In today’s global economy more and more people are being offered an opportunity to work abroad, be it through an internal move with their existing company or through an overseas position that you find yourself.
For many, the opportunity to work abroad constitutes a dream come true and they accept their first overseas assignment with very little consideration of the implications of living life in a totally different country. Do not be under any misconceptions, working abroad comes with some major challenges and anyone considering making such a big move should understand exactly what they are letting themselves in for.
In this article we encourage you to truly reflect on what you are getting into and provide five things you should consider when making a decision about whether or not you should accept a job abroad.
1) Understand Your Host Country
Quite often expatriates actually have no real choice in which country they live. The majority of people who move abroad for work purposes are transferred with their jobs or respond to a job advertisement and quite often find themselves relocating to where that job takes them. Before accepting any work overseas you should thoroughly research the policies, cultural expectations, social environment and politics of the country to which you are considering relocating.
It is crucial that you are aware of what you will, and will not, be able to do in the host country and that you are fully versed in the political risks, both long term and short term, of living there as an expat.
2) Understand Yourself
Are you truly ready for a move overseas? Are your family and your spouse ready? You should never underestimate the stresses and strains that moving abroad can place on an individual and you need to be 100% sure that your family unit is strong enough to cope with these. It is imperative that you know and understand your motivations for wanting to move overseas and ensure, where relevant, that your partner shares these. If you are opportunistically looking for a move abroad as a short-term solution for solving any marital problems you have at home then you really should think again.
You also need to consider if you are personally ready for the challenges of working abroad. Do you really have the leadership and personal skills that will be needed to work successfully in a foreign environment? Do you understand the cultural challenges you will face and the variations in working styles you will be expected to embrace? If you are not entirely sure that you have the personality required to deal with the challenges overseas, seek advice and honest feedback from people who you have worked with in the past. Their input will assist you to understand yourself and raise your awareness of any areas you will need to develop in order to make your move a success.
3) Understand the Implications for Your Family and Friends
When you make the decision to accept a job overseas it is not just your own life that you are impacting, international relocation effects everyone in your family. Here are some of the things you should consider when deciding whether or not to take a job abroad:
- The age and health of your parents and other family members. Will there be someone to look after and care for them in your absence in the event of ill health?
- The impact that living abroad will have on your children and your partner. Although a move overseas may advance your own career how will it impact the long-term prospects of other family members?
- What social opportunities are available for members of your family?
4) Understand the Implications for Your Career
Going abroad is often viewed as a career opportunity and something that will be of great value to an individual’s resume. However, resist the temptation to snap the job up immediately and take some time to consider what the real long-term career implications may mean. Here’s some things you may wish to deliberate:
- The extent to which you will be able to maintain your professional network with colleagues, senior executives and company headquarters. If you work for a big corporation, will you still be provided with exposure to the people who count?
- The job security in your role overseas. How secure will your job actually be? What will happen if your job is made redundant for one reason or another, will alternative options be made available to you?
- Will you be in a position to keep abreast of developments in your home country? How easy will it be to remain connected?
5) Understand Your Contract
A major impact on whether a move abroad will be a success or not is determined by the contract that you negotiate and the terms, benefits and bonuses that will be applied. For some practical tips on negotiating your expat contract please see our free article: 3 Things That Expats Overlook When Negotiating Their Contracts. It contains some practical tips on contract negotiation and highlights some of the common traps that expats fall into when agreeing the terms of their move overseas.
Moving abroad really can represent a great opportunity and, despite some of the warning messages in this article, constitutes an extremely positive experience for the majority of expatriates. Providing you make the decision with the due consideration that it warrants and you are positive that the move is the right thing for your family, yourself and your career then there is every possibility that you will look back one day and say that it is the best thing that you ever did.