Category Archives: Global Mobility
Hiring Talent from the Globe

I’m on a MISSION to bring the HUMAN TOUCH back into Global Mobility. One theme that I see more now is that we Global Mobility Professionals are involved in the recruiting of Global Talent. This makes a lot of sense when you consider that we have the knowledge and skills to deal with most of the challenges that hiring people from other countries brings. However, since in most organizations we are not officially responsible we don’t get the resources we need to deal with recruiting professionally. Hence, we can consult but not support. So, dear recruiters, I hope this is helpful.

Lifestyle Expats, or Self-Initiated Expats (SIEs), are an important factor in today’s global force and the actual circumstances suggest the phenomenon is on the rise (Habti & Elo, 2019). In fact, thanks to technological changes, such as online recruiting, the labour market has become more international and more fluid and made the process of filling jobs internationally (internally or externally the organization) much simpler. As a consequence, an increasing number of professionals consider working abroad a realistic career option and there are growing opportunities to identify and eventually find a job abroad.

We are in the middle of an unprecedented global crisis, which is bound to create a stronger recession than the 2008 financial crisis, and the war for talent is as heated as ever. 

Specialized Subject Matter Experts are increasingly hard to find and when you turn to places rich in talent such as Singapore and certain areas of the US like Boston and the Silicon Valley, that’s of course where competition is already extremely high. Moreover, there is no real point in stealing from the competition if you aim at bringing in innovation. 

It’s 2020 and the global workforce is as varied as ever, with five generations working side by side and companies striving to fulfill all their D&I goals (gender/religion/ethnicity/sexual orientation). As cited by Forbes, diversity plays an ever more important role in recruitment and is proving to be directly correlated with an increased revenue for the company (Boston Consulting Group, 2018; KPMG, 2018). 

Yet, relocation policies have historically been a one-size-fits-all model and are often still struggling to include points such as religion, ethnicity, age, disability status, working mothers, non-traditional family units, etc. 

Make sure your Global Mobility policies acknowledge and support your employees’ varying needs to make them feel more encouraged to accept International Assignment. The point is to ensure that deserving and promising talent does not experience barriers to success.

Demographic changes will require highly-skilled migrants to fill positions as turnout of university graduates declines in developed countries. Also at the EU level and among the Member States there is consensus on the need to address labour market shortages, worsened by the deepening demographic crisis and skill mismatch (Platonova & Urso, 2012).

Even rich countries like  Liechtenstein, (Beck et al., 2018; Hauri et al., 2016) may have a hard time attracting talent. Other more traditional expat hubs, like Singapore, London, New York City, the UAE, Hong Kong and Switzerland, continue leading the ranking despite the high costs of living. In this case, according to the 2020 Global Talent Competitiveness Index, what really makes the difference are their socio-economic policies in which talent growth and management are central priorities. 

Perhaps even more important to acknowledge is that the world of work as we knew has already changed. With new technology enabling employees to work almost anywhere and anytime, the classic ‘nine to five’ is outdated. In an article published by Sage People even before the pandemic changed companies’ approach, figures speak for themselves:  not only do 50% of the US interviewees say they’d like to be more mobile at work, but a good 54% would change job if it meant more flexibility.

In Global Mobility, Virtual Assignments are an opportunity to give employees the much longed-for flexibility they seek. Despite Virtual Assignments having always been on the rise since the widespread implementation of the internet, it’s easier to see how they’re going to be even more numerous in the aftermath of the Corona-crisis. In fact, never before have so many employees worked remotely in order to guarantee essential business continuity. 

But there is another side of the medal, and this is the portion of talent who seek international experience as part of their decision to join a company.  In particular, overseas assignments are becoming more appealing among Millennials, who often see the opportunity to live and work abroad as more rewarding than a pay rise. They are called Digital Nomads or Telecommuters. According to Smart Gear, 90% of digital nomads plan on working remotely for the rest of their careers, while 94% of them encourage others to try Digital Nomadism themselves.

Whether or not you’re having troubles attracting talent, here are six basics to add to your recruiting suite that you should consider during and after the recruiting process. 

