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Insights from IP Professionals on Working Abroad

Embarking on a journey towards a rewarding career in the intellectual property (IP) sector often involves more than just professional growth; it could mean embracing a new culture, navigating legal landscapes abroad, and broadening one’s horizons. In this exclusive interview, we delve into the experiences and wisdom of our past candidate George Karkera, who made the bold decision to move abroad for work within the IP field. George shares his insights on the challenges, triumphs, and invaluable lessons gained from his international career transitions.

What led you to make the decision to move abroad for work? Can you share a bit about your motivations and goals?

On a professional level, I was keen to broaden my experience in areas of the profession that were less familiar to me. Working as a UK and European patent attorney gave me great experience with European prosecution work and with world-leading, multi-national clients. The opportunity in Aotearoa New Zealand promised a chance to work with local clients, mostly start-ups and SMEs, helping to grow their innovations in New Zealand and around the world.

On a personal level, my partner and I were keen to experience living abroad before we got too tied down in the UK. We’re both outdoorsy and surfing is my passion, so Aotearoa New Zealand seemed to fit the bill. I’m pleased to say we’re not disappointed!

How did you prepare for the move logistically?

The main logistical task beforehand was sorting the visas. Immigration New Zealand was in the process of changing the visa system after I got the job, which created some uncertainty on the timeframe, but it all worked out in the end (though I was privileged to have the support of an immigration consultant). There was a limited amount more we could organise beforehand and so we planned for what we could and tried not to worry about the rest. When the time came to board the plane, we took a minimalist approach and resisted the urge to bring everything with us, which made the journey a bit easier.

Can you share a story or example of a time when your international work experience positively impacted your professional growth or provided unique opportunities?

Working in Aotearoa New Zealand has provided a unique opportunity to work directly with local clients, where you take on a broader role as ‘holistic IP adviser’. I find I’m involved with clients’ businesses and strategy in a way that I wouldn’t be with, say, agency work. The clients and their tech can be very varied, and I think the whole experience has pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me to grow professionally.

How did you build a network and establish professional connections in New Zealand? Were there any strategies or resources that helped you in this process?

Moving to a new country can feel a little like starting from scratch but the patent world is small and so there’s always some common connections. People in my existing network were great at putting me in contact with ex-colleagues or friends that they have over here, and I was lucky enough to already know someone – a previous colleague – in the office I was joining. Beyond that, I’ve tried to attend local events when I can and work on building my profile. Perhaps counterintuitively, networking almost feels a bit easier when there are fewer people in a population.

What resources or support systems did you find helpful during your time abroad, both within your workplace and outside of it?

Work colleagues have been great support, particularly those who have made a similar international move. I have friends-of-friends that I’ve reached out to and that has been great. Getting settled in a new country can take time and we were fortunate to have people we could lean on to help us get set up.

How has this international work experience shaped your perspective, both personally and professionally? In what ways do you feel it has benefitted your career?

I think it’s changed my perspective about work and life, and the importance of pursuing what you want and making your career work for you rather than the other way round. I think it would have been an easy thing not to do as it’s a bit of a leap into the unknown. Taking that leap forced me outside of my comfort zone both in work and in life and I think the experience has helped me grow in confidence.

How did you feel using a recruiter helped the process and would you have considered an international move without the involvement of a third party?

I think moving abroad is still relatively uncommon in the patent profession and most people don’t know a whole lot about career opportunities outside of the UK. A recruiter can help in that respect because they have established connections with employers that might otherwise not be on your radar and have experience helping others through the process. Having an intermediary between you and the employer can also have advantages at some stages. I think I probably would have made an international move regardless, but the involvement of a recruiter definitely made things easier.

If you could offer one piece of advice to someone considering moving abroad for work, what would it be?

Go for it!

The narrative woven by George’s experience is one of seizing opportunities, adapting to change, and embracing the unknown. As you contemplate your own journey in the IP sector abroad, remember that taking the leap can lead to remarkable growth and fulfilment.

Carys Bello

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