Insight & Analysis

International experience wanted

Published: May 2017

Multinational corporations are increasingly looking for senior finance professionals to have international experience on their CV. Is it therefore time to consider a move overseas?

In our increasingly globalised workplace, international experience, without a doubt, stands out on a CV. What is more, a move overseas can be an enriching experience for yourself and your family.

However, uprooting your life and moving overseas creates numerous challenges both personally and professionally. It is therefore not a decision that should be taken lightly.

What reasons then should lead treasury professionals to take the decision to move overseas and how can they make sure that this move is successful? International career coach and Psychologist, Wendy Kendall tells all.

Pragmatic reasoning

According to Kendall, the main reason that people look to head overseas during their career is to ensure their career path continues on an upward trajectory. Indeed, in recent years, international experience has moved from a nice to have, to a must have for some companies when looking to promote people to senior management and executive positions.

“Global corporates are increasingly taking a long-term perspective on their talent pipelines,” she says. “And given that they are global businesses, they want staff in leadership roles that have an international outlook and experience. If you want to get ahead in your career it should be something that you are considering.”

Getting ahead is certainly the pragmatic reason for looking to move your career overseas, but such a move can also deliver further benefit an individual.

“When you move around the world you get to understand different people’s perspectives and that develops your ability to empathise,” notes Kendall. “Our ability to empathise gives us the tools to develop insights and create new ways of working that are much more customer orientated.”

This, in turn, delivers further benefit for the company. “Encouraging your staff to get international experience is like creating a human innovation lab,” adds Kendall. “This is because when people start working overseas in a different environment they bring a fresh perspective and ask questions that nobody else is asking, inciting change.”

Overcoming challenges

Despite the benefits of moving overseas, it is not always an easy decision to make. There are many considerations that have to be made.

Interestingly, according to research by Cigna Global Health Benefits, it is typically men that move overseas to enhance their career, accounting for 81% of the globally mobile workforce. However, the report also cites that these demographics are changing and the number of women in overseas assignments is growing.

This is also a trend that Kendall is noticing. “Dual-career couples are a big challenge at the moment for companies,” says Kendall. “I have worked with numerous people recently who have decided not to move, even at the risk of their careers flatlining, because they have considered their partner’s career and the move just didn’t align with their overall ambitions as a partnership.”

In a situation such as this, Kendall notes that professionals should find different ways to integrate international experience into their career. “You don’t always have to uproot completely, you could take on a cross-border or regional role that sees you have travelling more if that suits your life better,” she says. “This can still provide a reasonable amount of international experience.”

Doing it right

Once the decision is made to move overseas, it is absolutely critical that the move is a success, both personally and professionally.

However, for many, this isn’t the case, with Kendall noting that many simply survive in their new environments rather than thrive.

According to Kendall, the clearest reason for this is that people look to work all the hours under the sun to re-establish themselves after their move abroad.

“When moving abroad you also lose your network and in some cases your reputation,” she says. “Running faster round the hamster wheel therefore is a big temptation after moving abroad. The temptation to do this is high because people with global careers tend to be high achievers who know that getting stuck into 14 hour days and chugging through the ‘to do’ lists has paid off a lot in their career so far. But it is exactly the wrong thing to do.”

Kendall advises that people look to manage their social media presence as a way to help establish their reputation in the new location and also to build networks. “This won’t do all the work for you, but it will help.”

But most crucially she advises that you work smart and manage your time to give you the time to enjoy your new environment and extend your network beyond your professional and expatriate context.

“Whenever taking a role abroad the maxim should be: having the same life as back home but in a new country isn’t good enough. The move must make life better,” she concludes.

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