1 – Make Sure They Have a Realistic Picture of What it’s like to Live in Your Expat Hub

Try to put yourself in the mind of a candidate who is contacted by a company in a foreign location. What’s the first thing that you would like to know? Salary? Job title? The direction of the company? Probably none of these things, but rather: “Why would I want to move there?”

Moving continents, or even “just” countries, isn’t a decision that can be taken on the potential of a great office view only. Instead, candidates need to know what the place looks like, what language is spoken, where they (and maybe their families) would live and whether they would fit in.

It is useful to include this information on your careers page so as to make it more of a relocation portal and less of a job listing. Workable offers a service to help you in this process. Not only will candidates benefit from this information, but so will your company: showing what candidates want to know during the overseas job hiring process builds your credibility from the beginning.

This type of thinking is beneficial for companies at every level, whether you’re hiring someone 70 or 7,000 miles away.

2 – Help with the Move of Household Goods

Among Expats and Expat Spouses, the phase of moving abroad is often cited as the most stressful one. Moving out doesn’t take one day only: there are farewells, often a party, and especially when small kids are involved, the family needs to stay with friends or in a hotel room. While Expats are still busy handing their work over and finalizing conversations with clients, Expat Spouses are often alone in coordinating all the logistics behind the move. That’s why it is important that they are connected with a moving company. Having someone who takes care of their house goods until they are settled in the new location surely spares the Expat family from a lot of stress. 

If you are looking for a relocation company, consider paying a visit to the Keller Swiss Group. They offer relocation services, household removals, business relocation and household storage services, both in Switzerland and worldwide.

3 – Organize Support with Immigration 

Organizing support with immigration is definitely another helpful and efficient way of helping the expat family during the stressful pre-assignment phase. In recent years, the process of obtaining work permits and visas has become more complex. Letting Expats and Expat Spouses navigate this sea of bureaucracy all alone would put on them an incredible and unnecessary amount of stress. 

When it comes to immigration compliance, each case is different and needs to be examined thoroughly. Some relocation companies, like BecomeLocal in Switzerland, are specialists in this field. They can help you handle the permit process, write applications and submit to the authorities, instruct professionals and executives to obtain visas, sparing your organisation and the expat family a lot of hustle.

4 – Provide Spouse Career Support and A Pre-Hire Assessment for the Spouse

The effects that International Assignments have on the Expat Spouse’s wellbeing and state of mind are often underestimated. For some Expat Spouses, the sudden change from independent career person to stay-at-home parent has a strong psychological impact, even more so if getting a working visa is not possible.

Coaching is a very powerful tool with which companies can support Expat Spouses. With the help of a Career Coach, some Expat Spouses manage to start their own businesses while living abroad, thus finding deeper fulfillment in the experience.. At Global People Transitions we are specialized in this. If you want to know more about what we do to help Expat Spouses find motivation and new perspectives, visit Global People Transitions or send me an email (angela@globalpeopletransitions.com).

It is also very fair to the Expat Spouse to have a realistic idea of whether their profile actually leads to potential employment in the host market or whether their chances of finding work are slim. An Expat Spouse Coach can also help with a pre-hire assessment for the Expat Spouse.

5 – Consult them on Technical Issues such as How to Get Health Insurance, What to do About Their Taxes 

Once again try to put yourself in the mind of your future employees. They now have a clearer idea of what it means to live in your expat hub and they are positively considering relocating there. Perhaps their spouses and children are coming along. In this preparatory phase, Expats are inevitably very busy with what needs to be handled back at home in their professional and private life. But they also need to be ready for what’s coming next. 

Handling both “back home” and “in host country” can be extremely overwhelming, especially if this means going through important technical issues of a country with a different system and in a language they don’t understand. This is the right time to step in and consult them on important decisions such as which type of health insurance to get and how to do it, but also on how to handle their taxes. If you can’t deliver this in-house we’re happy to help.

6 – Sprinkle Everything with  A Bit More Human Touch

As I said earlier and many times before, HUMAN TOUCH is my MISSION and the key to enhancing the employee experience. Deloitte (2019) proved to be onboard with that when stating that today’s global workforce is attracted and motivated by a more personalised, agile and holistic experience than before. This is why it’s important that you find your way to unlock the HUMAN TOUCH. For example, you can start by welcoming new team members with a hand-written card. You will make their first day a celebration. 

