Guest post by Lucie Koch

Lucie Koch has joined Global People Transitions for an internship and will be sharing her internship experiences in a regular blog journal. 

While I have driven all the way up to the North of England during my last bachelor year with only six months of countryside driving experience (let me assure you, the stress was intense), I, and it seems to be the case for many young people of my age, have never felt as anxious and simultaneously excited at the prospect of starting my professional career.

My internship at Global People Transitions  started a little more than one month ago and, for now, I still have one foot in the academic system and the other one in the professional system. Knowing that I am about to step out of the apparently safe bubble of the academic world is becoming more real every day. However, I know that this apprehension is a globally experienced side-effect of change and I am going to be fine.

This said, the professional discovery experience is an exciting (and scary) experience, especially when starting in an international or foreign company, or when considering how young Europeans of my generation have been reminded for years about the high unemployment rates and economic crisis. Writing about my experience may help students about to take their first step in the professional world to feel less stressed about the change and professionals understand the young interns.

The first challenge I faced was intercultural. Indeed, while I am of Swiss nationality, my ideas about work, are mostly shaped by the French education system and experience through personal relations in France. Therefore, I was quite insecure about the professional culture proper to Switzerland.

Secondly, there is the fact that the Global People Transitions team is very diverse in its cultural backgrounds. However, due to my intercultural experience and interculturality centered studies, it was easy to adapt to this.

The real intercultural shock for me was more about academical vs professional culture. Indeed, the differences in behavior, expectations, jargon and directness, are always a challenge to adapt to, especially in a secondary language. I would argue that it might be harder or at least as hard to adapt to a new ‘working’ culture than to a new national culture, especially in a global environment. It is especially complicated in a digital work team, as one can’t rely on tone and physical expression hints.

Culture Shock Theory, which is used to explain and educate people about the social, physical and emotional challenges which people face during and international mobility, could be used in my case too. Indeed, there is the initial ‘honeymoon’ phase, when one is excited about more autonomy, earning money, meeting new people, moving to a new place. Then come the first stressful situations, negative experiences, the disappointment of big expectations, or the nostalgia of old habits, life and friends can lead to a low (more or less hard depending on everyone’s experience). Adapting to the new environment is essential and it is not limited to a change of country.

However, what I discovered in the first month of my internship, is that there is no need to be anxious and that some intercultural communication failures are bound to happen, may it be because of a nationality difference, a professional culture difference, or even a generational difference. The apprehension is normal but the growth that one gains in the professional experience is worth the harder parts.

I hope that you enjoyed this read!

Write you next month,

Lucie

Lucie Koch - Global People Transitions

Lucie Koch is intern at Global People Transitions since April 2017. She is about to graduate from an Intercultural Management Master study, which led her to study in Dijon, France, a city she was already familiar with and in unfamiliar Finland (for one semester). Previously, she studied one year at Durham university (UK) as part of a Bachelor Erasmus Mobility program. She was born in 1994 to Swiss expat couple in France. She grew up in the French countryside, around horses. She’s a self confessed introvert, fascinated by different languages, cultures, science (especially astronomy and biology) and philosophy. She also likes to spend time drawing, painting or in cinemas.

You are Jason Bourne, you wake up in a hotel room in a Middle Eastern country. It’s too hot in your room. You sweat and you just woke up from a nightmare. You are not sure if this nightmare is a memory because you cannot remember who you are. 

How will it be possible for you to connect with anyone? How will you trust others if you do not even know who you are? What if you have changed your identity so often that you cannot even clearly pronounce your name?

This is a challenge and you are probably shaking your head. “This is a movie, it’s not real.”. 
Yes, but there is a truth in this movie that is relevant to your job search in a new country. It might even be true if you are looking for a new job in your own country.
In professional life, we want to hire people we can trust. We want to hire a competent professional who can show us that they managed a similar challenge before. We want to work with people who will be self-starters and won’t need a year to be up to speed in the role.
You need a professional identity before you can enter the circle of trust because trust starts with you trusting yourself, trusting your knowledge, attitudes, skills, experiences and how you acquire and store them in your brain. You need to be aware of how you relax, how you focus and center yourself when you are in a critical and stressful complex matrix environment. 
Here is one issue I often notice when you come to see me: you are not even aware of most of your competencies. You take them for granted and assume that a recruiter, computer or line manager will already know everything about you when they scan your resume because, obviously, they are mind-readers and miracle workers. For them, it is as obvious as all the three-letter-acronyms you have been using on your résumé because English is their native language and they are working in a similar field, profession, and industry. Really?

