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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Will a foreign assignment push your career up?

With businesses and the economy becoming global, companies are not satisfied with spreading their wings within the country but are looking for offshore opportunities as well. In such a scenario they prefer to hire executives with a global mindset and an understanding of different cultures.

The interdependence in the global economy has been proved in the recent recession and companies are looking for those with international experience because they can better understand the nuances of how a global enterprise should be managed. This becomes especially important when hiring for the top management levels.

Gaining global experience might seem an attractive way to gain more exposure and a way to better career opportunities but you must consider it carefully. Weigh your options before agreeing to a foreign assignment in your present company or agreeing to a new job in another country just because the pay and perks are good. This is because certain assignments may not deliver the experience or opportunities they promise and can prove a career faux pas.

Take the precaution of checking and double-checking the value addition a foreign assignment/job can make to your career before agreeing to accept it. The point is to be realistic on the advantages of such a career move and then take your decision. Working in certain countries may not really add to your experience or help you make meaningful contribution to your organisation, you would be better staying on in your country. So consider carefully.

Also assess your talents and abilities and your motivation to move out of your country. Looking at the assignment as a temporary alternative to lack of opportunities at home will not add any significant weight to your resume.

The best way to evaluate whether a foreign assignment would do you any good is to do research on the country and its business scenario and the scale of operations your employer has there. This can help you assess the impact it will have on your career and take the right decision.

If you have friends and colleagues working there, contact them to get an insight of the challenges, learning experience and the skills and talents they have picked up working in that country. You can even help in international projects while staying in your own country. This will help you hone your skills for working abroad and make a bid for such assignments when your employer provides them.

The knowledge you gain will help you assess whether you have the qualities to lead international assignments. Generally speaking you need cultural savoir-faire, curiosity and a strong work ethic to succeed.

When assessing your skills understand how well they are suited to the business climate of emerging global economies because this is where more opportunities exist. Before you accept an assignment, evaluate the pay package offered to you and how it ranks with industry norms. You may also be entitled to special perks while working outside your home country. Other considerations include job security.

Ideally an overseas assignment should help you imbibe new skills and talents that can be the highlight of your resume. It may require two to three years for such an assignment to garner results for both you and your employer. Some pointers before you decide to accept a foreign assignment:

Get an insight into the culture of the country

Evaluate your company's goals in that location and what you can do to meet them

Assess how best you and your family can adapt to the new environment

Ensure you know the impact of this assignment on your career and your company's plans for you on return

Have a succession plan in place

Once you accept your assignment be prepared to stay for at least two years. While you are there keep a tab on the business developments in your own country and be connected to your professional and social networks. Being out of touch can be a professional setback once you return.

An international assignment, which can open better career opportunities for you in the future, is worth going for. It can be an important learning experience to benefit your career and life.

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