If you wish to review your global recruiting policies or your process please contact me for a proposal via angela@globalpeopletransitions.com.

Resources 

Become Local. Swiss Immigration Adviser. https://www.becomelocal.ch 

Harrison, C. (2019, 19 Sep.). „7 Surprising Statistics about Digital Nomads.” Smart Gear Blog. https://smartgear.travel/7-surprising-statistics-about-digital-nomads/

Hayes, A. (2020, 7 Apr.). „What is a Digital Nomad?”Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/digital-nomad.asp

Keller Swiss Group. Worldwide Moving Relocation. https://www.kellerswissgroup.com/

MBO Partners. (2018). „Rising Nomadism: A Rising Trend.” MBO Partners, Inc. https://s29814.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/StateofIndependence-ResearchBrief-DigitalNomads.pdf 

Montilla, E.  (2020, 17 Jan.). „Achieving workplace diversity through recruitment in tech.” Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2020/01/17/achieving-workplace-diversity-through-recruitment-in-tech/#2214496a1359

References

Beck, P., Eisenhut, P. and Thomas, L. (2018). „Fokus Arbeitsmarkt: Fit für di Zukunft?”. Stiftung Zukunft.li. Retrieved 28 May, 2020, from https://www.stiftungzukunft.li/publikationen/fokus-arbeitsmart-fit-fuer-die-zukunft 

Boston Consulting Group. (2018). „How diverse leadership teams boost innovation.”, BCG. Retrieved 28 May, 2020, from https://www.bcg.com/publications/2018/how-diverse-leadership-teams-boost-innovation.aspx 

KPMG. (2018). „Inclusion and Diversity: How Global Mobility can help move the Needle”, KPMG. Retrieved May 28, 2020, from https://assets.kpmg//content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2018/06/global-mobility-inclusion-and-diversity-how-gms-can-help-move-the-needle-FINAL.pdf

Habti, D and Elo, M. (2019). Global Mobility of Highly Skilled People. Cham, Switzerland: Springer. 

Hauri, D., Eisenhut, P., and Lorenz T. (2016). „Knacknuss Wachstum und Zuwanderung: Hintergründe unde Zusammenhange.”Stiftung Zukunft.li. Retrieved 28 May, 2020, from https://www.stiftungzukunft.li/application/files/3215/1635/3318/Knacknuss_Wachstum_und_Zuwanderung_Endfassung_22_11_2016.pdf

Platonova A. and Urso, G. (2012). „Labour Shortages and Migration Policy.” International Organization for Migration. Retrieved May 28, 2020, from https://publications.iom.int/system/files/pdf/labour_shortages_and_migration_policy.pdf?language=en

Entsorgung

“Experience is, for me, the highest authority. The touchstone of validity is my own experience. No other person’s ideas and none of my own ideas are as authoritative as my experience. It is to experience that I must return again and again, to discover a closer approximation to truth as it is in the process of becoming me.” – Carl R. Rogers, On Becoming a Person, 1954

When I was a teenager, we had set meal times and would actually sit on a table together at least twice a day. Our family brunch on Sundays would often lead to a conversation about a “problem”. My dad was studying to be a Carl Rogers client-centered therapist at the time and I am not sure if he sometimes tried to use a questioning method or if he was just very skilled in giving me and my sister the space and safety in which we could just “let it out”. 

Having this kind of open environment in which you would be able to talk through anything is a family tradition which we still live with when we are together. Even though my dad and sister have left this earth already a long time ago, my mum, my aunt and I often sit down and just talk through anything, we love to analyze why a person shows a certain behaviour and how we can solve relationship issues. For me, this is so normal that I sometimes need to remind myself that it is not at all “normal” but rather extraordinary, especially in the German context. I would assume other families have a stronger discussion around political topics, money issues (how to save it) or even more mundane topics like sports.

I, on the other hand, have realized in a conversation with friends that sharing problems and openly talking about feelings, insecurities or areas of your life where you might not feel like “Wonder Woman” could be misinterpreted or it could come across as if you don’t really know where you are going. 

