It seems quite a daunting challenge to pull up roots and take an international assignment, but I regularly hear that global experience is becoming essential to reach top corporate management. How can I arrange an international assignment that gives me the most benefit, and what are some pitfalls I should avoid?
If you’re eager to climb the corporate ladder, international experience is essential. It will arm you with new market insights, alternative best practices and new ways of working. Taking a broadening international assignment will demonstrate that you are keen, confident and prepared to do what it takes to realize your potential.
Think it through
Going abroad is a big investment, for both you and your company, so you must be confident enough to take the plunge. Ask yourself how serious you are and whether you have the right personality fit and enough experience. Identify exactly why you want to move abroad, then map out the pros and cons. Assess whether this is a challenge you want to embrace; if so, make a strong case to your employer that clearly demonstrates why the company should invest in your future, with a rewarding assignment and financial support.
Find the right mentors
Present your case to the right people who will make your placement happen. This may not be the most senior executive in your company; it might be someone who is connected and will be your champion.
Be your own advocate
Have the confidence to negotiate the right contract and relocation package. Don’t overlook the details: Ask questions about your salary and whether it will be relative to the local cost of living; check who will foot the bill for your health insurance, visas and lawyers; and whether your holidays will carry over.
Be open to posting options
Be prepared that your company may decide to send you somewhere other than the destination you originally proposed. It’s important to keep an open mind, but don’t jump at just any international job offer. Do your homework, visit the country (if possible) and be prepared to speak out if the option isn’t right for you.
Patience is a virtue
Don’t expect everything to fall into place immediately. The actual transfer might take up to a year to happen because of bureaucracy. Request a long-term visa and keep your options open to ensure that you get as much out of this experience as possible.
When you do reach your new destination, set fresh personal and professional goals to make the most of your new environment and challenges.
Miranda Gulland moved from London, England, for her job in Toronto with consulting firm Hill & Knowlton.