What your personal brand should say about you:

When we speak about the personal brand it is something unique to you, something that makes people remember your name, that sticks with people and that keeps you top-of-mind when they are looking for someone with your profile. This brand is not just a marketing factor. Putting three labels (professional designations) on your résumé will help a reader to categorize you and put you into the right mental box. Ideally, you keep reminding this reader of you so that the box is not closed but open, and so that the persona in the box shines like a Swarovski crystal. Oh, look, here’s Jason Bourne again. Matt Damon is associated with this movie role. He will never be able to play any other role without us thinking: “Oh, that’s Jason Bourne!”. Which reminds me that I saw “Hidden Figures” today and when Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory appeared, I had to laugh. Then, I always waited for him to act like the Sheldon that he is BUT he was playing another role and did that really well. It was hard for me to accept though because for me Jim Parsons is not an identity. For me this guy IS Sheldon. So, imagine you are trying to re-brand yourself. It’s very difficult. Your former career image sticks to your face and to your online trail. I can tell a few CEO’s who won’t find a job anymore because they are burnt.  

Your personal brand is not only your name, headshot, twitter handle, trademark, signature product or the funny pink hat. Your personal brand is also how you make others feel. Your personal brand should say about you what you are trying to express with your seven work principles. People should identify you with how you work and how you relate to others. They should be happy to refer you to others by saying: “She is really competent and helped me on several occasions when I was stuck. She has been my greatest cheerleader.” or “He is true to his values and always seems to do the correct move. He has never let me down.”

How to connect your personal brand with your seven work principles?

As you already know if you have been through the HireMe! Program, we recommend that you develop your seven work principles in alignment with your personal values. An example would be: “I prioritize my clients over my prospects.”. If your personal brand is aligned with your work principles then your clients would say about you that you always take their concerns seriously and that you get back to them in an appropriate time frame. If you want this behavior to show, you could ask previous clients to endorse you for this behavior in their personal references and on LinkedIn. You could also try to write a special reference or recommendation about a person in your professional network, without expecting them to endorse you back.

Please tell me how you will review your work principles this week and how you will align them to your personal brand. Then take a break and watch a movie. It’s inspiring.

Guest Post by Kevin Castro

In a survey commissioned last year by Santa Fe Relocation Services and conducted by Circle Research, a contrasting view on global mobility teams was revealed. Graeme Cade, Client Director, Circle Research explains: “Senior executive leadership recognizes the strategic value of the Global Mobility (GM) function for enabling business growth and developing talent to become tomorrow’s leaders. Strikingly, GM professionals themselves are struggling with a lack of confidence and morale – often feeling under-resourced and undervalued.”

You can request a copy of the report by clicking here

While Senior Leadership recognizes the role that GM professionals play in the organization, does it transcend to having real benefits for those supporting the company’s best talents i.e. not feeling under-resourced or undervalued?

Perhaps only for some. As such  GM professionals, how can we further demonstrate value in order to influence how the organization supports/perceives the team? I have listed  four points, which I hope can help you/your teams to increase your value in the organization:

1. Get a Seat at the Table through Partnering in Business and Talent Goals

  • Do you have Joint-Business Planning with your HR & Business Leaders? If none yet, you should start engaging them in order to better understand their goals, focus, and how you can support Talent Strategy. This may lead to an easier path in demonstrating your value to the business as you will get to know how and where to play towards their goals;
  • Does your company do assignee pre-screening, where you determine the suitable candidates for international assignment? If not, this is something that you can explore and introduce. If done right, you avoid the pitfalls of selecting the wrong people.

2. Your Expertise Matters

  • You are the expert, and you should try to demonstrate this frequently. You can do this through sharing GM insights, trends, and how these contribute to business/talent strategy.
  • If the opportunity is available to increase your global mobility expertise through having certification and further studies. GM organizations and consultancy organizations provide certifications/courses, where you can further deepen your mobility knowledge. For example, Global People Transitions offers the FlyMe! Program, a career coaching geared towards Global Mobility Professionals.
  • An academic course to certify you as a “Global Mobility Advisor” is available with Expatise Academy in collaboration with Erasmus University in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

3. Communicate Your Value, Regularly and Consistently

  • Do you consistently communicate what you have achieved, projects you initiated? Ensure that you communicate the things that you do and how you have supported the business.
  • In a study by Cartus in 2016, a global relocation services provider, it found out that 54% of companies lack focus on tracking and reporting on assignments. As such, this will be a focus for 2017.  
  • Hence, it is high time to gather that data (assignment success, costs, the return on investment, assignees feedback, etc.) and have a regular newsletter/blog or presentation at your next strategy/planning meeting.  
  • As my clients always ask, how will I know if the expat assignment is successful? A report should be in order to communicate such info.

