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No nasty surprises - do your research before you take an overseas medical job

Moving jobs is always a nerve-wracking experience and this is even more the case when you are moving country as well. To make matters worse you might be expected to take a job sight unseen, given the impracticalities of traveling halfway round the world just for an interview.

So how can you close the gap between the sales pitch, your perception and reality before you turn up in person? There are, thankfully, a few things you can do to minimize the risk of a nasty shock when you arrive.

Firstly you will want to know all about the place where you will be living.

There is loads of information on-line but every web source is pitching to a particular audience and that might not be you exactly. For a start you are not yet a local, so there may be key detail left out, assuming the reader knows it already. Neither are you a tourist, so you don't want to be judging your new home town based on the presence, or absence of a water theme park or by the quality of it's embroidery museum.

Real-estate websites are handy as they give you a sense of the look and feel of housing and they are very much geared towards people living in, or moving to the area. Google Maps can give you an amazingly realistic 3D flyover of the area from any altitude, and Street View allows you to take a virtual stroll up any street you wish. If you have not tried this before you should really give it a go.

You can always look up the websites of  local retailers, coffee shops and restaurants but why not check out their Facebook page instead which is often a more authentic and intimate representation of a day in the life of the owners and customers. Local newspapers the world over can be amateurish in their journalistic style and colloquial in their thinking but they will give you a much better feel for the character of the local community than, say, a tourist board website.

So much for the place where you will be living - what about the job itself?

Any recruiter worth their salt should have given you a thorough and realistic run down of the role but they can only be as good as the information given to them in the first place. How do you really get under the hood?

Doctors forums such as doctors.net.uk can be a great place to pitch a question. You never know who's been there before and can advise you of their experiences.

Why not call the person currently in the role directly and ask them. No-one knows the job better, and you are likely to find the warts-and-all testimony of a peer far more compelling than a third-hand account or a written position description.  Failing that, talk to someone else in the hospital or practice that comes from a similar background to you, as they will be able to advise you of their journey of discovery, both good and bad. Who knows - you may also have just made your first friend.

Over the years I have learned to encourage doctors to do all the above to ensure that they are comfortable that they are making the right decision.

I recall early in my (largely pre-internet) recruitment career introducing a young registrar to what seemed like his perfect job at a modern hospital servicing a dynamic metropolitan community. The department was well-run and the training was highly reputed. The final interview had gone well and my candidate went off to think about it overnight.

Overnight turned into three nights and I knew something was afoot, so I called him.

His concern was that the location was not quite as "Bondi Rescue-y" or "Flying Doctor-ish" as he was hoping for. It turned out that he had gained all of his information from the Lonely Planet Guide.

The entry went something like this, “ ... has little to offer to an international visitor...”

 Remembering that he came from a pleasant, but unremarkable town in the north of England, I posed the question - “What does the Lonely Planet say about your hometown?”

He ended up talking to the outgoing registrar and the deal was sealed. He could have missed out on a great experience.

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