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Top 3 Strategies For PhDs To Network Internationally

Written By: Gemma Paech Ph.D.

I grew up outside a small, rural town.

Going anywhere, even to the store, meant you had to take a long drive.

This distance always made me feel like an outsider.

The trouble with living far away from everyone else usually means that you can be forgotten.

If people don’t see you often, it can be easy for them to simply forget you.

People don’t forget about you in a malicious way.

It’s simply that proximity helps to remind people of your presence.

It keeps you on their radar.

While I didn’t know it at the time, this early exposure to having to develop relationships over long distances would help me much later, when I was trying to get a postdoc position.

Throughout my PhD, I was told that I needed to do a postdoc in a different lab.

The further away I could go, the better.

I was told that doing a postdoc in the same lab where I had done my PhD would hinder my chances of getting grant funding or a professorship later on.

The message was clear.

To succeed, I needed to move.

I knew how important it was to get my name out there.

I made sure I attended and presented at national conferences to meet people from different locations.

But, if I wanted to get a position overseas, I would need to start consistently networking with people from other countries.

The reality of trying to network with people from another country was difficult.

Going to international conferences was really expensive and there just weren’t very many opportunities where I lived to meet international PhDs.

Once again, distance was an issue.

How could I connect with people who lived so far away from me?

I thought back to when I was younger and remembered what I did to keep in touch with my long-distance friends.

I would regularly write letters and call them.

I found a way to communicate with them on a regular basis and this made the distance less of an issue.

I applied this strategy to networking with people overseas.

Thankfully, technology has advanced and I no longer needed to use ‘snail mail’. I was able to use email and join online groups to network.

I followed up with people I met at conferences and joined local online groups in the cities where I was hoping to move.

Sometimes, this meant that I had to be on a call at an unusual time, but it wasn’t impossible.

Although it took me a little longer, it was possible for me to obtain a position in a different country from the one I lived in.

Eventually, I realized that I needed to leave academia.

The academic system was broken, and so I started to look for industry positions.

As my visa nears its expiration, I am now facing the prospect of having to network from abroad again.

However, this time I know exactly what I need to do in order to network internationally and make my transition from academia to industry a success.

Why Networking Is Critical To A Successful International Job Search

Networking is critical if you want to get an industry job, especially if the job you want is in a different country.

As reported by NPR, 80% of jobs are never published or advertised.

This means the only way to access the majority of available industry positions is through networking.

The vast majority of successful candidates got their jobs through a referral from someone in their network, such as a friend or acquaintance.

According to Ere Media, companies receive an average of 250 resumes per job opening. So, without a referral, your resume may never even be seen.

From the perspective of a company, sifting through thousands of resumes and cover letters is an enormous task.

This ultimately costs a lot of time and money.

Using internal referrals is a cheaper and faster alternative to the more ‘traditional’ ways of looking for new employees.

This advantage means that many companies are expanding the number of internal referrals.

According to a report in the New York Times, several large companies have set the goal of having 50% of hires come from internal referrals.

To achieve these goals, companies offer incentives to employees who refer new hires.

The best way to know what industry positions are available, and to ultimately land secure a job, is to have a referral.

To get a job referral, you need a good network.

Building up a quality professional network becomes even more important when you live outside your target country.

The number of jobs that you see online will only be a small sample of what is actually available.

There is also the issue of visa sponsorship.

Many of the jobs advertised online come with a statement indicating that the position is only open to citizens or those not requiring visa sponsorship.

This can be very disheartening and discouraging.

Without an adequate network in place, it will be nearly impossible for you to obtain a position in another country.

Developing a high-quality network will help you overcome many of the main hurdles that international applications experience.

Networking is the key.

But, building a network in a place that you don’t live can be challenging.

3 Ways To Successfully Network From Abroad

Unfortunately, no one is going to come along and just offer you the job of your dreams.

