket well in advance for use during the winter. It could be a good investment. Talk with your adviser as to when schools will be holding campus interviews and determine a possible time frame. In your cover letters, indicate when you will be in the United States and available to interview. Make sure the faculty members who are recommending you also know of these arrangements. That way it will be more feasible for a department to finance your visit to their campus.
Mary: We've been assuming you have U.S. citizenship or permanent residency. If you don't, make sure to confer with whomever on your campus works with foreign scholars, to gain a good understanding of your visa situation.
Up to this point, universities have tended to be unconcerned with immigration and work-permission issues, as they usually have a fair amount of experience and expertise in handling them. However, in recent years, the annual quota for H-1B visas, which allow many foreign nationals to work at institutions in the United States, has been exceeded, creating problems for employers and potential hires.
Issues involving your long-run permission to work in the United States are complicated, and you shouldn't try to resolve them on your own without expert advice from people who know the systems.
Question: I have almost completed my dissertation and am very interested in applying for academic jobs overseas. How hard is it for Americans to land faculty positions in other countries, and how do I learn about openings?
Julie: If you are just interested in teaching on a level that would be comparable to an American adjunct position, it should not be too difficult to find a position. However, if you are seeking the European or Asian equivalent of a tenure-track position, it will be more difficult and will require you to become familiar with a different system of education.
Mary: Work permission will be another big issue. In recent years, some Asian universities have recruited Americans very vigorously for positions. In many other countries, however, it's difficult to impossible for a foreigner to get long-term work permission.
Also think about why you want this position and what you hope will happen next. If, for instance, some of the most exciting work in the world is being done in Australia, and your primary interest in relocating there is to join a particular research team, it will be much easier to return to the United States, should you decide you want to, than if you take a position which is more tangential to your field.
Julie: There is no centralized listing for international academic job openings. You will need to be resourceful. Contact researchers in your field at institutions that interest you and ask what kinds of possibilities there are. This works best if you can establish some kind of common ground, perhaps by sending a copy of a paper you wrote that would be of interest to the person you're contacting.
Several Web sites have listings for academic jobs overseas, including the The Chronicle of Higher Education, the Times Higher Education Supplement, and Jobs in Higher Education.
Mary: You can also consult General Education Online, which now has over 6,400 links to various universities and colleges from over 160 countries. Ideally, you'll do this long before you want a position, giving yourself a chance to do the substantial amount of research likely to be necessary. If your university has an office of international programs, talk with people there to see whether there are any existing institutional connections that might be useful to you.
Julie: A different approach to another kind of overseas academic job would be to obtain a position at an American institution and eventually teach in its junior-year abroad program. This would give you an opportunity to meet faculty members at an international institution and determine the likelihood of a permanent position.
Mary: For many new Ph.D.'s, this may be the best way to see the world while building an academic career. When untenured people leave the American market with a hope of re-entering it and obtaining a job that leads to tenure, there are often costs to being out of the country. While the Internet and improved telecommunications have reduced these costs, they still can be substantial.
In many cases, the best (or least risky) way to gain experience teaching in a foreign university is to do it as a tenured faculty member on sabbatical or to do collaborative research with international colleagues.
Julie: As is the case for so many aspects of job hunting, it is crucial that you be as well-informed as possible. There are undoubtedly offices on your campus as well as individuals who can provide you with resources and contacts. Start using those resources well before you need them, knowing that it may be difficult to obtain the kind of position you want and that, as in any job search, luck may be a big part of it. Think of your developing international network as a career-long resource.
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Mary Morris Heiberger and Julia Miller Vick are the authors of The Academic Job Search Handbook (University of Pennsylvania Press). They have provided career services for thousands of graduate and professional students since 1985. Ms. Heiberger is associate director and Ms. Vick is graduate career counselor at the Career Services office of the University of Pennsylvania.