Choosing to move to a foreign country is an excellent way to propel your career forward. In July 2018, it was announced that Domènec Torrent, who had most recently been Pep Guardiola’s right hand man at sister club Manchester City FC, would take up the role as Head Coach of New York City FC. Commenting on the move, Torrent said, “Though I have enjoyed a wonderful 11 years working alongside my colleague and close friend Pep Guardiola – it has always been my ambition to manage a team again and I really couldn’t have hoped for a better opportunity than at this football club.”
According to a PWC survey, the number of professional international work assignments is set to double by as soon as 2020. As such, your career is no longer limited by the opportunities available to you in your home country.
The right combination of experience, qualifications and attitude now means that the global employment market is much more accessible than you might think.
The professional jobs market is truly global
The global employment market is changing, and the professional jobs market is becoming truly global. Of course, this has been true for a number of years in industries like oil and gas but now industries such as life sciences, financial services and technology are following suit.
Economic potential in emerging markets has contributed to a significant increase in the need for companies to move people and source talent from all around the world.
Despite chronic levels of unemployment in many areas, industries in the same locations are struggling to find enough highly skilled individuals to fill the critical vacancies necessary to support and grow their operations. These on-going transformations in the global employment market have opened up international career opportunities in a way we’ve never seen before.
When you add to this backdrop the fact that international experience, with the personal and professional transformation it can bring, is increasingly seen as critical for senior leadership roles within major organisations, there has never been a better time to move.
So, what would prompt someone to make an international move?
Why make an international career move?
There are many reasons why working abroad will benefit both yourself personally, and your career. Two of the most obvious (yet still important) are:
1. Better career opportunities and prospects: Depending on your skill set, there may be a greater range of career opportunities open to you outside your home market. And, if you’re looking to progress your career, increasing globalisation means that if you do want to reach the higher echelons of your firm or organisation, you are likely at some stage to be managing an international team and therefore international experience will be critical to your ability to do that well.
2. New life experiences: Whether it be learning how to do business in China, working on a rig in Angola or surfing on the Gold Coast of Australia, an international move is likely to give you experiences hard to match at home, and which you will never forget.
But, there are also many other benefits making an international career move can bring you, which you may not have considered. Working abroad will give you the opportunity to:
Develop your cultural intelligence (CQ): As the world of work globalises, this skill is becoming more and more important in the eyes of employers. David Livermore, author of ‘Leading with Cultural Intelligence’, defines CQ as:
- Having the drive and interest to work in cross-cultural environments
- Knowledge of cultural similarities and differences
- Having a strategy to help monitor, analyse and adjust plans in unfamiliar cultural settings
- Having the ability to act by choosing the right verbal and nonverbal behaviours, depending on the context
And, as English continues to dominate as a business language across the world, many would argue that building this skill is becoming as much or even more important that learning the language.
As Livermore says: “I wouldn’t suggest a full fluency in the language is needed for a five-year or less assignment…Having an adaptability to different communication styles or socialisation norms are perhaps as much or more important.”
Fine-tune your soft skills: As you start to build your cultural intelligence, you will also find that, at the same time, your soft skills will also be built upon and developed.
Soft skills are often described as “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.” In particular, working abroad will help you develop your adaptability, communication, and interpersonal skills, and also help to build your resilience and self-confidence.
Building these will enable you to develop and progress these further as Dan Roth, LinkedIn Editor states “…you always have to have those soft skills too. The soft skills are what enable you to change industries, change jobs, change positions…” And, according to research from Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Centre, 85% of job success comes from having well developed soft skills.
Expand your professional network: Of course, building and nurturing a network close to home is great for your current and future career prospects.
But, despite the prevalence of global professional networking sites such as LinkedIn, whereby we can connect with others across the other side of the world at the click of a button, building an international face-to-face network can be even more powerful.
As Richard Hanson states in this Forbes article: “Outside of your local environment you will get the chance to network with other stakeholders who may become influential later on when it comes to being tapped on the shoulder for your next internal promotion opportunity. Trust is a major part of doing business in Asia, and LinkedIn just isn’t going to provide the same “look in the eyes” moment of mutual trust and agreement.”
Where should you relocate to?
With so many reasons to move, it is no wonder people are relocating. But where are they going?
The most popular destinations for expat professionals include the UK, US, UAE, Australia, Canada, NZ, HK, Singapore, Switzerland and France.
We recently published a report called the Hays Global Skills Index. It is an in-depth review of global skills and employment trends, providing useful information about where there are surfeits and deficits of specialist professional skills in particular locations. It may help to inform decisions about potential destinations for you.
What’s stopping you?
So, given the considerable benefits of moving, what is it that typically prevents people from actually doing it?
- Friends and family: Many international assignments don’t happen because the move has not been fully discussed with family – not only immediate family that are moving but also family that are being left behind. E.g. what will your partner do to find work in the new location? Will your elderly parents be able to cope without you being around?
- Immigration: Even with borders becoming more fluid, you cannot move to a country simply because you want to, you will still need to satisfy skills, education and personal status visa criteria.
- Finances: Don’t forget a move is expensive; if your relocation is not being funded by your organisation, make sure that you look at all potential expenses including immigration, flights, shipping, short-term accommodation, tax advice and any house sale.
Although you can find many reasons not to move, if you really want to do it, you will find a way!
Five types of international career move:
Gone are the days of the traditional expatriate international assignment where an assignee went to a “hardship” location for several years for significant financial gain.
Of course, these moves still exist, but international career experience can now be gained in many innovative ways:
1. Short-term assignments: Projects lasting less than 12 months
2. International commuting: Working in a different country during the week and returning home at weekends
3. Development rotations: Used to give high potential employees additional experience e.g. where an employee is on a succession plan for a senior level position, but their local market can’t offer sufficient exposure, a rotation ensures they have a well-rounded base of expertise
4. No fixed abode: More unusually, an employee may move from country to country between assignments without having a home base
5. Virtual mobility: Technology facilitates the ability to work in an international market without physically relocating
Get a job with an international organisation with international career prospects
Often, the most logical and easiest first step is to get a job with an international organisation (if you aren’t already working for one). By working for an international business, you are more likely to be exposed and have access to the different types of international working that are outlined above. And, once you have worked in the business for a period of time and proved yourself, your employer may be more likely to sponsor your move and as such, organise your visas. This route is often the easiest from an immigration perspective and is also less costly as many organisations will offer relocation packages.
If this isn’t an option for you, you must firstly decide where in the world you would like to work. It sounds obvious, but you must research the location you are considering in-depth. It is no good buying a travel guide and believing you understand the place. Going somewhere on holiday is a very different experience to living and working there. Not only do you need to research facts like tax, healthcare, immigration, housing, schooling and cost of living – you have to really understand the culture of a place and know that you would be able to adapt and integrate successfully. And, once you’ve decided on the location, most importantly, you’ll need to research the various visa requirements you’ll need to have in place before you make your move.
About this author
Isobel originally joined the Hays business in 1997 after graduating from the University of Birmingham with a Bachelor of Commerce degree. Isobel worked within the Accountancy & Finance specialism of Hays for ten years covering the Midlands and the South East. She progressed up to Business Director level focusing on placing qualified accountants for both SME and blue-chip clients in commercial and financial sectors. She then worked for a HR consultancy before returning to Hays within their Group HR function to manage the deployment of Hays talent across international borders and talent attraction projects for the group.