What are good jobs that can take you abroad for extended periods of time?
December 24, 2010 9:01 AM   Subscribe

What are good jobs that can take you abroad for extended periods of time?

I am just wondering about career tracks that have a high chance of taking one abroad (language training would be lovely as well, but is not necessary).

Long term, I'd really love to live abroad...ideally in different places, but at least once for an extended period of time. I speak Spanish pretty proficiently (I could work in Spanish). My background is finance and computer science (I have worked in the former and currently work in the latter, but I am fairly young and only graduated college a couple years ago so I'm not SO valuable in any given space).

I have brainstormed some options, but would love people's thoughts! Public and private sector are both equally valid. Here is what I have brainstormed with some pros/cons.

-Peace corps
Pros: humanitarian work, working "with the people," language training.
Cons: it can be pretty rough, very poor pay, and I don't know that they would really fully take advantage of my background (I don't want to just teach english)

-Foreign Service (I think this is a pretty awesome choice, but it's highly selective so I want to flesh out options!)
Pros: great language training, can live in many interesting locales, good enough pay
Cons: very selective

-JET program, ESL teaching in Korea, etc.
Pros: you get to go abroad!
Cons: mediocre pay, isn't really a skill-set I want to build (I feel these are usually more of a fun working holiday than some sort of career stepping stone...nothing wrong with that, but given my skill set I'd hope I can do something different)

-Crypto-linguist for the military
Pros: awesome language training, a job I would find very very interesting
Cons: you have to be in the military. 99.9% a deal breaker right there. I do not think I am military material, even if the job is super cool.

-PhD abroad
Pros: you are abroad! And school abroad would be super rad.
Cons: expensive? I have no clue how funding works outside of the states. And for CS, most of the really top notch programs are stateside, AFAIK.

-Working for a company abroad?
Pros: You are abroad, you have a job!
Cons: I have no idea how one finds work abroad... and I'm not sure that a company could pay me what I'm worth, and I don't know if I have a skill-set where I would be worth bringing in (ie I know some petroleum engineers, for example, who can make a ton of money going abroad because they are needed on site etc). I would love to work for a nifty company making decent enough money in a cool locale, but that seems pretty unlikely in my field...would love to know more though.

Companies seem like a real wildcard, so I didn't include them. Sure, maybe you get lucky and your company is building an office abroad or something, but it hardly feels like something to count on? I am not sure, beyond that, what the best ways to go abroad are.

My order of preference for going abroad would be something like Spanish Speaking > Asia not China > Western Europe > China > Middle East > Eastern Europe > Africa.

As far as more specific on what I'm looking for, really I am just brain storming so it's good to know the options. That said, I want a livable wage by American standards (damn you student loans! and loans of the can't-be-discharged variety), but beyond that am pretty darn flexible. As noted above, the foreign service sounds super rad but I don't want to bank on something that is selective as it is.

Input is appreciated!
posted by wooh to Work & Money (17 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Don't discard companies as such. You have to do research as to what opportunities exist in that organisation but you can move around with all multinationals, you've just got to seek out the opportunities/get into the relevant program.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:23 AM on December 24, 2010

I knew someone who worked for an insurance company; he had to travel all over the place to assess damage from floods, hurricanes, fires, etc. A bit grim maybe, but maybe you like a little recently-passed danger.
posted by The otter lady at 9:33 AM on December 24, 2010

The longtime trend in peace corps has been toward utilizing volunteers' skills to maximize their effectiveness. There are fewer "generalist" programs and, as far as I know, teaching English is not a priority. It's been a while since I was a volunteer, but talk to a recruiter; you may be surprised at how many programs have evolved beyond what most people think the agency does.
posted by itstheclamsname at 9:36 AM on December 24, 2010

You might be approaching this wrong; what do you like to do or what is your intended career path?

I ask simply because you're asking about career paths but you've got to look at it this way: you're gonna be in that career for a long time. Not your entire life; we don't think like that any longer, but a decade or more, absolutely, especially so if you're considering lateral moves i.e., switching to a closely related path that will leverage skills obtained earlier in your working life. If you don't like - no love - what you're doing at work then you're going to have serious unhappiness in all other aspects of your life as well.

I'm in finance myself, started off in analytics (Telerate, a company very similar to and predating Bloomberg) from there moved into Investment Banking then to the ratings agencies and now after 28 years of banking / consultancy I'm teaching finance internationally at Universities in England, Spain, Prague and Austria. All of these are very, very closely related, and of interest to myself.

A side effect is my field is very international, and I've lived outside The United States for about 40% of my adult life and I don't intend to reside in America again.

So I'd suggest looking at what you like to do and trying to find a multinational firm that can use your skills in the career of your choice. That is exactly how I ended up moving abroad, and its very, very common.
posted by Mutant at 9:44 AM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Think about the PhD thing - the US is indeed out there at the head of the pack in terms of desirable educational opportunities and credentials. That's not just an American viewpoint, it's how people in the countries where you might want to work think too.

