How to weigh up a relocation decision

Crossing a border or even a continent to launch a truly global academic career can open up untold professional and personal opportunities.

Maybe you’re an early career researcher looking for your first permanent contract. Or perhaps you’re already in a senior academic post but feel increasingly ready for a fresh challenge.

There are many compelling  benefits of an international move, including:

  • A significant boost to your career progression
  • The opportunity to be part of a centre of excellence in your field
  • Exposure to new research methods or approaches
  • The widening of your network and growth of your reputation
  • The broadening of your experience and offer to future employers
  • The chance of adventure and exposure to stimulating new experiences
  • Personal growth and positive lifestyle changes

It’s one thing to explore the possibility of relocation, but it’s another to act on it.

You’re probably highly skilled at analysing a situation and responding swiftly in your day job. But when it comes to life decisions, it can be all too easy for analysis paralysis to set in. A decision to change country – or even hemisphere – is tough to make and tempting to postpone. 

So here are seven tips to smooth your path as you weigh up your relocation decision:

1. Clarify your career goals

Knowing where you’re heading will give you an invaluable roadmap to inform your choices along the way. What does success in your academic career ultimately look like? What are the specific milestones? What next step will help you achieve them?

2. Explore the breadth of opportunities out there

Check out our guides to centres as diverse as the Universities of Adelaide, Bristol, Central Asia and the American University of Iraq, Baghdad – and in-depth profiles of over 150 other international institutions.

3. Borrow a practice from the world of coaching

Ask yourself, ‘If there were no obstacle in my way, where would I choose to be based for the next stage of my academic career?’ The answer might surprise you.

4. Research the institutions you’re drawn to

Find people in your network who are familiar with them, and start asking questions. What’s the ethos? What’s the lived experience of those working there? What would your peers be like?

5. Identify practical considerations

Consider visas, the local cost of living, the financial and time outlay of visits home, and education options if you have a young family. 

6. Bear in mind that every possibility, including staying put, has pros and cons

Take time to list them, discount any that are insignificant and attribute a comparative value to those that remain. How do your options look now?

7. Remember that it’s in the interest of academic employers to attract, welcome and retain international staff

For that reason, most are practised and proactive at helping new employees to relocate and settle in positively, however far they have come.

Watch out for a new series showcasing a wealth of international academic opportunities from South Africa to Switzerland over the next few weeks. Who knows where this year will take you?

Further reading

Seven tips for academics moving to Ecuador

Five reasons why academic opportunities in China are too good to pass up

Behind the numbers: Arab women in research

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Jo Mitchell is an experienced writer and editor. After studying Modern Languages at the University of Oxford she worked in fundraising at Oxfam GB and Viva, where she specialised in writing communications for major donors. She now provides freelance editing and copywriting services at Nightingale Ink in the firm belief that sometimes words can sing.

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