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Devon has lived and worked in Paraguay for more than three years, helping nearly 20 community groups, schools, and government agencies design and fund sustainable programs for economic and social development.

Are you having trouble finding a job in the U.S and willing (or wanting) to make a life change? You might think about expanding your job search to not just other cities and states, but to other countries altogether.  While the U.S. economy is steadier now, it is still not booming like in many corners of the world.

Rapid development, new middle classes, and an international turn from traditional development assistance have created a viable need for fundraisers outside of U.S. borders.  Both, searching for a job and then working in another country however have their own challenges, and here are some things that you should consider before you pack your bags.

What kind of international fundraising jobs are there?

You want to consider what type of work you want to do to identify the outlets most appropriate for fulfilling your goal and/or finding employment.

  • U.S. or international NGO. For the person that wants the stability of backing from a developed country, a steady salary, benefits, etc. Good places to search for these jobs are Idealist or Indeed, which compiles jobs from a number of different sites.
  • A country-specific NGO. You will probably have to find some personal contacts within the country itself if you want to work for a small, country-specific non-profit, especially one in a developing country. Your best bet is to go there first, either as a volunteer, a tourist, or a different kind of worker that fulfills publically posted jobs, like English training. (For lists of international NGO’s visit DevDir.org, or GrantSpace.org‘s collection of resources.)
  • Live abroad but work nationally or internationally. Start your own development consulting agency, marketing yourself on a number of different websites including Elance and Freelancer. You can help NGOs all over the world that contract grant writers, letter writers, or fundraising researchers, while living in your dream country! Just make sure you can access a steady Internet connection.  You are making yourself an “outsourced” consultant which is attractive to certain nonprofits and businesses on a budget.
  • Start your own NGO.  Does a particular problem within a developing country bother you, like environmental degradation in the Amazon? Go down there, learn the culture and language, and then work to do your own fundraising and start your own NGO! You can even partner with organizations established and fundraise in the States before you leave.

international flags

Teaching English as a means to ends

Your English is so in demand that you could probably translate, teach, and tutor as a full time job in nearly any growing economy in the world.  Business development skills, cooking courses, and even basic education for kids (reading, math, etc.) are other musts many country nationals might ask you to teach.  If you are considering a country, are preparing to live in one for a new job, or want to plunge and move entirely even before you have a job, teaching English or other basic skills is a fantastic way to:

  • Get to know people in a new country. You need to know people to work well and to live well, and your traditional friend-making and networking skills will probably not translate to another culture. To build relationships, give them something they want – language practice with a native speaker, or how to make hamburgers like McDonalds. The things you want from the relationship will naturally evolve afterwards with a little patience.
  • Learn the language and culture of a new country. You do not need to know the language before you go to a new country.  All you need is a local tutor and a few months. If you can, before you accept a job or look for work in a particular country, go there and immerse yourself for 6 months to understand the language and culture. You can teach a basic accounting course to make ends meet! Business is an American concept that we all understand and that everyone else wants to know.

Culture Shock

You need to be completely prepared for the reality of culture shock and what you are going to have to do to cope with it before you decide to move abroad. Culture shock may last a year or more, and you should prepare beforehand by integrating it into your schedule.

  • Physical symptoms. You might have headaches and feel exhausted, and you will more than likely need to adjust to a new diet that will rattle your digestive system for a month or two. Do not work too strenuously the first few months to help your body adapt.  You might not be able to jog like you did in the States either, so prepare for a lower impact stress relief activity like reading or listening to music.
  • Manic ups and downs. One day you will be enthralled with your new station, and the next you will doubt the choice you made. You might actually feel depressed as well. You need to have a lot of patience for yourself to cope with the inevitable emotional rollercoaster that accompanies culture shock. Stay home and read a book when you feel bad.
  • Necessary vacation. A good way to cope with those ups and downs is to leave the country all together regularly. Plan vacations every three to four months if you can, to get away for the weekend to another neighboring country and culture. These trips will remind you why you wanted to live abroad – to seek adventure, to learn new things, and to push yourself to new limits!
  • Homesickness. A real sense of loneliness accompanies leaving your country. When these moments arise, you will need to think about all the reasons why you wanted to leave. Also build your network with your family and friends back home and seek their support regularly via Internet and calls.  Make sure to go outside your comfort zone to make friends in your new country as well, even if you have to go to a church you would never attend in the States or other community events that you would not normally enjoy. Say yes anyway when new friends reach out and invite!

Working abroad can be an amazing experience, but it might be challenging to find the right type of job for you, to integrate into your new home and life, and to cope with the emotions and obstacles that will surely arise. The real key to success is to open yourself to changing your plan and trying new things, even if it means you end up teaching a class you never expected to teach or fundraising for a different type of organization just to build a network. Be as prepared as you can be beforehand, but also remind yourself constantly to be flexible and patient!

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