Moving abroad with your work is a process that’s as old as economic activity itself. But these days, many employers are linking promotion to international experience and they don’t just mean working with people from other countries or getting on a flight a few times a week. They mean uprooting yourself, and often your family, for a wholesale move to another country. The best companies provide generous relocation packages that include training on topics like intercultural awareness and learning the local language. However, despite the support provided, many people who have moved abroad take a lot of time to get back to previous levels of success and can sometimes feel as though they’ve landed in a career backwater. At the same time, you and your company will have high expectations for your overseas job move. People are moving for career advancement and companies are moving them to grow the business. Having a career that is just as good after the move as it was before is no longer good enough. Companies are examining the high cost of international mobility, which can be three or four times the cost of annual salary. The implication is clear – high expectations abound on all sides and you will be heading into a business critical job where you need to hit the ground running as soon as you land.
It’s about more than language and culture.Moving your career abroad is possibly the only professional activity that fractures your whole life including many of the professional resources you relied on to be successful. These resources are broader than knowing the culture and the language of the place that you live. Think about what it takes to be successful in your job now: having a strong understanding of your local environment, knowing how the systems operate, knowing who are the key players and, crucially, knowing how you fit into this picture and how you create value. In addition, people know you. You have a network that is closely aware of your reputation, your strengths and weaknesses, and who like and trust you. Yet all of these success ‘threads’ are severed when you move abroad and need to be re-established if you’re going to thrive. Your talents and strengths are key to your success and they’re all embedded in your local environment and the people around you now. The ‘how’ of your talent needs to adapt and change when it crosses borders.
Take the right success map with you.It’s tempting to be sucked into solving the myriad of every day practical problems when you move abroad. One of the most common coping strategies people use is running harder and faster on the corporate treadmill, working long hours to re-establish themselves. This might help in the short-term as the learning curve is steep. However, it also results in you neglecting the personal and social relationships that need to be maintained and re-established after your move. Longer-term, without that network of support and friendship, your global career move can become an extremely lonely and isolated place. Another way your global career can fail to thrive is when you don’t manage to find your niche, the place where you are able to shine and add your unique value. I see this in clients who feel they are drifting in a career backwater after their move. Typically this happens because they’ve not yet found a way to translate their talents. A similar malaise comes from trying too hard to fit into the new culture by over-adapting. I’ve worked with clients who’ve given up some of their key talents and strengths because they felt they stood out too much as a non-native. The consequence of such an approach is feeling as though you’ve lost yourself in the move. So how can you ensure that your career takes off after you move abroad, lives up to your high aspirations and gives your employer confidence in their investment? You can work smarter at this critical career transition by focusing on the following topics: Translating your talent. Your talents and strengths need careful translation after you move abroad. Just like currency, their value is realised when you use them in transaction with someone or something around you. When the people and the environment change, so does the way in which you should use your talents and strengths. The first step in translating your talents is to become familiar with how you do your best and most enjoyable work. Then look for opportunities to grow and extend these strengths in your new workplace. Reviewing and re-positioning your strengths and talents should be your number one priority as it will facilitate every other aspect of a successful transition. Getting recognised. One of the toughest things about moving abroad is that very few people recognise you. They don’t recognise your face and most of them also don’t know your personal or professional reputation. You need to be able to explain what you’re about in such a way that someone can share your story and message with a colleague after only meeting you once. That way, you can enlist your new contacts in getting your reputation working for you again. Being resilient. You should find ways to grow and enhance your resilience. One of the best and simplest ways to do this is to have good self-care practices and take time to recharge physically and mentally. Developing your resilience will ensure you have the strength and resources to reach out into your new environment. Getting connected and growing relationships. Growing and enhancing your networks and relationships needs to be a priority. Look for ways to participate in referrals and other strategic alliances, professionally and socially. You should also put some effort into nurturing both your old and new relationships. Don’t neglect one side or the other. Creating value in your new country. Being different is a key strength you have after your overseas move. You can add value to your new workplace by bringing your differences into play positively, suggesting different approaches and perspectives. You can also create value through the influence and impact you have in your new place, which will have been enhanced as you work through the steps above. By following this map for global career take off, you can avoid falling into the most common traps that lead to disappointing and stressful experiences. Travelling your talent across borders will help you to reconnect everything that made you so successful before your move and will give your career the boost it needs to reach even greater heights.
6 Steps to Global Career Take Off.
- Get clear about your talents and strengths. What are you great at and love doing? How are you going to use these strengths more often in your new job?
- Formulate your positioning story. What are you famous for now in your ‘old’ workplace and how does that relate to how you can add value in your new place?
- Implement good self-care practices. All work and no play will make you a very isolated and stressed global business star!
- Grow your connections. Make a point of saying ‘yes’ to social and professional invitations. Getting connected is an important part of your new job.
- Do essential relationship maintenance. Remind people that you left behind and the ones you travelled with that they’re still important to you.
- Focus on where you can add unique value. Trying to ‘fit in’ by being like everyone else means your new place misses out on the unique value you bring. Don’t be afraid of being different as that’s often where you can add most value.