Now think about the fact that you have got American credentials and American experience. That makes you much more desirable as a potential employee in places without good educational or corporate systems than you would be in your own space. This is true even if you don't have a ton of experience.

In short, between the languages, the US credentials, the finance background, and the computer science, you've got quite a valuable skill set.

I'd say look for company/corporate jobs in Latin American countries. Try to pick ones that are doing okay economically.
posted by Ahab at 9:44 AM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

What about the non-military espionage agencies? CIA/NSA?
posted by phrontist at 9:46 AM on December 24, 2010

Anecdotal: my friend and her husband both worked for the Foreign Service (various branches of such throughout the past, oh, 15 years). In the beginning, it was good. They loved it, they loved the locations they were sent, all was good. Then, things started changing in the Agency. Changes coincided with them starting a family. They requested places with clean water and schools. They often didn't get either. The last straw came after they had been placed somewhere they loved (Albania) and were told they were going to Afghanistan next. With two small children. They both quit at the same time, the husband applied to graduate school in Scotland, was accepted, and now they're ridiculously happy.

Foreign Service can be great but it does suffer the whims of changing governmental administrations. Your circumstances now might be ideal for Foreign Service but keep in mind that circumstances change.

Don't rule out companies, for sure. My husband (along with me and our then two-year-old son) was sent to Germany on a project with his then-employer, and his current employer has branches all over the world.
posted by cooker girl at 9:51 AM on December 24, 2010

International recruiting? The FT has a whole section on ex-pat lives, and the job choices were fascinating. Companies and corporations offer more opportunity, I think, and why wouldn't they pay you what you're worth?
posted by Ideefixe at 10:26 AM on December 24, 2010

Peace corps... I don't know that they would really fully take advantage of my background (I don't want to just teach english)

From what I understand about the Peace Corps (basically the research I did when I was considering it), if you have a background in finance and computer science, they are NOT going to have you teaching English. They're going to have you working on economic development or tech projects. It seems that you're one of the few people who could join knowing that they'd be working in their area of expertise, doing things that would look relevant on your resume.
posted by Sara C. at 10:27 AM on December 24, 2010

Development work? Chris Blattman writes about it here: development jobs.
posted by squishles at 10:30 AM on December 24, 2010

My own strategy is to find a country I like, do language learning on my own time through immersion in that country, and look for opportunities while there. This has worked so far in finding a masters programme; ask me in a year if I can get a job having done the same somewhere different.
posted by squishles at 10:59 AM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do you like travel as in "live abroad for a few months or years" or do you mean travel as in "pack your bags and fly to Katmandu for a long weekend."

There's a big diff.

Personally, I'd rather live somewhere for a while, but that's just me because I've found that the hotel/motel life get's shallow and lonely mighty fast. But others like it that way.

Two of my ex-girlfriends travel a lot for their companies. They're both in a kind of niche profession that involves bringing people together or getting stuff together (contractors, locations, supplies). I doubt there's any college course a person could take to learn how to do what they do: they're just the kind of women who are good at communicating with people and finding out what is needed, then communicating with the other people who know where or how to get it.
posted by rougy at 12:04 PM on December 24, 2010

On the crypto-linguist note: you will not get the choice of where you go. You will just as likely end up working in the U.S. as anywhere else and the billets can be as long as 2 years in one place at a time. I am not a crypto-linguist, but I've met one or two. Trust me - make this your last choice.
posted by DisreputableDog at 12:30 PM on December 24, 2010

Response by poster: I'd rather live abroad for a while...not averse to pick things up and go once in a while but I much prefer the intimacy of really getting to know a place.

I am not going to join the military. I am not averse to a couple years in a rough locale, its just not choice one. And temporary.

Its good to see that companies to hire talent abroad, and also that development work could be a valid option. The brainstorming is great yall, I appreciate it.
posted by wooh at 3:14 PM on December 24, 2010

There are numerous foreign companies, especially those based in Dubai and China, who love to hire Americans. Spend some time searching for Dubai and Chinese job boards (targeted toward internationals), and you'll get a taste of what sorts of fields are in demand.
posted by GnomeChompsky at 4:01 PM on December 24, 2010

Vagabonding by Rolf Potts is full of advice and resources for long term travel and living abroad.
posted by leigh1 at 4:39 PM on December 24, 2010

Let me offer another option.

I teach English in Korea, and have developed a travel and life blog that may well offer even more opportunities in the future. To date, I've sat in on focus groups relating to tourism, met with bloggers and reporters, and achieved a decent level of popularity. Google 'Chris in South Korea' if you're inclined to see what I'm talking about.

The point? Life is what YOU make it. Sure, your day job is one thing - here in Korea, that would almost certainly include a free furnished apartment - but your free time gives you the chance to travel, consult with locals, work with local businesses, etc., etc., etc.
posted by chrisinseoul at 5:34 AM on December 26, 2010

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