Taking on an expat assignment can be a great career move. Different ways of working and living, experienced first hand and with an open and non judgemental mind, mean you can apply new learnings and thinking to challenges in your future.
There are many things you should consider before launching into a role based abroad.
And when your time is up, and you're ready or due to come home again, there's actually quite a lot to consider to ensure your return is successful and rewarding. If you're an expat reading this, and contemplating your move home, here are some tips to help you on your way:
Check into the job market, properly. It may well be that your skills which were greatly in demand in the foreign country, are not in demand in your homeland. You might actually find it really difficult to get work at your perceived seniority and experience level.
Use the right benchmarks. It may well be the case that your former peers have actually progressed their skills and knowledge significantly whilst you have been away. We see daily instances of people returning home from their challenging but still basic bread and butter HR focussed roles abroad, who are just not the calibre of former peers, who have stayed local but worked on more significant and complex projects.
Get currency. Legislations change constantly, and you may well be judged as not being as up to date for local needs, as your domestic peers. In a "scarce jobs, candidate oversupply" market, employers don’t need to chance waiting for you to come up to speed on their time.
Keep tabs on housing options. I recall a friend of mine who sold his expansive country house before going overseas. He lived “high on the hog” with his very generous expat package whilst abroad, thinking he could easily re-enter the real estate market on his return home. He was shocked to find the housing market had sky rocketed in his absence, and he barely had enough left from his time abroad for the deposit to rent a “shoe box” apartment.
Save, save, save whilst you’re abroad. If you’re moving somewhere with a low cost of living, and you’re effectively being paid more than you could have ever earned at home, this is a chance to stash away enough cash to make your homecoming very comfortable. Another friend of mine did this so effectively that he didn’t need to work for 5 years upon coming home AND he was able to invest in a property portfolio plus build a stable of vintage cars. I’m not pushing materialism – but do give some thought to your overseas posting as being a chance for you to build a "nest egg".
The onus will be on you to adapt. Language and cultures and styles change constantly. What was in vogue both personally and professionally when you left, is likely to not be the case when you return. Be prepared to face similar challenges for integration on your return home, as you did when you first landed in that foreign country.
The demand for HR professionals with genuinely international experience is showing no signs of slowing down. But this international community within the HR profession is no longer a select and tiny few. Many people have wised up to the advantage of adding global experience to their career portfolios over this last decade. Every day, we speak as a matter of course with really high calibre people who are bi or multi lingual, and who have lived and worked around the world.
This means that as an expat, you can and should expect more points of parity with other job seekers when you do return from your international assignment. So do your research, be prepared, be realistic about your worth in the market, and it will be a much easier transition to be welcomed home.