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Working overseas: Should you accept an international job assignment?
24 April 2015
Is there is a correlation between working overseas and progressing your career? And what are the factors that need to be considered before accepting a position overseas?
In a global economy, the opportunity to work abroad has become both more common and easier to organise. And, according to research undertaken by Healthy Companies International, offshore experience is more frequently becoming a prerequisite for top-level executive jobs. An examination of the career paths of C-level managers at Fortune 100 companies found that seven out of 10 had held management jobs in different countries. A decade ago, this figure was fewer than five out of 10.
But should every individual looking to further their career seek and accept an international job placement? Despite the correlation between international job assignments and career progression, there are a number of caveats for achieving success in an international role. Moving overseas for work is a significant decision. If you’re considering accepting an international job assignment, there are a number of elements to take into consideration to help you make an honest assessment of whether it’s the right decision for you:
Your personal suitability
Not everyone thrives when they are out of their comfort zone. Generally, successful expatriates have a sound knowledge of international business as well as a willingness to learn and take in new information. Openness to different cultures and an acceptance of the culture specific to the country where the job opportunity is located is essential, as is the ability to build strong relationships with those around you. Moving abroad presents significant challenges, so it’s important to make sure that you are ready and prepared – both emotionally and from a skills perspective. If you accept an overseas position, consider which skills you need to brush up on before making the move.
An understanding of your host country
It’s important that you have a thorough understanding and knowledge of the country you will be living in. This includes cultural and political factors, but also an idea of what your day-to-day life will be like. Know what you’re getting yourself into by speaking to people who have worked at the location. It’s also important that you understand the financial differences and cost of living in the specific country so that you can negotiate an appropriate salary and package. Your company should make adjustments for cost-of-living differences and cover all move related expenses.
Implications for your career
Consider the longer term career implications of moving abroad for a new job. How will the role expand your skill set and provide further career growth and development? Many people are concerned that when they move internationally they will fall off the radar of the decision makers in the company – the old ‘out of sight, out of mind’ conundrum. Communication technologies such as Skype, e-mail and video calling reduce this risk, but it’s wise to stay in contact with your existing network and report back to managers at home to keep them updated of your progress and successes.
Aside from the professional pressures of relocating abroad, relocation can place enormous emotional pressures on your partner and/or any family members making the move with you. It’s important to consider how the move will impact your partner and any children. For example if children are involved, what schooling will be available for them? And does the move provide some work opportunities for your spouse as well?
Know your contract, and make sure you are happy with the terms and conditions as well as the benefits and bonuses. For example, does the contract reflect the verbal agreements made regarding trips home and expenses? It can also be prudent to outlay a structured time period for an overseas stint in your contract. This helps ensure that you have job security should your role be made redundant while abroad, and a job waiting for you at the end of the assignment.
An overseas role can be extremely rewarding and provide immense career benefits as well as an opportunity for personal growth. But it’s important to have as much information as possible and honestly assess whether it is the right move for you professionally and personally. If not a considered decision, an international job assignment does have the potential to be a negative experience.
Overseas experience can be great for career progression, but it's not for everyone. Before accepting an international position, you should take a careful look at:
- What the benefits will be to your career
- What life will be like in your host country
- How the move will impact your family and personal relationships
- The terms of your contract, any moving allowances or time restrictions