As a PhD looking for a job internationally, you will have to put in the work to get the job you want.

You will need to be actively building your network.

It will take dedication to develop a solid network in a place that you do not physically live.

This effort will pay off.

With a good network in place, you will be able to bypass some of the major obstacles faced by international PhDs and you will be able to get an excellent industry position.

Here are 3 ways to build a strong professional network when you don’t live in your target location…

1. Build a strong online profile.

It should go without saying but, if you need to network from abroad, you must have a strong online presence.

Being online allows you to connect with people from all over the world.

While there are many platforms to use, the easiest and most widely used by industry professionals is LinkedIn.

The failing point of many PhDs is that they don’t use LinkedIn properly.

Before reaching out to connect with people, you need to have your profile in a good state.

If you don’t have a profile picture and haven’t completed sections of your profile, don’t start trying to connect with people!

You need to make sure your profile looks amazing before inviting people to look at it.

You must have a professional-looking profile picture and a strong, professional headline.

Complete all the sections and write a good summary, highlighting your transferable skills.

Include keywords relevant to the industry positions you want to obtain.

(Not sure how to revamp your LinkedIn profile? Here are 7 LinkedIn hacks for PhDs.)

Once you have your profile in order, you can start to reach out to people and build your network.

When connecting with people on LinkedIn, make sure you send a personal message introducing yourself and stating why you want to connect with them.

This will lessen the chance that people will ignore your LinkedIn messages.

Set up informational interviews to learn about positions you are interested in and about the culture of different countries.

Try to connect with people from multinational companies.

Multinational companies have offices in more than one country and this creates the opportunity to do an exchange or transfer to another country.

Be sure to remain active online.

Keep your profile up-to-date and post updates regularly in order to build your overall exposure.

LinkedIn isn’t just about connecting with people, it’s about showing your worth.

Stay in contact with people once you have connected with them.

Over time, this will help you develop strong relationships with people and develop your network.

2. Join local groups and attend international conferences.

Joining local networks or groups online can help you target contacts in the country that you want to move to.

Find online groups that fall within your social or professional interests.

Even though you are in another country, you can still be actively involved in groups.

Facebook and LinkedIn have a large variety of groups that you can join.

Groups and local networks can be a great way to develop relationships with people from the companies where you are interested in working.

You don’t need to be physically present to have a presence.

You can add value to a group, even from a distance.

This may be as simple as letting people know about the country you are from.

People are always interested in learning about other cultures and countries.

You could also volunteer your services to the group to add value.

Active involvement in a variety of groups and networks can allow you to build contacts that are outside of your specific research area.

Connecting with a people with an array of backgrounds, called “Blue Ocean Networking”, is important, no matter your physical location.

In addition to online networking, attending conferences is a great way to build connections in the place you want to move before you actually move there.

Check for local conferences that attract international attendees to try and connect with people from your target country or company.

If there are international conferences or seminars that you are planning on attending in the future, look for committees or groups that you can join.

Be active in these committees.

This may mean that you have some early morning or late night calls.

But, your dedication will demonstrate that you are invested in the group and can be relied upon.

Once you are at the conference, you can develop your network in person.

Research the speakers and the companies that are attending and try to set up brief meetings with people while at the conference.

Demonstrate your interest in the company and highlight your value.

Do not ask for a job right away, as you need to build rapport first.

Remember to follow up with each and every person that you meet.

3. Connect with other expats.

Expats are a great resource.

Expats have already successfully relocated to the country where you want to live.

Not only can they help you build a strong network, but they can offer you tips and advice on what it is like living in a different country.

Look for alumni from your university or college.

Remember to let them know why you are reaching out to connect with them.

Rather than asking them for help right away, add value by asking them about their background and how they got to be living in another country.

Ask them about any hurdles they may have faced when relocating to a different country.

Ask them about the country’s culture.

Knowing about a country’s culture can help you understand the best way to interact and network with people from a specific country.

