A Taxonomy of International Jobs in the Bay Area
“Without a profound simplification the world around us would be an infinite, undefined tangle that would defy our ability to orient ourselves and decide upon our actions…We are compelled to reduce the knowable to a schema.” (Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved)
We’ve been posting jobs on the BAIL job boardfor almost exactly a year and a half now. One important thing to realize about our job board is that it’s incomplete – we pull jobs from a list of around 135 different organizations and job boards, as well as those shared with us directly, but we invariably miss quite a few. And many jobs are never posted publicly at all.
With that caveat in mind, in the course of posting these jobs we have learned a great deal about the incredible range of international work happening in the Bay Area. The goal of this post is to reflect and provide some observations from the last 18 months of posting international-ish Bay Area jobs.
What do we mean by international (or international-ish) jobs?
We define “international” quite broadly, as anything that touches the wider world beyond our shores. Including Canada. This encompasses jobs at organizations with an explicitly international focus (e.g. Inveneo, Room to Read or The Asia Foundation); jobs that have an explicit international focus (e.g. development overseas, global supply chains, and almost any job with “global” or “international” in its title); or jobs that focus on a thematic issue like climate change or fair trade that has global implications. We also include policy and media-related jobs and jobs at foundations, as these are often likely to have some sort of international component.
As you may notice, we tend to skew non-profit, though not exclusively. One of the fascinating and fantastic aspects of the Bay Area is the blend of industries, so we also look to highlight unique roles within tech companies or corporations with international aspects (like AirBnB’s Global Disaster Relief Lead or Twitter’s Global HR Ops Manager).
What do we mean by “Bay Area”?
San Francisco to San Jose, including Berkeley and Oakland. Plus the occasional job from Marin or Santa Cruz if it’s awesome enough. Sacramento, in case you were wondering, is not the Bay Area.
So what have we learned about who has international-ish jobs in the Bay Area?
Keeping the above quote in mind, we’ve found it’s useful to divide the job market into ten discrete sectors:
- NGOs based in the Bay Area (e.g. Equal Access International, International Rivers, Nuru International)
- Global NGOs headquartered elsewhere with offices or jobs in the Bay Area (e.g. Institute of International Education, IRC, Water.org)
- Larger / established tech firms (e.g. Facebook, Google, Twitter)
- Smaller tech companies and other start-ups (e.g. Remote Harbor, d.light solar, Labor Voices)
- Associations (BSR, Net Impact)
- Foundations (e.g. Packard Foundation, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Skoll Foundation)
- University centers (e.g. UC Berkeley’s Blum Center for Developing Economies, Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, UCSF’s Global Health Group)
- Think tanks (e.g. Institute for the Future, World Affairs Council)
- Consulting and advisory firms (e.g. Dalberg, FSG)
- Impact Investors (Khosla Impact, Sonen Capital)
What kinds of jobs are out there?
Generalizing is, as always, a dangerous temptation. That said, the most common non-profit jobs seem to be communications (hello, social media) and development (not surprising, given the wealth between San Francisco and San Jose).
Even this is painting with a broad brush. While development positions are numerous, those positions vary dramatically, with some as pure fundraisers while others lead broad partnerships and communications activities as well. So don’t dismiss roles purely on title. There are fewer program and organizational management positions, though these do exist.
On the for-profit side, the majority of jobs seem to be in business development and marketing, though there is also a consistent smattering of CSR jobs, programming jobs, etc. There’s also a constant need for technical expertise (e.g. might be a good time to sign up for those coding, big data analysis or mobile app development courses).
Again, to misquote Jim Scott, this is a heroic simplification. There’s an incredible variety of international jobs, though sometimes it takes quite a bit of looking to find something that suits your fancy. Anecdotally we’ve found that being proactive about contacting organizations or companies you want to work for (even if they haven’t posted relevant positions), networking, and leveraging those networks when you apply for positions you’re excited about and qualified for is the best formula. This is especially important as we hear from hiring managers that they often get hundreds of applications per opening, especially for the more rare program positions. Check out our events calendar for upcoming events across the Bay Area to get inspired, and feel free to let us know if you’re hosting an event so we can share it with the BAIL community!
How does all that match up with your interests?
Since we launched the BAIL website, the most popular links from the directory to date are:
- Adobe Foundation
- Gap Foundation
- Global Fund for Women
- Khosla Impact
- IDEX (International Development Exchange)
- UC Berkeley’s Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA)
- Arabella Advisors
Then again, all of these are in the first half of the alphabet, so maybe no one reads the whole list.
Is this useful?
Let us know what you think of the jobs we’re posting now. Have you gotten a job through a BAIL posting or connection? Would you like to see more (or less) from a certain sector? Which types of roles or sectors are of most interest to you? What kinds of skills do you think Bay Area international employers care about most? Email us or leave a comment, the more we know about what you’re looking for and what works, the more we can help!