Which is funny, because right now I feel completely safe and on the right path of my life. I have a strong sense of alignment between my strengths and my life’s work. Insecurities of artistic types are normal because we expose ourselves to critiques a lot more often than the average business professional but most companies also train people to use other words than “problem” or we are not allowed to use words such as “drama”. 

It took me years to weed out the “corporate speak” in my writing and even a word like “alignment” creeps me out a bit as it feels “corporate”. This year during a meditation I chose the word “Roots” for my word of 2021. Solving problems is one of my roots and hence I wanted to share four beliefs behind problems with you.

Problems remind us of Math in High School

When I think of problems I think of my favorite math teacher (who also died rather young) and his gigantic triangle. He had the outer appearance of a garden dwarf but he was a great math and physics teacher. He even made me like physics at some stage. In math we had to solve problems all the time and sometimes this would cause stress. I can’t remember this from school or university but I know that I personally don’t like those psychometric tests which are sometimes still used in banks and consulting firms to weed out candidates. The classical IQ tests focussing on calculations in your head can be stressful if you grew up using a calculator. “Being bad with numbers” is a common stereotype of women and often used against women. I’m concerned that women might often not be “bad with numbers” but with the pressure of solving a mathematical problem without using EXCEL or without a calculator and under time constraints. If you take this into consideration with a bit of practice and a good teacher every math problem usually is solvable. And this is exactly what I mean with a “problem”. It’s a riddle that is complex and will need time, practice and different angles to be solved. Do you like crossword puzzles? Could you imagine an upcoming “issue” or pickle to be approached like a crossword puzzle? Write down all the pieces, paint a picture and see if a solution shows up.

Problems seem to be too complex to solve

Sometimes solving problems alone is not possible. Problems might seem too complex to solve. You might have a machine in front of you and you always follow the same steps and always end up with the same error messages. For this kind of problem you either need Google or you need to ask someone who understands the machine better than you do. You need to potentially try several times and several different approaches. You can write down what you did to solve the problem, you can ask a bot for help or you can ask around in your network. Maybe someone else has encountered the same problem and has a solution or a workaround. My advice is usually to break the problem into smaller tasks or to paint an image to understand the components and how they are interconnected. Are you confronted with a problem you cannot solve? Which steps have you taken and tried already? Would it be time to ask for help? If you aren’t getting help, should you escalate the issue to the next level now? What is at stake? Can you allow yourself a bit of discomfort?

Problems harm our “Wonder-Woman” self-image

Having problems is often associated with shortcomings and hence harms our self-image of being a perfect “Wonder Woman”. However, this self-image also creates a lot of harm, especially when life isn’t perfect. For example, when I was in my thirties and forties not being able to get pregnant, nor holding my marriage together in two locations with two careers was a real problem. Up until then I was living in this illusion that life was planable and that all you had to do was to take action and be a go-getter. I might have exaggerated this a bit too much since I lost half of my family rather early in life. I probably thought “okay, from now on I will just plan this better.” (I really love plans, spreadsheets and to-do lists.)

Life isn’t like that and during my coach training I learned to accept that. I also learned that you cannot change other people, you can only change yourself. And do you know who is really a “Wonder Woman”? It’s a woman who loves herself anyway, despite the failure of her body at producing offspring, despite her failed marriage and despite the stain on her top. Ask yourself if you could accept a little more each day and what it would take to “be yourself”? What does it mean for you? Maybe start with a small change, like wearing a different outfit or letting your hair down.

Problems could show us a dependency we are not happy about.

Often a problem is a conflict of two or three different interests pulling into different directions. It can also stem from opposing beliefs and constructs of reality. If we cannot seem to solve a problem alone we might feel dependent and many of us don’t like to ask for help. It’s a common stereotype that men don’t like to ask for directions. However, I don’t like to ask for directions either. Mainly because I have a hard time differentiating left and right sometimes and again asking for how something is done best could show a weakness of sorts. Are you afraid to ask for help? Are you unhappy to depend on a colleague, a mentor or a friend? If so, ask yourself why that is? What is so shameful about asking for help?

