Tag Archives: international assignment

 

How did you experience your stint in a high-growth market?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.

by Angela Weinberger

10 Life-saving tips

Through my years as a global mobility expert, I’ve confronted the challenges of international relocation side-by-side with my clients. We’ve worked through topics like deciding if relocation is the right choice, finding a home in the host country, supporting their partner, preparing for the move, and making new friends. In many cases employers are there to assist assignees with these issues. However, there are still several points I encourage my clients to handle themselves. The following 10 points are the most valuable, life-saving tips I can offer anyone moving to a new country.

  1. Know Your New Job Title / Role Knowing exactly what your new position will entail can help you manage expectations early and be sure the position matches your experience. Ask for a written description of your new position from your employer.
  2. Have a “what’s in it for me” Plan Don’t go on a foreign assignment without considering what you will get out of the experience and that this means for your career once you return home. Create a plan of what you want to gain from working aboard and consider how that applies to your long-term career goals. Read more about deciding what you want.
  3. Speak to your Partner The decision to move aboard involves your partner as much as it involves you.  As the assignee, you will enter the host country with a meaningful job and professional network. This may not be true for your partner. Discuss in advance what your partner’s role will be when away on assignment and discover networks for him/her to become connected with.  Read more about supporting your partner.
  4. Consider the People at Home When deciding whether to accept an international assignment or not, think of the people – especially the elderly – that you might leave behind. Develop a plan on what to do when a parent or loved one is sick, has had an accident or needs immediate care. This could be going home to be with them, creating a care schedule with other family members or providing financial support.
  5. Budgeting and Salary Before you move to your new country check what the average cost of living and home rental costs are. Knowing this will help you plan a monthly budget. You’ll also have a better impression of what kind of salary you’ll need. Salary in the host country is often determined at “peer level”. This means that your salary is comparable to what a local working in your team would earn. Once you start living and earning in the host country, stay on a monthly budget until you are familiar with the currency and actual living costs.
  6. Sort out the Legalities Administration needs like immigration, tax and social security are three areas you will want to take extra care of. Mistakes in any of these areas can result in high costs. To make the process easier, follow the instructions your employer gives you, complete all requests before the deadlines, understand your assignment conditions, and seek additional support if needed. Read more about other things to organize before moving.
  7. Support your Children Having moved several times as a child, I know firsthand the strain of new schools and countries. As your children adjust to a new school system, find new friends or even learn a new language, they might need extra support and attention. Listen to your children’s needs and speak with other global parents about their experiences.
  8. Emergency Planning Natural or civil emergencies are real threats when living abroad. Although we’d rather not consider what to do in a state of emergency in the host country, it’s best to discuss a plan of action for when/if disaster strikes. Decide what to do if you are injured or die. Learn what emergency services are offered in your host country and the phone numbers for these services.
  9. Seek Professional Support Experts like Global People Transitions are here to advise and support you in your transition. We put priority on your needs as an expatriate and seek to maintain an active relationship with you through the whole transition process. Please contact us for support at any time. Read more about expert advice.
  10. Enjoy Your New Home! Life aboard is an adventure and one that is meant to be enjoyed. Learn about the culture you live in and make friends. Establishing meaningful relationships is key to feeling at home in a new place. Work will always be there, so remember to take some time to share new experiences with people, visit interesting places and do special activities.  Read more about developing relationships.

This completes the blog series about international relocation. For more about these topics and others, please contact me.

Next week will be the start of a new series covering self-development.

 

Tips GPT_3In my last posts on “How to find a job in Switzerland” we discussed the résumé changes (#1) you have to do for Switzerland especially as well as how to put together a set of work references (#2) and then we went on to managing the interview (#3). Some of my advice is culture-specific to Swiss culture but I believe this one is more universal.

Did you ever receive an email that was so strikingly nice that you could not resist but had to pick up the phone and call the sender? Unless this was the love of your life maybe it was a person who knows how to communicate well in writing. Let’s call her Petra. Like Petra some of us have a talent for emails. If you are one of these people you could use your talent to help other people for example by writing a referral or a recommendation or even an #FF (Follow Friday recommendation on Twitter).

If you want to write a good referral it is important that you state the strengths of the person you are talking about.  For example: You want to introduce Paul, a website developer to Susan, who is just starting her business. Ideally Paul’s strength meets a need of Susan. You could say “Susan, I recently worked with Paul. He developed my website in less than the time expected, amazed me with the end result and I even paid the price he originally quoted. With the start of your new business I thought you might need a good web designer. You can contact Paul best via email. Kindly cc me on the note so he knows that we are in touch. Petra”

If you are referring for networking purposes only you can look for a common interest of Paul and Susan: “Susan, I recently met Paul. Like you, he loves to travel backpacking style through remote locations. I thought you too would get along well so I wanted to connect you on Facebook. Is that ok for you? Petra”.

In order to do good referrals you need to kow the people in your network well. You should remember their hobbies, children and partners. You also need to learn to listen to your contacts when you go for lunch or dinner. Often, we just talk and completely forget to listen and remember details about the people we are meeting. Give it a try and let us know what happened.

Have an inspired day!

Angie

Recently I was in a negotiation for a new position. Usually I do not like to negotiate but I learnt that if you do not negotiate well you will later never be satisfied with your salary or other elements of the job especially if you constantly feel that you are undervalued. I believe that men are a lot better at negotiating the packages they feel they deserve than women which is one of the reasons why experienced and well qualified women are often lower paid than their male counterparts. There might also be an unconscious bias on the part of the person you are negotiating with. My major learning from the last years in Switzerland is though that you should not settle for a bad package. I learnt that compromising on salary and grade eventually lowers your motivation for a certain role even if you love what you do.

