It has become much easier to build an international career. Many companies are expanding their operations, manufacturing supply chains cross multiple borders and digital nomads have become commonplace. All these make it possible for an experienced, ambitious person with strong skills to do fulfilling work, build a career and see the world.
You may have briefly considered taking a position overseas, but the minutiae of day-to-day work crowded out your dream. Let’s consider how to go about building an international career.
1. Do I need a foreign language?
English is the international language of business, so you can get by in most countries with a good knowledge of English. However, if you want to build a strong connection and deep human relationships, nothing does this better than speaking the local language. It’s a mark of respect and shows that you are determined to integrate into your employer and society. Learning a new language will do wonders for your brain development and will enhance your creativity as well as your empathy for others. If you have identified a region or a country, where you wish to work, start learning the basics of the dominant language.
2. How will I build a personal life?
If you work for a large organisation, it probably has a system in place to help you adjust to your new country. Regardless of that, make friends with the people at work. Develop an acquaintance with the grocer or the bank clerk. They will be an invaluable help in finding the best mobile service provider, a good laundry or getting a local driver’s licence.
3. What if I don’t like it?
This is where you must do a bit of adulting. It is reasonable to expect a bout of homesickness in a new society, but this will pass if you make the effort to get out, experience what the country has to offer and meet new friends. Take steps to understand the source of your dislike. Does it relate to an event in your past? Is it the food, or the behaviour of the locals? Rather than blame the “other”, this is a good time to look inside yourself and come to terms with the root cause of your discomfort. Put in extra effort to like and understand the community you have chosen.
4. Start where you are
How do you start on your journey to a foreign posting? Here are some aspects to consider.
- What country would you like to work in and what sort of work would you like to do?
- How tolerant are you of different cultures and the feeling of being out of place?
- How enthusiastic is your family, especially your spouse about your international career?
- What is your employer willing to assist in making the transition?
- Will you still have a role in your current employer when you return?
5. Make your aspirations clear
Let it be known that you are looking for an international position. Let your human resources department know what kind of overseas role you are wanting. Volunteer for short assignments overseas when these come up. Take a holiday in your target country and reconnoitre the opportunities. Brand yourself as an international careerist. Put your name down with international recruiters – you never know what might come up. Investigate the options without jeopardising your current position.
6. Avoid some common mistakes
There are some fundamental matters to address in your quest to pursue an international career.
Make sure your partner is fully on board with what you intend to do. Many overseas assignments fail because the partner is unhappy. You will be bound up in the excitement of plying your trade in a new country. Your partner may feel isolated and lonely during the day while trying to create home life in a foreign environment. they don’t have the same supportive team network of friends and family which they had at home.
If you are going to work in a different country but stay with the same organisation, you should from time to time remind the team back home of your existence and what you have been achieving. There may come a time when you move back home, and you will want decision-makers to remember you.
7. Digital nomads
Digital nomads are remote workers who travel to different locations. They often work in coffee shops, co-working spaces, or public libraries, relying on devices with wireless internet capabilities like smartphones and mobile hotspots to do their work wherever they want. If your job and your company allow it, being a distal nomad is a great way to see the world. Working remotely has become a way of life for many. Remote workers can be working just around the corner or on the other side of the world. Some countries offer special digital nomad work visas, so if this appeals to you look up the details and decide if it’s right for you.
8. Advantages of building international experience
You will have the opportunity of making new friends and learning about a new country. This will add depth and substance to you as a human being. Your knowledge of the world will widen, and you will be informed by broader points of view.
Being in a new country can spark new ideas. You will be out of your comfort zone and willing. To take on new challenges and see things in new ways.
You will learn new cultural and social skills. This is what organisations look for in their top executives, and an overseas posting is an ideal way to learn these skills.
The experience of a new country will increase your capacity to deal with change and to help others who are struggling with change.
9. Things to do before moving overseas
Get rid of unnecessary expenses. Trim your fixed costs so that you don’t have the drag of debits from your bank account. Pay off any debt you have.
Set a budget. Before you leave, calculate your living expenditures, the cost of travelling to your destination, staying there, the activities you’ll do there, the costs of working, and how it will affect your savings. Speak to a financial planner if you have to.
Remember to say goodbye. Don’t suddenly disappear. Say goodbye to friends, family and work colleagues. They will want to know what you are up to, and they are part of your support network.
In conclusion, if you are ambitious with strong skills and you want to do fulfilling work, experience in another country is a powerful way to build a career and see the world.