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To Be or Not To Be An Expat?

By Adam Neyenhuys | CFO, Expat, Promotion, Neyenhuys |
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As the world becomes a smaller place and technology allows us to connect more efficiently, the risks and barriers that once existed in taking an overseas appointment are being broken down and de-risked, opening up a myriad of global opportunities.

While the opportunity to take advantage of an ex-pat adventure is now much easier, there are still a number of very rational fear factors that come with taking the plunge:

Will I be sent to an outpost and be forgotten?

Will I being passed over for promotional opportunities locally?

Will I increase my exposure to redundancy if global restructures occur?

Will I lose my network locally and will it devalue my corporate reputation?

What are the economic and social factors that I need to understand?

These concerns, whilst valid, can all be managed correctly and transformed to enhance your professional career’s value proposition.

Here are some considerations and action points to ensure you get the most out of an expatriate assignment:

Communicate and know your purpose

Without a clear timeframe and a goal you will lose direction on what you are trying to achieve by taking on an international assignment and this can lead to a real ‘flat liner’ for your career. Communicate your plans with your organisation to ensure commitments are made to achieve your goals.

Career first, move second

Global moves usually contain a mix of emotional and career logic. Set your career goals first, and then incorporate an overseas move into achieving those goals.  Understand the purpose of your move and goals and map the process for return. It is best to ensure all stakeholders are aligned with your ambitions. Don’t move first and assume that because you are offshore you have positioned yourself for career advancement. In fact, this can have the wrong impact without a clear strategy.

Understand the culture and challenges

In order to deliver results in your new role quickly, an appreciation for culture and key challenges is important to understand. Spend time to appreciate the community, what ‘success’ looks like in your chosen country, and where the low hanging fruit is for making a positive impact early. Set yourself up for success.

 Avoid career stagnation

How long should your expat journey be? It’s been too long the moment you cease to learn in your role, become comfortable or lose your desire to influence business decisions.  When your ‘career advancing’ move offshore is becoming more of a holiday/lifestyle choice, especially if you are in the same role for more than 4 years, you will need to look out for ‘career stagnation’. It’s still important to move roles internally or expand your function, which are in line with your broader career goals.  In most global businesses, it will be seen as a progressive sign and well received.

 Take a chance and don’t have regrets

Fortune does favour the brave. Becoming an expat can be a career accelerator and many people achieve their career goals very quickly offshore. Exposure to new internal company networks, expatriate networks and professional contacts can help open doors you never knew existed. Work as hard on developing these networks internally and as you do externally to maximise your experience.

 Job or career security?

The dangers around job security are universal. If there is a possibility for insecurity in your job locally, you can expect similar risks around job security in other countries. Rather than worrying about job security, simply perform to a very high standard and focus on ‘career security’.  What is poorest outcome? You go, you learn, you return.

There is a lot of value in taking an overseas posting both personally and professionally, but being aware of how to make it a successful venture needs to be managed carefully and considered with intent.

If we look into the future and ask the question Will not having International working experience be a limiting factor in achieving Financial Leadership roles in the future?’

The short answer is: No. However, increased awareness of global economic, industry movements and international trends are now becoming much more ‘non-negotiable’ in many organisations seeking new leadership. To be successful in another culture is also a representation of your ability to adapt, which is a consistent trait of all successful leaders. An overseas role can help expedite the education and exposure to these factors and also play a valuable part in achieving your career goals while offering you a different perspective. 

Has an overseas assignment accelerated your life experience and career or did it have a negative impact?  

To learn more about an international career, listen to our webinar interview with Laurent Kabbabe of Louis Vuitton - Click Here

 

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