Following Those Clues

After two months and fifteen posts I hope one idea is becoming clear to my readers: Locating a short-term working vacation is not like following a recipe or solving a mathematical problem–step 1, step 2, step 3, … . It is much more like a murder mystery in which you uncover clues that eventually lead to the guilty party.

It would be so convenient if overseas employment were as simple as double clicking a link but that’s not the case. Given the range of work environments–classroom, medical lab, business office, concert hall–and the diversity of professional skills–engineer, teacher, pharmacist, architect–it would be impossible to devise a single list or single set of guidelines that works for all. However, a technique that will work for everyone is to have your personal “antennae” tuned in to every possibility and have a willingness and enthusiasm to go after whatever opportunities present themselves.

A friend of mine, a highly experienced educator, recently sent me email saying “When we were in Bhutan I had a conversation with a woman who just completed a consulting job with a school in Kathmandu advising them on setting up a special education program…I had forgotten about that until I read your blog entry about seeking out opportunities.” Now if Nepal is high on my friend’s “100 places to see” list, then this serendipitous conversation is just the kind of hidden opportunity to which she should respond. The question though is “How?” Here is one approach:

The City of Jerusalem At Night. My Family Spent Three Months Here In The Summer of 1983

First, determine if the school where this individual consulted was a safe place and if her colleagues were good people–you don’t want to go somewhere unpleasant or work with unfriendly staff. If the response is encouraging then get 1) the name and email of a contact person, 2) details of the work she did, and 3) the kind of consulting they may need in the future. Next, send an email inquiring about short-term employment possibilities, being sure to include your credentials, employment history, and the professional services you could offer. In addition describe your reasons for wanting to live and work in Nepal–not just employment but cultural, personal, and professional growth as well. Finish with the dates you are available and the approximate length of stay–stressing, of course, that all dates and times are negotiable. I would not address salary, transportation, or housing; those discussions become necessary only if the school expresses an interest. Then sit back and wait for a response.

Now cynics may scoff at this strategy since the success rate for “shot in the dark” employment inquiries is generally quite small. I agree but would remind everyone that the ultimate goal of these letters is not a positive response rate of 75%, 50%, 25%, or even 2%. You are trolling for a single “Yes”; just one invitation like the one I was fortunate enough to receive from Hebrew University. (My blogs don’t say anything about all the inquiries that led nowhere!)

On the Internet it takes only a few minutes to send an email, and the cost is zero. Therefore, the number of rejections you receive is immaterial; all that matters is getting a single acceptance, an acceptance that, if it happens, will send you and your family on a transformative personal, professional, and cultural odyssey. That result seems to be worth the effort.

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One response to “Following Those Clues

  1. Hi, Michael,

    Great post and great advice. Andrea and I will definitely have to consider being “consultants”.

    Ed Clark

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