4. Flexible, Agile and Able to Re-Focus.

  • In previous years, the goal was to ensure that you arrange logistics and meet compliance needs, which are more transactional. In today’s world, the role expands and you are now viewed by the business as a strategic partner not merely as administrators. You should always understand what is important to the business. Today, the focus may be costs, but it might be something else in three months time. Keep your eyes and ears open for this and be agile and flexible.
  • In addition, as practitioners (in-house or outsourced) you should also be aware of trends in terms of mobility practices and service delivery.  You can start by looking at how technology affects the delivery. Do all assignees adapting to these changes, or do we provide omnichannel delivery? What do other companies do?  Such questions might lead you to new service delivery models or enhancement.

I hope these four points will prove to be beneficial for you and will help your team to push more value to the organization. So, don’t forget to get a seat, be the expert, market your value, and be agile & flexible.

I remember a conversation with my previous boss, where he shared with me that HR is a cost-generating function, so it might sometimes receive smaller budgets (e.g. hiring additional headcount, higher bonus, etc.). However, HR’s role has transformed itself from a back-office support function into a more strategic business partner. This principle should also apply on Global Mobility regardless of where it is structured in the company (e.g. HR, Finance, Outsourced, etc.).

In today’s world, Global Mobility Teams will be more valuable than ever!

 

Kevin Castro is a Filipino by birth, who lived in Singapore for almost 8 years and is now residing in Zurich. A Global Mobility Professional, with experience in Mobility Operations, HR Services, Project & Supplier Management, and Customer Service. He is currently learning German and at the same time enjoying cooking & curating travel experiences.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/kevin-castro-37010a49/

More than a year ago, I held a talk at the Forum for Expatriate Management event in Rotterdam. Every word is true in 2017. I am nowadays more involved in operational global mobility topics than I ever was and while the constant filling of payroll instructions, hypo tax calculations, and balance sheet updates reminds me of the Sysiphus tasks I mentioned in the talk, I have learned a great deal over the last few weeks.

I am contemplating that even expatriate payroll is so much more interesting than normal payroll and that we need professionals with intercultural competence to ensure that the expats get paid correctly. You would think this is easy but believe me in 2017 with all the technology, processes sometimes seem more complicated than in 1999. At that time we used to calculate net payments on paper.

In the last few weeks, I used a calculator every day and excel became my second best friend. On a few occasions, we don’t seem to get it right in the first attempt. The bonus is wrong, the expat unhappy and we get a new calculation. Then we start again. The third time it’s easier.

In a case from the UK, I notice that the pension contribution has changed from the previous year. In one from Madagascar, a figure was not transferred automatically into the next record of the assignee. A lot of checking and cross-checking is needed.

Once you think that you finally have created the right balance sheet you send it to the assignee and they tell you that it is a joke. They challenge your figures and you need to go back to the provider and explain why the tax system in the UK reduces your personal allowance once your salary reaches 100k GBP so that your bonus is taxed at an unimaginable tax rate. Or why the INR has devalued against the EUR and how that is reflected in the Cost of Living Adjustment. Then they ask why the COLA is calculated on spendable income only and how we came up with that figure.

You need to see every step along the way as learning towards what you can contribute to the world. If you don’t enjoy this process, tell yourself that it is only once a year and it pays your rent. I see exciting challenges for the GM Professionals but even if you are in a different field you might relate to these topics too. Here are seven current issues that seem to be examples for GM Professionals around the world

  1. We solve issues with manual workarounds that we cannot seem to handle with technology.

  2. We need good working relationships with our colleagues and the expats around the world to solve those dilemmas.

  3. We need superior technical skills in tax, social security and immigration and other subject matter areas so we don’t lose oversight of the full process.

  4. Without the experience of at least 200 cases, it is really hard to see patterns in your problem-solving approach as every case poses a different country combination and needs to be tackled individually.

