As it is in the modern world, changes in the global economy happen everyday and their impact is felt far and wide. Many of these changes have caused increased demand for international assignments in high-growth markets such as Brazil, Russia, India, or China – and not always with a glamorous expat package to go with it. In fact it’s recently been reported that growth in these locations is actually slowing, creating yet another dimension for the market. If you find yourself being assigned to a high-growth market (or even “slow-growth” market) on a local package, you will likely confront these challenges.
1) Decreased purchasing power
Cost of living in high-growth markets is rising faster than income can keep-up with. This means that your purchasing power and disposable income will be lower in your new location. Get familiar with your new economy and budget before making any big purchases.
2) Costly housing
Housing is often more expensive than other costs. If you are earning a local market salary, ask your company to pay or supplement your accommodations to help make-up for lost income.
3) Maintaining social security at home
Depending on the social security agreement between your home country and new location, you might be able to maintain home social security while on assignment even if you have a local package and pay local tax.
4) New bureaucratic processes and workloads
Don’t underestimate the bureaucratic processes (especially immigration) and cultural differences in high-growth markets! Your counterparts’ workloads are often significantly higher than stable-growth markets. Realizing what they deal with on a day-to-day basis will help in knowing how to work with them. In relationship-oriented and hierarchical cultures such as India, you have to know whom to contact to get things done. It is critical that you build a good relationship upfront.
5) Limitations to spouse employment
Depending on the location and type of work permit issued, your spouse might not be able to find employment . If your spouse is allowed to work, finding employment can be challenging. Find out if your host company offers support.
6) Personal security and health
In many of the locations mentioned you need to be prepared for the worse including mugging, terrorist attacks, health issues, and natural catastrophes just to name a few. Ensure that your company equips you with an emergency service, such as “International SOS”, and that your security needs are met.
7) Being blinded by idealism
The idea of being given an international assignment may seem like the ideal opportunity to advance your career, but beware! Surviving high-growth markets means you need to be able to deal with ambiguity and stress. Life functions at a different speed and the economy is often volatile. Processes often get stuck, attention can shift very fast, and several projects run at the same time. Be prepared for change!
8) Slowing markets
This is a challenge no matter where in the world you are, but it’s particularly tough when you are sent to a thriving market only to see it slow. This could result in not being able to achieve targets or being sent home earlier than expected. Plan for the unpredictable.
What is your experience with working in high-growth markets, especially on a local package?
BTW: For me working in India was an eye-opener in an early stage of my career. The experience taught me that many of our “Western” assumptions can be completely ineffective in a fast growing market.