Having contacts from your home country can also help you feel more ‘at home’ when you move to a new country.

You will usually be able to easily make a connection with a fellow compatriot.

Another, often overlooked, networking strategy is to reach out to your consulate in the city or country that you want to move to.

Look at your consulate as a way to connect with a different networking circle.

Many consulates offer social events for expats.

For example, the Australian consulate in Chicago is involved in various social networking events on a regular basis.

By reaching out to the consulate and other expats, you will be able to meet new people and learn about local events.

Developing a relationship with one person opens up the door to their contacts, and so on.

That is the power of networking.

When looking for positions abroad, it can seem daunting and impossible. You face the problems of distance, cultural clashes, and visas. However, living in a different country can be extremely rewarding. It will broaden your perspective in a way no other experience can. The key to obtaining an industry position abroad is to start networking with people from abroad. If you wisely utilize online tools, have an active online presence, join international groups, and connect with other expats, you can easily network from abroad and successfully transition into industry.

To learn more about the Top 3 Strategies For PhDs To Network Internationally, including instant access to our exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and private online network, get on the wait list for the Cheeky Scientist Association.

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Gemma Paech, Ph.D.

Gemma Paech, Ph.D.

Gemma has a PhD in Social Sciences specializing in sleep and circadian rhythms with a background in genetics and immunology. She is currently transitioning from academia into industry. She has experience in communicating science to lay audiences and believes in sharing scientific knowledge with the public. She is passionate about educating the public about the importance of sleep and the effects of sleep loss and disruption on general health and wellbeing to increase quality of life and work productivity. She is also committed to mentoring students across all demographics, helping them reach their full potential.
Gemma Paech, Ph.D.
  • Shawn Lyons, PhD

    Hi! This is great. I would certainly love to go to work internationally, but I never thought of it before because it seemed out of reach.

  • Madeline Rosemary

    This is great food for thought. I never thought of working abroad, but it would definitely be a life-enriching experience. I think that sometimes we have to stretch ourselves and do something unusual. I appreciate your input. The funny thing is that we don’t often realize that we can connect with ex-pats almost anywhere we go, which might make it a little easier to assimilate into the local culture.

  • Theo

    Agreed, you can make a big impression on a group even if you’re only there electronically. It’s amazing what great connections you can make. Good advice

  • Matthew Smithson PhD

    The world is shrinking, that’s for sure. I’ve done summers abroad, but it would be a whole other challenge to work in a foreign country. I loved Isaiah’s video though — you never know, they might fly you over for the interview. I also noticed that PhDs in climatology are welcome in France. Maybe I should bone up on my French. 😉

  • Carlie Stevenson, PhD

    This is a really great idea! I’m nor in a position to do this at the moment, but I’m sure going to bear these things in mind.

  • Harvey Delano

    I’m all for it! I think it would be really great to get out of here as soon as I’m done with academia. Bookmarking now!

  • Marvin D’Esprit

    Why not? I’ve spent enough time overseas on spring breaks to know I really like it, even if I’m volunteering. Life is meant to be lived.

  • Kathy Azalea

    What a terrific idea. I’ve been a little overwhelmed with the idea of having to network, go to informational interviews, and do everything else that’s required for getting a position in industry. But, even though this sounds like extra work, it sounds like a lot more fun, too.

    • https://cheekyscientist.com/ Cheeky Scientist

      That’s a great attitude to have, Kathy! Indeed, these social aspects of getting a job in industry can be exciting and fun!

  • Julian Holst

    I think you’ve really covered both aspects of working abroad — the overwhelm in trying to get noticed from a distance and the know-how to make those critical connections despite the distance.

  • Sonja Luther

    Not something I’m interested in at the moment, but I would consider it. Thanks for the info, though, because it’s good to have some info to think about.

    • https://cheekyscientist.com/ Cheeky Scientist

      You’re welcome, Sonja!