Problems are here to guide us on our past. Obstacles are learning opportunities and pain is useful. Approach your day with a small problem you wish to solve and add a weekly practice to your RockMeApp around solving problems.

If you feel overwhelmed with a bigger problem and you don’t know how to ask for help or who to turn to, maybe it’s time to talk to me about a coaching program or the RockMeRetreat. Please reply “Magic” to this email and we will make an appointment for a free consultation of 30 minutes.


As a Swiss resident, have you ever pondered over your social status living in Switzerland? 

Whether the minor details that portray status such as the level of luxury you adhere to while commuting on the train? The transport system in Switzerland is very well laid out and fully planned, so much so that the railway system is the primary commute system for most. Trains have two categories or classes, aptly named as the first and second class. The first class is geared more towards “business people” and professionals on their daily commute to work, whereas the second class or lower class is reserved for the “normal” or median people of society. The question arises that, the system set in place is very clean and safe, with emphasis put into an effective schedule and overall experience, so why is there any need to travel in first class other than seeking out a higher status in society.

I am a second-class commuter and by choice. The train gets me from point A to B without lacking anything in-between. I’ve travelled in first class on a few business trips, and I proclaim to not be aware or ignore my status however that isn’t true. After meeting many expats and foreign personnel, most come from a high and elaborate social lifestyle from their respective homelands, pouring their wealth into extravagant luxuries to portray their accumulation of wealth. 

Many of them have informed me of their housemaids, cooks and sometimes even drivers, as they aren’t accustomed to housework and chores let alone looking after their children. Their perception of Switzerland is that they will fit seamlessly and thrive in a land of milk and honey (or cheese and chocolate in our case!).

But then again! The Swiss lifestyle and reality is far different. When we discuss privilege and being in the “Circle of Trust”, we must understand what status means in an egalitarian society and how it might be different from a more hierarchical society or a society where you are born into a status.

The “Classic” Family Model

Life, although simple, is beautiful in Switzerland for the “natives”, that is, women are more likely to uphold the household and carry out the associated burdens of home economics. Running the home and grooming their kids is all part of the routine, yet if the women are professionals they’ll take a step back after their first child to accommodate the family. Women only received voting rights in Switzerland in 1971 and there is still a lot of catching up to do when it comes to gender balance and equal rights for women in the workplace.

You must not forget that the Swiss also often have their parents and in-laws nearby, so they have support options for childcare and emergencies that you might not (yet) have as a newcomer to this country.

Childcare is very expensive, gross childcare costs were equal to 69 percent of the average wage in Switzerland, the highest proportion among OECD countries in 2018, based on a double-income, average-wage-earning couple with two children! 

That is more than half of the mean income a household generates. Switzerland also lacks in qualified educators, but fees for private kindergartens are quite high, with an indicative day cost of CHF 60 to CHF 150 for cities like Bern and Zurich. (If you are interested in working in childcare, I highly recommend a consultation with my friend Monica Shah at Children First.)

So many women decide to stay home or not work 100% and if you are a female expat with children (or even without) it might be expected that you do the same. 

Other Support Options I Have Tested

Opting for a cleaning person was a trial-and-error story for me. I was very used to having a cleaner, even in my early career but even those who may afford it are often not satisfied by the quality of work given the steep price you may have to pay. I tried several agencies for cleaning and finally came to the conclusion that I’d rather do it myself (together with my partner). This is not great, because I’m not very good at cleaning and ironing but I have gotten better over the last 10 years. To be honest, now I often feel that it even helps my brain digest all that has been going on during the week. If you are planning to hire a cleaner make sure that they are insured either through an agency such as Batmaid or you run your own payroll with SVA.

Egalitarian Cultures value Modest Behavior

Culture clashes here are evident due to the difference in “status” as compared elsewhere in the world. High ranking professionals such as CEO’s are often seen taking the bus and train to work. Their appearance isn’t necessarily associated with designer suits, expensive cars and watches. The Swiss tend to live a modest life, with small houses they do not like to show off. They define their status and luxury by travelling the world, bearing children and enjoying a vacation in a nice cottage in the mountains. 

