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If you have a question for our Career Coach, e-mail Helen at careers@ReConnectAfrica.com

ImageDear Helen

I do not know how to start. I have a PhD and I am working in the pharmaceutical industry in Switzerland. I would like to work in England or in Africa but I am over 50 years of age. My question is, are there chances for people of my age to change over? I hope to hear from you.

George, Lausanne, Switzerland

Dear George,

It’s never too late to make a new start and I would encourage you to look positively at your situation. On one hand, despite the range of anti-discrimination legislation in the UK, for example, it would be naïve to assume that you will have the same opportunities as someone in their 30’s. On the other hand, you have built up a significant wealth of experience and knowledge of your sector and these are skills you should leverage going forward. Many employers in the UK are making a concerted effort to broaden the diversity of their employee base and this may give you an opportunity if you position your skills and experience carefully.

Before making any move overseas, you should ask yourself some key questions:

  • What are the key drivers for wanting to move country; is it for predominantly professional, social or other reasons? Being clear about your reasons for moving will help you frame your options and choices against these criteria.
  • What is the state of the employment market in the country/countries you are considering a move to? If you will be seeking formal employment, are there sufficient businesses within your sector of expertise or are there clear opportunities within the public or non-governmental sectors? If there are not enough viable employment opportunities, what is the market for independent consulting and is this something that you could undertake?
  • What contacts or networks do you have in the country/countries you are considering a move to? A significant proportion of people find work through their networks and contacts, rather than going through formal job application processes. Give some thought as to where you have the strongest network of professional contacts or support to help you navigate your new terrain.
  • How much do you know about the country/countries you are considering a move to? When did you last visit the country and can you plan a fact-finding visit before you make a decision? You should be clear about the cost of living and housing, your likely salary or income expectations and whether this will offer you the standard of living you would expect. Take into consideration the costs of medical care, social security as well as any ongoing financial commitments you may have to continue meeting in Switzerland.
  • What are your key transferable skills? Carry out an honest assessment of your technical, managerial and other skills. If you will be looking for employment, have you prepared a CV that properly markets your skills to a prospective employer? You should spend some time researching the pharmaceutical sector in the UK and those companies operating in Africa to identify likely job roles to suit your experience and interest.
  • Research specific recruitment agencies, web portals or publications that specialize in your sector. A few phone calls to some recruiters who service the pharmaceutical sector will give you first-hand information of the market and some invaluable advice about where to focus you efforts.

With some careful research and the judicious use of contacts and agencies, you will be better placed to start your career overseas. You can also contact us if you need some coaching in preparing to live and work in Africa,

Warm regards,


Voted Candace Business Woman of the Year 1997, Helen Dupigny is a Director and co-founder of Working Plus, (www.working-plus.com) a Careers Management and Diversity consultancy and creator of the award-winning ‘Six Steps Career and Personal Development Programme’. A Sierra Leonean based in London, Helen is also the author of ‘Vicissitude’, a guide to making life and career changes.

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