A Country House (Moving to England)
June 30, 2009 1:18 AM   Subscribe

After I graduated from university last year, I moved to England to work as an au pair for a year. My time's up (I go back in a month to start pursuing my Masters), but I feel like I fit in really well over here & would seriously consider moving here after I get my degree. Actually, I'd rather just stay. Unfortunately that's not an option right now. I'd need a job to move here, though! Do you think I could find one? (Relevant details inside.)

I'm an American & German citizen (no work permit issues) in my early 20s, and have received my education in the States. I've done pretty well so far, and I'll be starting at a university that's well-recognized in my field (library science-I'd love to work with rare books/special collections, but really just want to work at a university library). With lots of hard work, I'm hoping to do well there, too. It has a practical experience requirement, so I think I'll be able to add some good things to my C.V. by the time I graduate. I already have several years of library experience, though they were part-time posts.

I fully intend to apply for UK jobs after I get my degree. I'm just concerned that my American degree will be looked down on, or that I'll be overlooked because of my nationality. Does anyone know if there is a prejudice against Americans in this field? Will it be absolutely necessary for me to move to the UK without a job lined up so I can have a UK address before I start looking? Is there any chance I could find practical experience in the UK during the summer?
posted by bibliophibianj to Work & Money (10 answers total)
I'm an American long term resident of England (since mid 1997), who did my undergraduate in the United States and took two masters degrees in The UK.

In terms of your American degree being looked down on, I think you might end up with some problems about recognition, and that formality might be used against you when calculating compensation (if my experience was any guide), but it won't be looked down upon unless you've studied at one of the very notorious party schools.

The bottom line will be do you know the material or not? Being educated in two different countries is a plus (sidenote: you might have a problem if one was a developing nation, but in spite of controversy over recent Home Office decisions to not recognise US taught Masters Degrees for the HSMP these are still valuable degrees).

Regarding nationality, I've found being an American working in Europe to be an asset, but I work in Banking, a very, very globalised field. In fact I believe (and this has been corroborated by recruiters) that an American has an immediate advantage over other, European candidates, simply because the field is so damn global.

If you've got dual German / American citizenship you won't have a problem living here, if the experience of my Dutch wife is any guide. No papers, nothing like that, she just moved to London after we got married. Didn't have to register with the police or anything.

Curious: why don't you take a Masters here in Europe? You've already got an American undergrad, and getting a European degree would markedly add to that "educated abroad" cachet, which is very marketable in these days of globalisation.

And studying here would probably be far cheaper than in America.
posted by Mutant at 2:07 AM on June 30, 2009

I'm also curious why you're not doing the master's in Europe, given your interest in rare books / special collections. Many library school programs in the U.S. do not offer coursework relevant to this area, although supplemental coursework at Rare Book School is an option.
posted by needled at 2:59 AM on June 30, 2009

Can you get a job as a Library Assistant (or actually any job) at a British University offering an MA in your field. Working for them, in many Universities your fees would be reduced.
posted by A189Nut at 3:28 AM on June 30, 2009

Have you considered doing au pair work for just one more year while you seek educational or employment opportunities in England? It sounds as if you'd have great recommendations from your present employer. I'm sure that's something you've considered, but I want to remind you it's a very good option. In the meantime the economy might even recover a bit. Perhaps you could work part time at a UK library while working as an au pair?

The downside to the humanities MA in Europe is that it is looked down upon in the US as a terminal degree. Perhaps it is different with library sciences, I don't know.

However, I believe that if you wish to work in England or elsewhere in Europe, an MA from a British school would be to your advantage.

If your ambition is to work as a librarian, I suggest pursuing an masters of library sciences or its equivalent wherever you choose to reside. But the librarians will chime in soon about that. I am no expert on the MLS.

The specialized librarians with whom I work in college libraries (and greatly admire and respect I might add) all have PhDs in my field, history of area X.

In the eyes of the US academy, I can tell you that the terminal MA has little if any cache, especially if done in Europe. As far as job opportunities are concerned in the US a humanities MA is just something you pick up on your way to the PhD.

My advice is based on stories of US friends who've wanted to do what you're considering and had a rough time due to their citizenship and US educational credentials. It's also based on hard-luck stories of European friends who've wanted to work in the US with a European MA.

This reply is pre-coffee incoherent, but what I'm saying is take your time, and get your degrees in Europe if you want to live there. Be forewarned that they will not be an asset if you want to work in the US. (But if you ever make that decision you will have career experience, so the point is somewhat moot.)

Good luck, it sounds like a very exciting time in your life and you have some wonderful options ahead of you! Take your time and enjoy yourself no matter which path you take.
posted by vincele at 3:54 AM on June 30, 2009

I'm just concerned that my American degree will be looked down on, or that I'll be overlooked because of my nationality. Does anyone know if there is a prejudice against Americans in this field?