Luxury is a longer period of time taken off work to follow a dream, being able to volunteer, support an NGO or support the commune by being in the fire brigade or in an association. Being able financially to work part-time or have your spouse stay at home are signs of luxury in the world today.

I often hear “The Swiss don’t like to work hard.” And I would like to add “The Swiss don’t have to work hard, but they still show up for work, because they have a strong work ethic and believe in delivering high quality at work.” Your perception of what comes across as being slow or not interested in service delivery might be influenced strongly by your home culture and expectations created by how things are in your home turf.

Go through the Pain to Follow Your Dream

Although most steps may feel common when moving to a new country, it often takes a while to truly get settled in. Time and real integration play a vital role in my opinion especially after two to three years. 

You start to enhance your social circle outside the reserved expat or foreign community, the sooner you embrace the country in its entirety  is when you really feel “at home”. I used to have status in Germany. I was an Executive, a “Leitende Angestellte”. I had an apartment, a nice company car, and a team. I also had a cleaning person, a tailor and enough money for several holidays and trips. Then I moved to Switzerland and suddenly my status changed. You probably wonder how I could let that happen as a Global Mobility professional. 

I should have made a net-to-net comparison and request a better package. I should have insisted on coming to Switzerland with an appropriate corporate title AND I should have known that there will be social security risks when I transfer on a local contract. And yes, despite the fact that I am a Global Mobility Expert I made a few miscalculations. I did not get the deal I deserved and I suffered a few years from this mistake. I accepted the terms of the contract because I followed my dream. I wanted to live in Zurich no matter what. And when you are emotional about a goal in life, you easily forget the pain. 

Learn Budgeting and Cash Flow

What does this mean for the “second-class commuter” in Switzerland? It means learning and following more frugal habits, planning finances not just for the future but also for recurring expenses and lifestyle quirks. Based on my experiences and those of people who have lived in similar circumstances, here are the nine budgeting tips that will be helpful especially for the startups and entrepreneurs:

1) Carry very little money with you when you go to town. Leave your credit card at home. Use your credit card only for emergencies or online bargains. Have enough money to buy a cup of coffee (max 10 CHF).

2) Call a friend for coffee instead of dinner and hope that they will ask you to come to their house. Invite friends to your house for a glass of wine.

3) If you reach a milestone such as two years in the business, celebrate yourself at home. Cook a nice meal and buy healthy food.

4) Pay small amounts at the grocery store with your bankcard so you see exactly what you spent your money for. When you go out for drinks or fun only carry cash and when you are out of cash return home. That’s especially important when you tend to buy expensive drinks at 15 CHF. (Imagine how long you work for one drink!)

5) Budget all your spending especially your holidays or how much money you spend on clothes, makeup, sunglasses and shoes.

6) Strictly separate business from private spending but try to optimize your private spending by using legal options to deduct costs for a home office, laptops, phone, Internet connection and cleaning services.

7) Avoid television and exposure to advertising. You feel a lot less like spending money on crap that you don’t need.

8) Avoid impulse buying decisions by adding all potential buys (books, seminars, travels) to wish lists. I even have a wish book. A lot of my wishes do not appear so important after a few weeks. Others just materialize themselves.

9) Love your business plan. Add anything you will earn right when you have the confirmation. Stay on the careful side but motivate yourself by adding all future turnover and checking the total annual turnover regularly.

If you need more advice on how to secure your old-age pension or budget your life in Switzerland without the hassle of watching every Franc, I highly recommend Keren-Jo Thomas, Financial Planning for Women.

How you show Status in Switzerland

A big luxury in Switzerland is being able to have one half of a couple stay at home to oversee the children, oftentimes the woman fills in the role while the husband earns the bread. What will happen if you move to Switzerland, unpacked your luggage and barely just settled in to realize you’ll have to live life like a “second-class citizen”? Feelings of struggle and working too hard at the office may arise with thoughts of not visiting the mountains as often you’d have hoped for. 

Learn Swiss German or French

Expats, migrants and international hires often underestimate the need to learn the local language Swiss German (or French), and in this phase doubt whether the move to Switzerland was the right choice. However, learning (at least understanding) the local dialect and language(s) will help you integrate and get access to what I refer to as the “Circle of Trust”.