  5. We need high levels of focus and productivity to deliver excellent solutions.

  6. We work too many hours and it is hard for us to keep healthy.

  7. Many of us are women and at a career and pay level that is way below our background, competence, and qualification.

One of the reasons why I started my company Global People Transitions was to help Global Mobility Professionals develop further. I would like to encourage you and support you with advice on how to get your develop your global competency further. You can check out the Global Mobility Workbook for further explanation, apply to become a tester of our Global Career App and you can book coaching sessions with me under the FlyMe! Program. You can also find Global Mobility job offers here and if you follow me on LinkedIn.

Let me know if you see yourself in the issues I mentioned and what you will do as a next step to move forward.

In the TGV Lyria the French train running between Paris and Zurich all seats are normally taken. Like on a plane you need to sit in your reserved seat. In Switzerland there are no reservations. When a train gets too full and extra train is implemented during high times. Switzerland deals with this issue by adding more trains.

On Saturday, I entered the train in Dijon (France – the city of mustard) and placed my suitcase at the beginning of the compartment but could not find me seat in the lower deck. First I thought that there was an error on my ticket. Then I noticed the upper deck. I walked back, went up the stairs and thought “I must remember where I placed my suitcase.”

When I found my assigned seat 106 it was taken by a young girl. I experienced how my “Germanic” sense and preference for structure and order immediately was challenged. My stomach gave me messages “Out of order, not right, what is happening here?”

I tried my best French to state that I had a reservation. The girl showed me her ticket and explained in French that there was a mix up as the young couple in the seat in front of her had taken their seats. No one showed signs of getting up for a middle-aged woman. (My brain said “These younglings…no respect for age.”)

I saw no point in getting angry at the girl and her cute little sister who explained again the same.

I was thinking about approaching the couple directly but for a few minutes I did not know what to say and how to stay polite in French. Then a veiled lady told me to wait for the conductor. I felt out of place as people were trying to pass by. I thought about sitting out the problem and felt a frog creeping in my throat as I tried to say in French that I was standing here like an idiot because of a mix up of seats. I was also getting hot in my winter jacket and worried about fainting.

I felt tired and wanted to sit and work. I don’t like it when my plans get interrupted. I waited in silence and looked at my ticket to decide how long I could stand here. The girl (who was in the wrong seat) became nervous. She urged her boyfriend to handle this embarrassing situation. Then another young man got up and showed him something on his phone. The boy turned to me and said in English “You can take my seat. It’s number 64.“

I went back to the lower deck where I had left my suitcase, could not find 64, then went back up, passed by the boy and smiled. “It’s probably over there”. Then I asked the passenger in seat 64 if he had a reservation. He said yes. I apologized, went back to the boy and said “Did you say 64 or 46?”. He smiled “I said 54.”

I smiled, finally found seat 54 and ended up near where I had originally placed my suitcase.

Why am I telling you this?

I thought this is one of the situations that you experience in a new country all the time during your cultural adjustment.

I was proud of myself that I did not get too angry and tried to use humor in an awkward social situation in a language I did not feel 100% comfortable in. It also showed me again that your inner state is important when handling intercultural issues. You can solve problems better when you stay calm and composed even if a situation upsets you.

This situation gave me a good chance to apply my seven principles for intercultural effectiveness and I learnt once again

I could have reacted differently but by being quiet and patient the younglings came up with a solutions that was a win-win for all of us.

Other lessons learnt that help in intercultural settings.

1) Communicate your Needs

I should have said that I need to sit and work. Everything else did not matter to me. I should have said that I did not sleep well and that my back hurts when I stand to long but I did not. Maybe I could have arranged the new seat faster with better communication and checking in about the seat number. How often does it happen in intercultural communication that we do not really understand each other?

2) Forget Powerplay, Authority and Assumptions about Social Hierarchy

It’s not always necessary to play a power game when you can solve problems together. In order to do that you need to keep an open mind and accept a bit of chaos (which is hard with a Germanic mindset). I admit I felt a bit entitled and was going to pull an arrogant move, about how I had paid for my seat etc…but something stopped me from doing that. Maybe I am not that kind of person anymore.

3) Religion means nothing – Love is everything

The boyfriend’s argument “I wanted to be close to my girlfriend…” convinced me and I really did not question that I could take his seat instead. I loved that everyone seemed to sympathize with me and engaged in my “problem”. I expected the least support from the veiled lady but she immediately provided a solution. My heart went out to her as I thought she does not need to help a stranger.

 

4) Small issues can create big emotions

Although this was such a small dilemma it almost made me cry. I felt awkward and out of place, someone who does not fit in and this probably triggered old childhood memories of being new in class with a funny accent when I was showing up in second grade after our big family move. Watch your feelings and emotions. They might be triggered by old memories.