We tend to say „money is not everything“ which is basically a rationalization of our failure at reaching the salary and grade level we expect and deserve. I have also heard statements like „We do not care about titles here.“ or “How will your title make a change in how you perform on the job?”

I do not believe this statement especially if it comes from a person who already has achieved a grade which is very high and respected such as a “Director” or “Partner”.

Maybe we (women) have not learnt to negotiate well when we used to have a male breadwinner at home. In the past a women’s salary might have just been an “additional” income but today women like me contribute our share to the cost of living. In some cases we might not expect a man to pay for our home and want to be self-contained.

In my last two roles I worked as a Global Mobility Leader and often got involved in package negotiations of expatriates. These packages can be very comforting especially if the expat is really the only suitable person for the role. I observed that good negotiators do this:

1)   They know exactly what their market value is even if they go to a different host market.

2)   They never accept a lower net salary.

3)   They never accept a lower grade.

4)   They want to understand the details of the role and the package.

5)   They do not accept the first written offer but come back with suggestions.

6)   They have a back-up plan and don’t lay all their eggs in one basket.

7)   They have defined some limits where they are not willing to compromise.

8)   They actually read the whole contract and attachments and raise questions on misleading provisions.

9)   They do not take all risks involved in an international assignment (such as tax risk, social security and health coverage risks, immigration risks).

So once I understood the details of my new role, I was very committed to doing this job. There were some disadvantages in comparison to my former role. I might not be sleeping at home every night of the week in order to meet clients abroad. I was happy to be flexible because I saw a lot of learning opportunities and the company is a well-respected leader in my field.  I was also happy to start on a very short notice (less than two weeks) and shuffle all my personal commitments around.

I understood (as so many times before) that it was critical that I was on the job fast to take over from another person or to pick up the shambles of the predecessor, who had already left (which happened to me most of the times).

I was getting concerned when we started to negotiate my salary. I thought I had build up a good picture earlier of my salary, bonus and title expectations. Sometimes circumstances can change but my view is that if the interviewers think that you are the best candidate for the role should they not meet your expectations especially if there had been discussions on these earlier on the process? Suddenly it seemed that all my flexibility was taken for granted while some of the basic discussion package points (salary and title) were offered lower than expected.

I am usually a hard worker and my former managers were happy to have me on their teams because I know what I am doing and I can be left running on a long leech. Now, I was wondering that if my future manager starts reducing my value already before I start the job is this a good basis for cooperation?  When I put myself into the shoes of a hiring manager I understand that there might be budget constraints but should you not discuss these with your recruiters before they start their search? Should you not brief your recruiters on what is a must have and where you see this role in the organizational hierarchy?

In negotiations you get to know your counterpart well. I have had cases where because of a bonus figure assignees did not accept a job in the last minute and I have seen people resigning and leaving their employer because they got frustrated about the negotiation process for an international assignment. Also many talented staff resigns, when for the second or third time they expected a promotion and did not get it. At the end of the day we do not just want to deliver we also want to get compensated fairly.  In my case I turned down a great job because in the last minute I found out that the grade for the role was lower than originally communicated. Call me superficial but for me the status that comes with a title is important especially in an international context and when you build up your network from scratch. Once your client, superiors and peers know you, the title might not be important but in the beginning of a new role a title helps people to find orientation. When you start on a higher level than in your last role usually it is expected that you were headhunted for this role. You gain credit. If you accept a lower grade it takes at least one or two years until you have built up the credentials and supporters for a promotion. I was not willing to compromise on title. So once in a while you might have to decline an offer and tell yourself that the next negotiation you will start at an even higher level.

Should the “war for talents” become really serious companies might also have to learn to negotiate better with female candidates because at the end of the day women often have more of a choice to decline an offer and they listen to their gut feeling.

Many of my clients relocate regularly. I usually move every three years. With the time you get better at relocating but it is usually still stressful. Relocation is one of the top 10 stress factors in your life. It does not rank as high as the death of your spouse but close to your own marriage in common stress factors.

What can you do to make it a little less painful?

1) Organize:
It is all about organizing yourself and all those relocating with you. Try to break down the move in as many baby steps as possible and work those off day by day. Better one baby step a day than a huge step in a week.

2) Reserve time to get tasks done:
You can set aside a time in your diary possible early in the morning where you get 1 or 2 relocation items off your checklist. You will instantly feel better for the rest of day.

3) Delegate:
If you can work with a professional relocation company clarify expectations early. Find out what their service includes. Usually they will do the packing but not the un-packing of your boxes. Get an understanding of the volume your company will pay for you to relocate. Discuss early which items you will store.

4) Seperate important docs:
Sometimes the most important customs documents or your child’s passport end up in a moving box. Important documents need to be separated and best kept outside of the apartment during the packing process. Scan all of them and put them in an electronic folder like dropbox where you can access them at any time.

5) Make sure people have enough to eat:
Moving is stressful enough. You can create a good atmosphere by providing enough food and drinks to get through the packing.

6) Plan at least two days for arrival and un-packing:
My mum once had to unpack all my boxes because I needed to start to work. It took me quite a while to find out where everything was. Some of the things my mum put away nicely are still where they were three years ago. Try to make sure you have enough time to unpack. With children you need to plan extra time too.

7) Shit happens:
Sometimes moving goods get lost at sea or damaged. If you care too much about granny Susanne’s old kitchen cupboard you might need to consider to store it. If it is valuable make sure you get proper insurance.

These are seven small tips for keeping sane during relocation. Let me know what you think of it.