I had the opportunity to work in Australia for a couple of years back in the mid-nineties, and subsequently I’ve worked with other people who had a desire to make these kinds of shifts in their careers.
It can take amazing amounts of courage even to consider a move of this magnitude, especially when it deeply affects your family and friends. But the personal experience and career development can be enormous, if you’re up to it.
My advice here is mostly from a corporate environment: You’re currently employed by company X in country A, and you’d like to work for the same company in country B. Other scenarios, such as switching companies, or working for foreign government assignments, will have similarities and differences.
But you’re employed by company X. They’re in several countries, so you have the bright idea you’d like to move permanently or temporarily to that other country. It would be a wonderful experience, look great on your résumé or CV, you’d have fun, and your family would be up for the challenge.
But what’s in it for the company? These things can be tremendously expensive, when you count up moving costs, cross-training, visas, organizational changes, and sometimes even your housing. As an example, when I was in Australia, I continued to be paid in US dollars, which meant that the company had to do my income taxes in two countries, with ten times more complexity than I had ever seen in my life.
And incorporating a foreigner into a different organization can be quite challenging – the cultural adaptation, different values, customs, language. It’s easy for someone to make big mistakes when trying to adapt to a different culture, and that has impact on the organization.
So these kinds of transfers have to be very well thought out, and tightly executed. You don’t just plant someone in a new organization in a new country, hand them the employee manual, and wish them luck. It’s MUCH more complex than that. (And if your company doesn’t understand this, I wouldn’t take the foreign assignment!)
So if you really want to transfer, work out:
- What is the value to you and your family?
- What is the value to your current organization?
- What is the value to the organization you’d like to move to?
- Why is that value COMPELLING enough to get a lot of people to do hard work on your behalf?
- What are all the things you’ll need to learn and change in order to make this work? (Hint: If it’s not at least a page long, you’re not digging deep enough.)
- What are you prepared to give up to make this happen? (You WILL make a lot of changes and sacrifices, so this is a test of whether it’s truly compelling for you and your family.)
- What timeline is associated with this? (For hard decisions, you have to think long-term. It’s quite possible this won’t happen for 5 years or more – is that OK?)
- How much flexibility do you have, with countries, languages, regions, cultures, etc.?
- Which relationships do you have to start nurturing – in this country, in the other country, in the executive ranks?
Honestly, I’m not trying to discourage you – this is truly a long and scary list. But the payoff for your happiness, your career, and your family can be absolutely huge.
by Carl Dierschow