Don’t Forget to Answer These Questions Before Moving Abroad
Have you ever considered working in a different country? Considered yes, but you had no idea how best to approach things? I know what you are going through because I’ve been through it myself. But I plucked up my courage and made it happen. I’m a British native and have lived, worked and studied for varying periods of time in Hong Kong, France, Japan and now – for the last almost six years – in Germany. Without a doubt, it’s a big step to leave home and move to a place where everything is new. And just because you know others who have made the leap, it often doesn’t make it any easier for you. So how do you go about this?
Identify your motivation and reasons for a stay abroad
Where would you like to be in five years’ time?
As Head of International Mobility, I’ve met people who were a bit frustrated that their stay abroad didn’t result in the mega career jump. At the same time, they however also admitted that they started a bit blindly into their overseas adventure. It’s as if an athlete decides to run a marathon without having a proper training schedule.
Be honest with yourself
How comfortable are you with change and adaptation? What impact will your decision have on your family? Is your family ready for this as well?
“Professional athletes are only successful in the long term if they are willing to adapt and change.”
Professional athletes are only successful in the long term if they are willing to adapt and change – be it their daily routines, their diet or the leisure activities.
It’s the same when going abroad: It is one thing to visit a country, but it is quite another to live there. You need to adapt your behaviour to the customs and expectations of the host country. This is not to deny your own culture but to respect that of others. And if you do decide to move abroad, you must also be aware that your family may express disbelief, anger, sadness, betrayal and denial.
Decide what country is the best match for you
What do you know about its geography, climate, political and economic system, culture and religion? Are you prepared to learn a new language?
Sounds quite obvious, but this is not a two weeks’ holiday. You won’t return home just before certain things start to gnaw at you. Are you really comfortable with 35°C degrees at night? With a different perception of punctuality? With women having fewer rights than men? With spending your nights learning vocabulary?
Tuning into your inner self is a very good start. But there’s more to it. Get your line manager and HR partner on board as well.
Create a long-term development plan
“Putting my goals to paper was an important step and huge help because it forced me to clarify what I wanted.”
What is the overall objective of your time overseas? What new skills can you learn and in what way will you grow and develop?
It might sound trivial, but putting my goals to paper was an important step and huge help because it forced me to clarify what I wanted, motivated me to take action and enabled me to see and celebrate my progress. Just think of it the sporty way: Being successful in sport is not just about physical conditioning, technical, tactical and mental skills. In order to help athletes to get the most out of themselves, coaches need to understand other issues and develop a holistic plan with them that includes all factors that influence an athlete’s performance.
Get more information about your new role
What line manager, team and stakeholders will you be working with? What exactly does your position involve? Is there a guarantee to return and if so, what then?
When I moved to Japan it helped me a lot that I was introduced to my line manager beforehand. I had a couple of meetings with him and therefore had an idea what I was letting myself in for. HR also put me in contact with a guy who had moved there two years before me. It was great to get some insider info from him and he had so many useful tips for me.
Ask for relocation assistance
What kind of support does your employer provide to you and your family?
International mobility becomes increasingly important in international companies. Global players such as the adidas Group are aware that an international assignment has a significant impact on the employee’s personal situation and provide a wide range of benefits and support before, during and at the end of an international assignment. You are not alone in this. Reach out and proactively ask for help.
No matter whether you want to work abroad for three months, three years or on a permanent basis – it is a life-changing decision to take the plunge and embark on an overseas adventure. When you look back one day and realise that you have not only dealt with the stress of relocating but also managed to build a new home and make your dreams come true, the sense of achievement is extremely rewarding.
ARE YOU BRAVE ENOUGH TO TAKE THE FIRST STEP?
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Thanks for the article. Working abroad is something that I have been wanting to do for the past 6 years. I was an au-pair in The Netherlands for a year and I came back home, South Africa, started and finished my degree and thought after that I can just leave.
Emotionally and physically I am ready to get on a plane now. My family stands behind me 100% and I have it all figured out. Except for one thing. Coming from South Africa means I need a work visa to work in The Netherlands or any other EU country. Here's the catch, you need an employer/job before you can apply for a visa and vice versa, I need a visa before I can apply for a job (not always but 95% of the time) Just applying for a work visa is impossible without employment.
Unfortunately things have not worked out for me that great in South Africa either. I thought I would get a proper job and get the necessary experience in SA after I finished my degree with the hope that I would have built up enough experience to be considered as a prospective job applicant in EU. Unfortunately due to some economical and political turmoil, I have not had much luck yet. Although I have a decent job at this stage, I fear it is not enough to help my chances to get in to The Netherlands.
My reason for this comment is that it is easy for people such as yourself, being a British native, not having to always worry about obtaining employment so that your employer can apply for a visa for you or trying to get a visa and then applying for a job, which is impossible. Things may change now with BREXIT, but in your days it was easier. And although I always enjoy reading peoples success stories and absolutely wish it for everyone to experience life abroad, I think one must not always make it sound so easy and consider that your article will be read by people from all over the world.
Thanks again for the great article!
But the beginning wasn't easy by no means. I'm from Finland and for me it was really hard to integrate into the culture - it still is. But what I have come to realise after all the struggles is that I have grown so much braver and stronger having to face my insecurities and in general being out of my comfort zone all the time. Things that I felt uncomfortable with back home in Finland are now in no way a problem. Sometimes I'm surprised myself of how much more open I am and my friends have also seen a huge confidence lift in me.
I would warmly recommend a stint abroad to anyone who has ever thought about doing it. You don't only get to broaden your work experience but you will also develop as a person - guaranteed.