Business is global in scope and you don’t need to open up today’s newspaper to be reminded of that fact. For those readers that work for an established company with both a domestic and international focus, it is almost certain that your employer has several overseas offices. You may be under the impression that foreign assignments are only for the corporate executive type and your job title does not qualify you for a posting abroad. I am here to say that for the indispensable go-getter working for a organization that values talent (and backs it up with targeted employee benefits), a temporary assignment outside the U.S. is well within your reach.
This blog post is timely as my wife is just wrapping up her one-year work assignment in Ireland and the benefits to her career and our work-life balance living in Dublin are extraordinary. An overseas assignment gives you the chance to embrace another culture and witness a refreshing attitude towards the separation of work and life. You will be surprised by all the little differences between what is “normal” at your home office and how the work day is done at your international office. And the best part…? Working from a foreign city opens up a totally different set of possibilities for world travel and enriching pursuits. Before you get scared about the prospect of putting your current life on hold and uprooting your family for the unknown, read on to appreciate the benefits of this life-changing experience.
International Assignment as a Way to Live Abroad
Living and working in a foreign country comes in infinite varieties, but what I am talking about here is your employer sending you to work at (not just visit) an office outside of your home country. The assignment length may be as short as a few weeks to as long as a year or two. The costs of your transportation, housing, work permits, and miscellaneous expenses will be covered by your employer and depending upon the type and length of the assignment, for your family members as well. While you are living in a different country you will be expected to work a normal schedule, so like back home your evenings and weekends will (hopefully) be work-free in addition to any paid vacation days you decide to take.
Work-Life-Vacation Balance While Living Overseas
The benefits of working at an international location for your employer is two-fold. First you will get to meet co-workers in person to learn about their work environment and way of life. That is a clear benefit to your employer and your career, as you forge close professional relationships and share knowledge to improve business processes. The second benefit is the revolutionary improvement to your own work-life-vacation balance. Living in a foreign city for several weeks or months has a lot in common with being on vacation every day, even if you still have to immersed at work during business hours.
|Vacation Opportunities with an International Assignment
How to Seek Out International Assignments at Work
Before you decide to go after an international assignment, find out who else at your company has done one and learn from their experience. How did they make it happen and what did they like and dislike about the entire experience? Do they have internal connections that can help you take that first important step? Once you make it your goal to land an international assignment find out the answers to these questions in order to gauge your chances of success.
- Does your organization have an established program to send employees abroad? This is the easiest route as the policies will already be in place on how to transfer employees and deal with the HR, financial, and immigration issues.
- What international offices does your company have including number of employees in each, type of work done, and the interaction between your office and those overseas?
- Do you have examples of people in similar roles going on assignment in recent years? Was the end result positive and ultimately beneficial to your organization?
- Do you regularly work with team members located at one of your international offices? Can you make the case that collaborating in-person (and in the same time zone) will lead to better and faster results?
- Have you built up a lot of organizational and industry knowledge that can be shared with teams located elsewhere to improve their productivity and increase global revenue?
- Are you fluent in a foreign language that is spoken in one of your international offices and therefore can become a part of their team from day-one or perhaps help with translation and localization tasks?
- Do you have international offices that are expanding and hiring lots of new employees who need immediate leadership or training on your the products, services, and processes at your company?
Your answers to the above questions will determine the approach you should take to pitch an international assignment to your manager. The key is to write up a succinct business plan highlighting your accomplishments in your own office, how you can foster the same kind of success at another office, and the immediate need (or at a specific time of year) for your talent at that other office. It is crucial that you document reasons why a short trip will not lead to the same organizational benefit as an extended assignment. Working abroad for weeks or months at a stretch is the optimal way to produce real results by the end date and for the years that follow.
In the end your company must be convinced that the actual cost of an international assignment is more than covered by the benefits to the organization and your overseas colleagues. I am biased and strongly believe that sending results-oriented employees to the right foreign office are easily justifiable. It is simply a matter of tailoring the length and goals of the assignment to match your job situation with global business objectives. One final note… when selling the plan to send you on a foreign assignment, skip the part about the advantages to your own work-life-vacation balance as that can be your own rewarding secret.