Fast Track: Help Desk: An Englishman in Brazil

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The problem

My son left university over five years ago with a 2:1 in Spanish studies and high hopes. He accepted a part-time post teaching English in Sao Paulo, Brazil, but before long he landed himself a job as a reporter on a highly-respected financial newspaper - interviewing, among others, Kenneth Clarke and Malcolm Rifkind.

A year later, he became assistant editor and then managing editor on the news desk, commanding a salary of approximately pounds 45,000. He never intended to stay in Brazil, however, and is now unsure about how to start again in England. He is naturally cautious of the idea of leaving a challenging and well-paid job - and is realistic enough to know that he is unlikely to receive a similar salary here.

He is now fluent in both Portuguese and Spanish and enjoys using these languages. He also enjoys journalism, but is prepared to be flexible and open- minded about changing career course if necessary. What should he do? Have his job prospects improved because of his wide experience in Brazil, or do they count for little in England? Should he risk coming home without a job waiting, or should he be now applying for jobs over the Internet?

Mrs J Fox, London

The solutions

James Roberts, Deputy Foreign Editor, The Independent, says:

Your son has progressed quickly in a challenging environment and this should count strongly in his favour when he returns to England. However, he must prepare the ground for his return properly, and ensure he approaches organisations that will value what he has to offer. If he wants to continue working on newspapers, he should not burn his bridges in Brazil, but take perhaps a month's leave in England and contact the Foreign Editor of every national broadsheet newspaper. He should bring examples of his work, and be prepared - hopefully over lunch, but perhaps in a hurried 10 minutes squeezed into his contact's day - to give an account of himself and his experiences that would show what an asset he would be on a Foreign Desk. He should also consider the Business pages.

If he chooses to come back without a job, he should at least have a good set of contacts and recommendations. He may not get an offer of a staff job, but a contract. If it is what he wants, he should take it. This can lead to the offer of a staff job if he performs well, and when company circumstances allow. I would have thought a reasonable salary would be pounds 30,000 to pounds 35,000.

Charles Paterson of Charles Paterson Search & Selection (0171-493 8691), says:

A good way of obtaining full-time work on national newspapers is to start by doing freelance shifts on several papers - and if you look in BRAD (British Rate Advertising Data) at your local library, it lists major national, regional and financial newspapers. You could then ring on behalf of your son and get the names of the editor, and news and financial editors. Your son should then send his CV with cuttings, translated into English, to the relevant editors. You could help by following up the CV on the telephone and make appointments for your son. He could register with Media NetSelect (Editorial) 17 Woodstock Street, London W1R 1HE 0171-629 2139, or visit their website, http://www.mousetrapmedia, for editorial positions. Look in the UK Press Gazette and broadsheet newspapers; The Independent on Tuesday and The Guardian on Monday are particularly good.

Angela Phillips, lecturer in journalism, Goldsmiths College, University of London, says:

Your son should certainly check out the specialist business and financial press where job competition is less fierce than in newspapers. He can research the field from Brazil (with your help) and then fire off letters and a CV to everything that looks interesting, together with copies of the newspaper he works on. Even if it is not in English, it will give prospective employers a "feel" for the kind of publication he is working on. Then he should take some leave, come over here and exploit every contact he has who knows anyone in the business, as well as making his own appointments. If nothing comes up immediately, he will at least have made personal contact. Once back in Brazil, he needs to keep those contacts alive - perhaps by offering freelance stories until something comes up.

Interviews by

Carmen Middleditch

If you have a work problem and want expert advice, write to Carmen Middleditch, Fast Track, Features, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL; fax 0171-293 2182; e-mail: