Have you been thinking of migrating overseas for career development opportunities? Or have you been looking out for international experience that could give you a competitive edge? International experience can work wonders for your career development. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind before you plan your move. 

Be clear about why you want to work overseas

A key question to ask yourself is: is it about my career or about the lifestyle? If you like the idea of working by day and hitting the beach straight from the office, then a move from Hong Kong to Sydney could be right for you. But such a move may be less dramatic in terms of your career development, as you’re likely to be making a lateral move.

Keep an open mind about your choice of location

If you’re primarily interested in international experience as a way of accelerating your career trajectory, it pays to look beyond the obvious locations. If you go for somewhere that’s very well established, you’re likely to have lots of competitors, and it’s harder to see results. So be adventurous and consider tapping into emerging markets like Thailand, Vietnam, or the Philippines. On this new frontier, the market is not as mature but there’s less competition and plenty of opportunities – not to mention fascinating local culture and heritage.

In an emerging market, you may be part of a smaller, newer team – perhaps even helping get an operation off the ground – and you’ll have much interesting profile, greater levels of opportunity and will develop experience and expertise much more quickly.

Start with the constraints

Depending on where you reside currently, your options for moving overseas may be limited by how easy or tough it is to get visas and which countries are accepting foreign talent to come in. Lots of people want to move to the big commercial capitals, but without the right visa or passport, it can be very limiting. So, start by thinking, what passport do I hold and where could I actually go? How easy would it be for me to secure the paperwork I need for my dream move?’ Once you know your constraints, you can start to plan and research more realistically.

Consult with your employer

If you’re considering applying for an internal move within a global company, reach out to your HR or talent development team. Sit with them and ask for their advice about how suitable an international move might be for you, and what sort of progression you could expect within the organisation as a result. 

Do your research

Visiting London or Tokyo or Sydney for a short time might you a good feel of the place, but there’s a lot more information you’ll need to make an informed decision about your move overseas. What’s the job market really like in your field? How frequently do opportunities come up – and how fluid is the market? How much will you have to make to cover rent and essentials like food and public transport? How many hours a week are you likely to be working? A good recruiter can advise you on all such points, and if they’re a global consultancy they can be working for you both before you leave and after you land. 

Think transferrable skills

If your plan is to go and work abroad for a few years but then come back to your home country, make sure that you’re not applying for roles with skills that are too niche, might become obsolete, or simply won’t be much sought-after back home. Make sure you don’t have a role that is so locally specialised that there’s no equivalent when you move back, and you end up having to take a backward step because there’s no equivalent job for available. 

Don’t expect like for like – but keep your eye on the prize

It’s not just your destination that could change radically when you make an international move, but the nature of your work too. Being a part of a well-oiled, 40-strong team in an established market like Hong Kong, for example– where lots of slick systems are in place, and all sorts of tasks and responsibilities are delegated – would be very different to, say, getting adjusted to a smaller set up in company’s new office in Manila, where you might have a skeleton team and you’re part of building things up from the ground. 

Find a friend to show you the ropes

What people often don’t factor in is how much they will miss their friends and family and how hard it can be to get yourself settled into a new culture and country where you don’t really know anyone. That sense of disconnect from home can be unexpectedly impactful, so if you can find a friend or a colleague on the ground who can show you the ropes, it will make a huge difference.

Think in advance how you can build up and grow those relationships – even knowing just one person can make a massive difference to your movement there. People naturally tend to gravitate towards established migrant communities and researching in advance can provide a ready means of support for new arrivals too. 

Be prepared to take one step back to move two forward 

Don’t get too stuck on a specific job title when looking for an overseas career move. If you’re making a serious move and you’re looking at the bigger picture, don’t get stuck on trying to find exactly the equivalent role. There are lots of unknowns when you relocate, and companies want to minimise the risk of failure for you, so they may advise you to start one rung lower to give you the best chance of success. Approached in the right way, embracing such a move can reap dividends.

In addition to the career boosting benefits, working overseas also gives you a fantastic opportunity to develop a true local experience. So, look beyond your colleagues and peers for ways to build your connections more broadly, learn the local language and be open to trying something new - you never know what you might discover or where these new experiences and connections might lead you later on.


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