I wouldn't have thought so. I mean, your degree will be from an ALA recognised institution, presumably? If so, then it should be fine: ALA recognition is really the gold standard internationally for the MLS/MLIS. If you're planning on working in a university, it's a good bet that they have staff from all over the world, so they should be used to recognising overseas qualifications.

Will it be absolutely necessary for me to move to the UK without a job lined up so I can have a UK address before I start looking?

I moved to the UK from New Zealand about 15 months ago with my partner (we're both librarians). We contacted a few employment agencies over here, and they were happy to receive our CV's, but really, they didn't want to do anything further until we were actually in the country. If you're set on an academic job, then those don't tend to be advertised through agencies, you apply directly. I'm sure you could apply a few months before you arrived in the country without problems. Try jobs.ac.uk for Academic library jobs, and jinfo.com for government/corporate/public ones.

If you do move over here, look into things like setting up a bank account before you get here, and making sure you have good references from landlords, and plenty of money to set up a flat (trying to do these things from scratch, as an outsider, is difficult and tedious)
posted by Infinite Jest at 5:08 AM on June 30, 2009

CILIP and ALA recognise each-others' degrees under a reciprocal arrangement. So no problems there. Your ALA masters is as solid as it is at home.

I am Australian (dual British national) and I moved to the UK a couple of months ago, I'm also a librarian. I had much better luck with interviews here than I've ever had at home. I applied for 7 jobs, and got interviews at 5 of them while I was still in Australia (most of which I ended up not attending because I got a job much quicker than I expected). Your diversity is an asset and most interviews have a question about this - you have this nailed.

I should note however, I am not fresh out of school, I've been a librarian for 9 years.

MeMail me if you want any other info.
posted by wingless_angel at 5:48 AM on June 30, 2009

I do evening classes with a Spanish-born-and-educated librarian who works in the music library of a London university. She got this job fairly recently as a promotion from her previous post in the music library of a different London university. During the application process she explained to me that it was frustating that her Spanish library qualifications and Spanish library experience didn't seem to count as much here and that she felt she would be further along in her career if she had stayed in Spain. (But she really enjoys living and working here.) She effectively took a demotion when she came to the UK and is now really only back to where she was before in Spain. She says that when elements of her education and experience are often dismissed because they are "foreign".
posted by boudicca at 5:51 AM on June 30, 2009

Oh... you don't need an address before you start looking for work. In fact, most landlords will want to know where you work before you can rent. We did not find renting hard, as my husband and I both had job offers on arrival in the UK.

Don't bother with bank accounts before you arrive. We were warned about this, went out of our way to sign up for HSBC Passport, which did not work because they still information we couldn't provide (ie an address). We went across the street to Barclays and got an account right away, we gave a friend's address for the mail to start.

Internships are regularly advertised at Jobs.ac.uk. Look out for opportunities at the British Library or get in contact with the department and ask if you can get a tour. Make contacts now.
posted by wingless_angel at 5:52 AM on June 30, 2009

Oh... you don't need an address before you start looking for work. In fact, most landlords will want to know where you work before you can rent. We did not find renting hard, as my husband and I both had job offers on arrival in the UK.

This is a good point. The job offers thing is key though. You really need to be able to show that you have a source of income (we didn't have jobs when we got our flat, but we offered the landlady a couple of months rent in advance to prove good faith).

Don't bother with bank accounts before you arrive.

I'm not a huge fan of HSBC Passport, for the same reason as wingless_angel. I do think it's worth having something set up, though. One thing that could be worth looking at is setting up an account via your US bank, before you leave. I don't know if this is possible from the US, but it's certainly possible from New Zealand. I did it the last time I moved here, and it was a lot easier than setting up an account after I arrived. YMMV.
posted by Infinite Jest at 7:12 AM on June 30, 2009

Thanks for all the advice so far. I did consider going to school in the UK, but I'm quite picky and only applied to one. Unfortunately (and in retrospect, somewhat inexplicably considering the cost of the university I chose to go to), I decided to apply to go only part-time for financial reasons. I got a letter back saying that I needed to work in a UK library to do that. It also said that I met their work & academic requirements, and that they would look favourably upon further application if I had a job. I was pretty gutted, but so far I haven't been able to find a job in a library. If I stay, or go and come back after a few months, I don't think au pair work is an option, as a lot of shift hours interfere with the hours I'd be working. I'm in the midst of some calculations, and I may reapply to go full time if it won't be more expensive than getting my degree in the US.

The only reason I was wondering about a UK address is that I thought they might be more likely to interview me if I was already in the country. I'm not concerned about bank accounts, as I already have one. I'll just leave it open.

Thanks again!
posted by bibliophibianj at 8:31 AM on June 30, 2009

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