Sizing Up a New Job: the Pros, Cons and Unknowns

by Matthew Sullivan / ISR Guest Writer

How would you respond when the unknowns of your international post turn out to be significant challenges? International living extracts you from your comfort zone, distances you from family and friends, adds stress to your relationships and piles burdens on your dependents that you may never have acknowledged when you were idly dreaming of escape.

Often we romanticize about a new job rather than conduct research in a dispassionate way. Prospective international educators seeking an escape from homeland humdrum can easily delude themselves by imagining that their current troubles will disappear abroad. The human mind sadly can will itself into a doom loop of negativity, anxiety and depression when the environment around it doesn’t match expectations. But whatever attitudinal baggage you bring to your new destination will be unpacked and on display straightaway unless you travel light and divest yourself of habits that led to your unhappiness or restlessness at home.

Making a simple list of pros, cons and unknowns when sizing up a new job seems sensible, but few applicants take the trouble to do this systematically. The unknowns are always scarier risks than the cons because they cannot be measured. When you take that leap into the unknown by accepting a job abroad and signing a contract, you need to accept that you are running significant risks for yourself and your family. Many of these risks are incalculable before you start the job, and it is human nature to warm to the perceived rewards rather than to assess coolly the real dangers when busy dreaming of pastures new.

Depending on your mindset, these unexpected outcomes of a new job abroad can lead to varying degrees of panic or patience; anger or maturity; weakness or resilience; whinging or acceptance; frustration or wisdom. In the end, however, all learning can be good learning and one’s character can grow and flourish, even in seemingly adverse conditions.

During my 37 years in international education, I experienced many unknowns, rewards, sacrifices and opportunities to grow, learn and develop my character. Looking back, I have few regrets, but also few illusions!

What kinds of risks are acceptable to YOU when making significant career decisions? What do YOU aim to learn from pursuing an international career? In what ways would you like to grow as a person during your professional life?

Matthew Sullivan (recently retired international educator)

Comments? Please scroll to participate in this ISR Discussion Topic

6 thoughts on “Sizing Up a New Job: the Pros, Cons and Unknowns

  1. People need to know that every year a person is overseas, costs them hundreds of dollars a year in retirement income from both Social Security and a state pension. This is rarely considered by younger teachers. But that retirement bill does eventually come due. 23 years overseas? That is a lot of lost retirement income lost. Once you hit a certain age, you can’t go back and start over.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love how you make humans sound like robots; better yet, how you make yourself out to be above it all. Please tell us you’re retired from an admin role and make our day.


  2. Everyone and anyone who is contemplating working overseas MUST, as a sine qua non, do their due diligence! It is certainly quite a challenge to spend the time, money and energy to properly research the school, the neighbourhood, the neighbouring countries, the elements of living and thriving in that environment etc. However the time spent is well worth the effort.


  3. I feel I live a very privileged lifestyle by teaching internationally. I’ve worked abroad now for 23 years and in 7 countries and I’ve loved my experiences in every single one of them. I’ve made wonderful friendships that are still alive today, and explored parts of the world I would never have had an opportunity to do so had I stayed home. But I think that’s because I’m also a realist. There is no perfect school or perfect country. Your life will always have its ups and downs wherever you are (how boring if it didn’t?!) Fortunately I’ve also made good choices in the schools I’ve worked in. I’m also a glass half ‘full’ not half ‘empty’ kind of person. I think it’s important to come with a positive attitude, but more importantly maintain that attitude. It’s not appropriate to be the complainer, whining about polices, systems and other staff members. Check yourself- are you turning into one of these people? It’s quite incredible how some have no sense of awareness and start dumping their baggage onto anyone that will listen. I avoid becoming one of them and so should you.


    1. I’m afraid you’re a little late to the party, darling. We’re all full on toxic positivity and native hypocrites here. You’re looking for the I’ve-been-living-overseas-for-decades-but-amaze-everyone-with-my-incredibly-tiny-understanding-of-the-human-experience party around the corner from the HR blow up doll you keep fucking for free.


  4. Taught in 5 countries internationally and there were always unknowns. Is not this part of the adventure and excitment of teaching overseas? Sure a lot of them are negative such as pollution, traffic, crime, unorganized school etc. But most can be overcome in time and with a sense of humor. If we knew exactly what we are getting into than we might not go anywhere. I thouroughly enjoyed my 27 years in Manila, Norway, Istanbul, Hong Kong and Germany despite the negatives. Take the risks and jump in!


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