"I'm interested in international agricultural research for development, but how do I get my foot in the door?"
This was the question posed by many early to mid-career researchers at a recent RAID Networking Event in Adelaide and probably at every other RAID event we have held too! International agricultural research for development is undoubtedly an exciting career prospect. I mean, who doesn’t like the idea of sipping back a gin and tonic (or some version of chai) in the humidity of Asia and talking about farming???
Of course it’s not all about the gin, and really, working internationally gives you an opportunity to apply your skills as a research scientist in a totally different context. It’s a chance to be immersed in different cultures, understand different systems, use different tools and above all work with a vast array of different people in what can be very challenging circumstances. These experiences are invaluable and consolidate the importance of research being applicable in the field but also teach you the importance of communication, collaboration and tolerance. These skills may seem very basic and are generally expected, but they are often overlooked and not taught as such. So your time abroad isn’t just schooling you in the delights of other food, drinks and culture – it also schools you in competencies that are transferable back to your career in Australia. Furthermore, many employers here really see the worth in these types of experiences and know the perspective gained abroad in collaborative research will be useful to any team!!!
In saying this, the reality is, there are only limited opportunities in this space and you need to be really pro-active or lucky to get your foot in the door.
Here’s RAID’s top 6 tips for getting your foot into agricultural research for development:
- Get involved: Networks like RAID, provide an excellent platform to learn about who’s doing what and where, and most importantly, what opportunities are available.
- Get talking. Identify people within and outside your institution that are working on international projects and see if they are interested in taking you on. An honours project or short-term internship is a great way to get involved and may lead to further study or a job!
- Get volunteering: Groups like Scope Global offer amazing volunteer opportunities on international projects. This links you up with collaborators/projects that you can utilize to take that next step into a research/project role.
- Don’t give up: Building your expertise in Australia before jumping into the international work is not a bad career move and in many cases it is very beneficial!!! It provides you with more context for your work overseas – and gives you a link back into your Australian career. Remember, international agricultural research for development should be seen as one component of your Australian career in agriculture.
- Post-graduate study is very beneficial: Getting involved in a project as a masters or postgrad student is a good way to get involved and test whether or not a career in research is what you are after. If it is, then having a post grad qualification behind you is really going to open doors for leading projects and being a research manager in the future.
- Jump at opportunities: Like we said opportunities do not come up all the time, so if you see a job/project/internship available that involves some overseas experience – jump right at it. Project leaders and supervisors love working with pro-active and confident researchers, so do a bit of reading on the topic and show your interest
It’s not a guaranteed formula, but these tips are definitely some of the key ways you can get involved and who knows where you might end up.
One more thing, if you’re a supervisor or project leader and have a topic that needs a motivated young scientist, please get in contact with RAID and we can spread the word.
Written by Dave McGill and Jack Koci
Picture by Jack Koci: RAID event in Adelaide, May 2015