Let us assume, now, that you and any Significant Others (partners, kiddiwinks, gerbils) have agreed, in principle, that it might be nice to live and work somewhere outside Britain. What are some of the things to avoid when reviewing positions advertised on websites and in newspapers and other periodicals?
The first bit of advice I would give to anyone thinking of taking up an academic post in another country is that it is often unwise to go through a third party such as an agency. I suppose that one possible exception to this rule might arise if you find yourself in the fortunate position of having been ‘head-hunted’ for some senior role, such as Deputy Vice Chancellor, Supreme Being in Charge of Research Strategy or something of that nature. However, this rarely happens to most of us relatively ordinary mortals, and even it does, it usually only takes place in mid to late career. For most people, the way to secure a new job is to spot a vacancy and apply for it. But my candid advice is to think twice (and then usually forget it) if you see a post advertised by a company acting on behalf of an anonymous client. You know the sort of thing: “My client is a prestigious higher education institution in the Middle East, looking to expand by….”
Even if we charitably assume that the institution whose identity is hidden in such an advertisement is indeed “prestigious” and on the point of exciting, well-funded expansion, the reality may well be that the agency or company acting on behalf of the ‘client’ will effectively take a cut of the salary eventually paid to the successful candidate. Often an institution – say in the Middle East – will budget a certain amount for the salary for a given position. However, it will be the agency that makes an offer to the candidate, often pitching this at no more than 80% of the budget. You are much better advised to be directly employed by a university or college. In that way you negotiate your own salary without the interference of a middle man. Furthermore you avoid getting entrapped by an institution which for whatever reason (lack of confidence? laziness?) is unwilling or unable to entrust its own Human Resources Department with the task of doing the hiring.