Step-by-Step International Job Search
by Bonnie P. Class of 2003
Studying abroad as part of the 2002 Semester in London program was a life changing experience for me. I was able to travel around the U.K. and Europe, see famous monuments, taste foreign cuisine, and experience different cultures. Moreover, I learned to see myself, my country and the world from a new perspective. Upon returning to the Binghamton for my senior year, I knew that I wanted to return to London; because the four months I spent studying there was not enough. I wanted to become part of the culture, meet more British people, spend more time traveling around the country and see more of Europe. I decided that working abroad would be the next step for me upon graduation, and the job search began.
August 2002: I started out just searching the web trying to find information about working abroad. I typed in things like "work in London" and "work abroad" on www.google.com, and read anything I could get my hands on. I found more specific websites like www.workabroad.com, www.bunac.com, and www.iagora.com. The CDC website listed reliable work abroad programs so I used it as a guideline to narrow down my search. My first step was figuring out how I could legally work in the U.K. I checked the U.K. Consulate web page and found that I had to a) have a EU/UK passport; b) be sponsored by a British company or c) be sent over by an American company. I ruled out option A because I only hold an American passport, and obtaining dual citizenship is not an option for me. I did research my ancestry a little, but my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents were all born on either American/Canadian soil. My great-grandparents were born in Ireland, but the chance I could qualify for an Irish passport with that are slim.
I did some research for option B, but found that in order for a British company to hire me, they would have to prove that there was no one qualified to fill that position in both the UK and the E.U. (Spain, Italy, Germany, France, etc.). In addition, because I am a recent graduate, I had less on the job experience than my competitors. However, I did find that there are a number of International companies that operate out of the U.S., U.K., and the rest of the world, and that that these are a good place to look for work abroad.
I also considered option C. However I was not very interested in working in any kind of corporate atmosphere so I didn't research it in detail. However, the Directory of American Firms Operating in Foreign Countries would probably be the best resource for someone interested in doing this.
September 2002: I found a program called BUNAC listed on many of the websites I had been reading, including the CDC website (cdc.Binghamton.edu). I came in to CDC and looked over the programs literature in the binder, and finally decided it was the best route for me to take. The BUNAC Work in Britain program gives U.S. college students or recent grads the opportunity to work in Britain for up to six months. The program fee is only $250 and provides working papers, support in finding a job and accommodations, runs social trips and pub meets with other BUNAC participants, and an International Student House membership card.
The application process for BUNAC is simple, you just send in the application and money, and it is processed in two days. However, I wanted to find a job before I applied for BUNAC, with the hopes that maybe I would just get hired by someone who would sponsor my work visa, allowing me to stay in Britain for longer than 6 months. I decided to keep researching my options and started my job search.
Mid-September 2002-October 2002: I began by contacting the Alumni office and asking for a list of alumni that work in the U.K. From working at the CDC, I knew about the Alumni Career Network, which provides contact information for alumni in the states. The woman at the Alumni office was great and had a list printed out for me two days later. Many of the alumni listed had email contacts so I contacted them via email. I wrote a basic letter to each alum that I contacted, but modified each one a bit because I didn't want to send out a mass email. The list I was given had professions listed for each alum along with their major, so I tried to build rapport based on that information. In my first letter I just told them who I was, and that I had studied abroad in London and that I really wanted to return to work there. I also told them my situation (U.S. Citizen). I wrote them explaining that the Alumni office had provided me with their information, and that because they were Binghamton alumni either working or living in London, that maybe they would give me advice about working, job hunting, and living in London/U.K. I received many warm and wonderful responses from the alumni. I even found one woman who was in the exact situation I was-she had studied abroad in London, fell in love with the city, and wanted to return when she graduated. She detailed the steps she took and was honest about the trouble she had to go through to finally obtain a permanent job there.
October 2002: From the emails I received, I decided that BUNAC was definitely the best route for me to take. Many of the Alumni recommended it, and reaffirmed that it was difficult to obtain a full-time professional for an American just out of college.
With the decision to do BUNAC affirmed, I began to look for jobs. I continued to email the alumni I had contacted and many of them offered to take a look at my resume, and forward it to their contacts. They gave me advice on where to look for U.K job postings, and suggested industries I might be successful in according to my CV. It was great to have the support of the Alumni who were working in London because the job search is long and frustrating at times.
I also searched the BUNAC handbook, which I found in the binders in CDC. The handbook is normally only mailed to participants after they pay the program fee. However, I wanted to find a job beforehand so I borrowed the one in the CDC. I found many job listings with email contacts and started inquiring about positions and forwarding CV's/Cover letters. I found an organization I was particularly interested in, The Fulbright Commission, and applied for this job along with others. The Fulbright position seemed perfect for me because it is in the field of International Education, and the position offered some Public Relations/Marketing duties, which I am also interested in exploring. I send out my application via email and hoped for a quick response.
November 2002. I continued to apply for jobs I had found in the BUNAC handbook via email, and was still waiting on hearing back from Fulbright. I received an email saying they were having email problems the first week of November so I had to resubmit my application. I then followed up a week later to see if they had reviewed it. Towards the end of the semester they told me that someone would contact me soon about my application.
December 2003: Earlier in the year I had planned a mid-January trip to London with two of my friends. Because I had not yet heard from Fulbright I figured I would email them again and tell them I would be in London in January. It was perfect opportunity to visit the place I was interested in working for, so I sent them a quick email saying when I would be in London, and that I would love to stop by and see the office and learn what they do there. They wrote back and we scheduled a time to meet.
January 2003: The second- to- last day of our 1.5-week trip to London, I made my visit to the Fulbright office. It was a very informal visit, and they showed me around the office, and I met the student interns that were currently working there. I actually found out that one of them, a British girl, had studied abroad for a semester at Binghamton University, and that we knew some of the same people! I am lucky I had the chance to visit London because I think it was very helpful in giving them a face to put to my resume/cover letter.
January 30th 2003: About a week after I returned to the states and had started the spring semester, I got an email from Fulbright saying that the director wanted to have a phone interview with me! I scheduled the phone interview, and after about 20 minutes of conversation he offered the job to me!! During the phone interview he was asking me a lot about my work experience, particularly at the Career Development Center. The position at Fulbright actually had a lot of similarities to the CDC, so I was really able to use my work experience here as proof that I was qualified for the position. Also, because Fulbright is an international organization, they were looking for someone with international experience. I used my experience working with international students in the English as a Second language classroom, and studying abroad as evidence of my international experience. Just shows you how one thing leads to another!
The position is technically a paid internship, and I will be working from August 18th to February 18th. I am working for the Educational Advisory Service (EAS) of the US-UK Fulbright Commission. My official title is "information officer", and I will be working at the Fulbright House in London. The EAS office contains a resource center that provides information for UK students who are interested in attending university/grad School in the US. I will be assisting visitors in the resource center, and will also be given additional Marketing/Public Relations responsibilities, writing up pamphlets and organizing college fairs. I am extremely excited about this and think it will be a great experience! I have already emailed some of the former interns there, and they said that the position really gave them an edge when applying for full-time jobs-one of them was applying for positions that asked for four years experience, but she was still granted interviews for all of them!My experience searching for a job in London taught me that follow up and networking are key in getting a job. In addition, I learned that using a number of different search methods is the most successful in obtaining a position. I am excited about my job in London because I think it will allow me to combine the skills I have obtained from past experience, and gain new skills in the process. I'm excited to return to London and I'm looking forward to being a part of the Fulbright organization!