Drs. Ron and Caryl KrannichDo we ever live in interesting, unpredictable, and serendipitous times! This is especially true in the international arena where old ideas and territories seem to regularly get turned into new concepts and countries.
While the U.S. economy has undergone fundamental restructuring during the past decade, so too has the international economy. As we enter into the new millennium, we face a newly restructured international community that requires a new breed of international worker who possesses a unique combination of interests, skills, and abilities to function well in today's rapidly changing international arena. For we see unprecedented opportunities awaiting those who understand the complex of jobs and employers that increasingly define this new and often unpredictable global economy.
The New International Job Disorder
A new international political and economic order-or disorder-that was expected to emerge in the aftermath of the collapse of communism has been anything but quick and easy. Indeed, the journey has been both unpredictable and difficult, a less than stellar situation for many international job seekers who pinned their hopes on breaking into what appeared to be a booming 21st century international business community complete with generous salaries, benefits, and perks.
Take, for example, the case of the newly arrived small enterprise development Peace Corps Volunteer in Almaty, Kazakhstan (former Soviet Union) we reported on five years ago. Her ostensible mission was to promote American-style capitalism in this former communist country. Writing home after a few weeks of in-country training, she tries to put her "new world" experience in perspective:
"Almaty, Kazakhstan is an amazing place to be! I had dinner with some Russian business people who were scientists under the Soviet regime, but now wish to buy American products to sell on the streets of Almaty. This is not so unusual as it is evidently about the only way to make money here because privatization has not gotten a foothold yet, and State owned companies are not paying "competitive" wages. The uniqueness of the meeting is that we were sharing a meal with a man who had been sent to Cuba to spend three years teaching the Cubans about the evils of American capitalism. Now he is requesting assistance from the Peace Corps in finding a U.S. supplier to be his partner in a joint venture....My experiences have been so rich that I cannot begin to paint in words anything but an outline. I miss my good friends and associates, but I would rather have them come to visit me than to return home!" (Peace Corps Today, Fall 1993)
One wonders whatever transpired in Almaty, Kazakhstan during the next five years. Did the economy really take off in the direction of 21st century Western capitalism or did it descend into the chaos and economic disintegration that gripped much of once booming Russia and Asia in 1998? Were these the best of times for enterprising international job seekers or did the international job market undergo a major transformation that destroyed more jobs than it created? And what about personal safety in countries where foreign nationals are increasingly targeted by terrorists, gangs, and criminals? Is this really a good time to be seeking an international job or are you well advised to pursue a more "normal" domestic career-one that pays enough money to allow you to regularly travel abroad without incurring the hassles of living and working in an unpredictable and perhaps dangerous international job setting?
A Global Economy Gone South?
The new world order that was expected to emerge in the aftermath of the collapse of communism in the 1990s never really followed the path predicted by optimists. Touting such grand concepts as the "global economy" in which the private sector was supposed to play a major role in developing American-style consumer economies worldwide, what actually evolved was a great deal of "global misery." A combination of naive foreign investors, crony capitalists, and volatile hedge funds operating in unregulated environments led to major economic meltdowns in countries that appeared to have booming economies. Not surprising, in many parts of the world, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer in what appeared to be a grand global zero-sum game.
The real "global economy" that evolved during the past decade took several unexpected turns. While many American businesses expanded abroad and generated new international job opportunities during much of the 1990s, the house of cards began collapsing in 1997. First came an unexpected economic meltdown in the booming speculative economies of Southeast Asia and East Asia. Russia went next and Brazil stood on the brink of economic collapse. While the U.S. economy continued to boom in the midst of such chaos, its long-term future also was in doubt.
For all intents and purposes, the much touted global economy that was expected to create millions of new jobs for the 21st century was a disaster in the making: it destroyed millions of jobs and ruined many lives. It was essentially a rich man's game-based on a great deal of speculation and corruption in the financial markets. By the end of the 1990s, many people discovered it wasn't such a hot idea to participate in a global economy, an economy that put one country at extreme economic risk in relationship to other countries. A newly despised global economy was largely responsible for increased poverty, social dislocation, and even starvation in countries most affected by the new economic political disorder!
Innocence and Reality Abroad
The signs in 1998 were ominous for many young America's who mistakenly thought they were on new fast track international careers-in hot jobs that seemed to have a bright future in the new booming global economy. You could easily go to Hong Kong or Moscow to find work and perhaps change jobs in these cities within a few months. Many businesses needed young, talented, and adventuresome people-1990's soldiers of fortune-for the tremendous amount of work that had to be done in what appeared to be rapidly expanding economies.
For talented and determined individuals, finding an international job in business during much of the 1990s was not difficult-as long as economies abroad continued to expand at unprecedented rates. From budding entrepreneurs congratulating themselves for having the foresight of being in the right place at the right time to major corporate players who routinely saw their stock prices soar, many of these young international workers were inexperienced in key international economic and work fundamentals: periodic economic downturns, depressions, and job loss; they were unprepared to deal with the new realities and shocks of this international environment. Ironically, many now appeared to have the wrong set of skills for the work that needed to be done abroad.
For talented and determined individuals, finding an international job in business during much of the 1990s was not difficult-as long as economies continued to expand at unprecedented rates. Moscow was a case in point for understanding the innocence and reality of international jobs in the boom and bust economies of the 1990s. This city revealed the dark side of the international job market that has important implications for many of today's job seekers. The once swinging Bells, Hungry Duck, Rosie O'Grady's, and Papa John's in Moscow frequented by young American professionals fell silent in 1998 as many people lost their jobs and headed for home or looked elsewhere for international jobs-anyone hiring young American entrepreneurs in Paris, London, or Rome? At least in the once booming business community, international jobs became increasingly difficult to find. Not many international headhunters or multinational companies were looking for "Moscow experience"! For many Americans, working in the midst of a major economic meltdown was both a shocking and depressing career experience. While working abroad had been fun for awhile, it lost much of its luster under such dire economic circumstances. Many Americans abroad were ready to "transition" to jobs back home where the economy continued to boom. On the other hand, many international nonprofits were facing new realities attendant with the collapse of economies: greater poverty in economies that had become increasingly dependent on the global economy. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and private voluntary groups (PVOs) increasingly found themselves dealing with problems they had helped resolve decades ago: widespread hunger, starvation, and disease. Especially in the case of Indonesia, which experienced near total economic collapse in 1998, NGOs and PVOs moved in to literally save the children and poor people who disproportionately felt the impact of the downturns in the new global economy on their lives. While less financially rewarding than jobs in business, jobs with international nonprofit organizations were on the increase as more and more NGOs and PVOs were called on to "fix" the renewed problems of the world's poor. Business was not a friend.
Excerpted from "Jobs For People Who Love to Travel" and "International Jobs Directory" by Drs. Ron and Caryl Krannich. Impact Publications, 9104 Manassas Drive, Suite N, Manassas Park, VA 20111, Tel. 703-361-7300, Fax 703-335-9486, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Available through Impact's on-line career and travel bookstores: www.impactpublications.com and www.ishoparoundtheworld.comTOP