With a more realistic idea of what to expect, detailed planning and the right support in the face of challenges, you can offset the “valley of tears” associated with your move to Switzerland and achieve the financial and mental stability that every “second-class citizen” would like to achieve. If you need our support we are happy to connect you with the right resources. Ideally, you join our HireMeExpress program or the RockMeRetreat in November.

Have an inspired week ahead

Angie

References:

https://www.expat.com/en/guide/europe/switzerland/10476-child-care-in-switzerland.html

https://medium.com/gokong/how-to-budget-for-childcare-costs-in-switzerland-31e4f024214a 

Zurich

With Five Pandemic Proven Methods for Connection

Modern society has evolved in many regards, especially in how we interact with each other. A significant amount of these interactions now happen in digital social spaces than real ones. One excuse I get a lot these days is that you can’t “network” because it’s very difficult to meet other people in person, especially people you don’t know.

Digital spaces are revolutionary and have brought people at great distances together but if you are like me you probably feel entirely ready to leave the house and meet a stranger in person. I have started to chat a bit longer with the bakery lady and the guy who fixes my doner kebab. It’s weird but necessary because human interaction has become so scarce and I also feel that we all deserve a bit more love these days. Don’t get me wrong: I’m generally not a very chatty person unless I’ve known someone for a long time. I rather keep a “professional” interaction short and this might come across as arrogance to some. 

However, over the last year I changed my attitude a lot. The pandemic has made me realize how little I often connect with people in business as in good German style I still separate business and pleasure, colleagues and friends. If you have listened to my workshops about the importance of building relationship you probably wonder how I can hold up this paradox. 

My answer is simple: It’s a deeper level of trust that I share with the friends and more personal connections. I also don’t hold back whereas in a professional environment I would probably not use certain expressions. Today it’s all a bit more blurred because I speak to everyone from my living room. I feel like I let everyone into my personal space, hence they must be able to handle the more authentic “Angela” as well.

Building Trust Through Offline Networking

When was the last time you trusted a random person on the internet? In fact, isn’t the first advice given to anyone on online social media to ignore and not trust anything a stranger tells you? Just how much of a relationship do you have with someone you’ve only interacted with in Twitter DMs? And even worse, if you are on social media you probably get abused by scammers and other annoying people a lot. Social media for me has a dark side and it’s very easy to feel vulnerable there after you were told for the 100th time that someone wants something from you. Most of the time I find it irritating and frustrating.

Professional networking, similarly, can only go so far to building your relationships if they’re limited to online interactions. Face-to-face meetings help develop a higher level of trust among participants – positive body language plays a great role in helping put nervous people at ease. Similarly, interacting in the same physical space (over a coffee, at a lunch or even a mixer of sorts) is a great ice-breaker. Shared experiences always do leave a lasting memory, what better way to start building a repertoire with your network?

Believe in the Networking Karma

The thing about networking is, it’s not a transactional relationship. You don’t go into it expecting rewards, or even gratitude. You do it because you believe in ‘networking karma’. That said, you are only human and even the most generous of givers can find themselves overwhelmed at times. That’s why it is important to set up boundaries that help you prevent burnout and maintain a healthy relationship with yourself and your network. I have adopted the “Five-Minute-Favor” from Adam M. Grant’s book “Give and Take” as one of the principles that I can easily say yes to. With knowledge exchange it depends on whether I feel I get the same inspiration out of the relationship that I give in. Usually, this is the case in most of my networking groups, usually I prefer “Erfa”-Groups where practical tips are exchanged to a captive audience and “Mastermind-Groups”, where we usually bring our lazy selves forward and overcome imposter syndrome. In Switzerland you can also follow the institutionalized networking by joining an association or club that is dedicated to your profession. If you need more advice on this please reach out to me. I’m offering my resources and recommendation to readers and clients within our HireMeExpress program.

Five Pandemic Ideas for Offline Networking

1 – Go for a Walk at Lake Zurich with a Cup of Americano

The easiest way to network offline right now is the walk along the lake with a coffee to go. I have finally bought a reusable cup because the waste of coffee cups and general one-way packaging is starting to get on my nerves. My local bakery accepts that you bring your own plate or bowl when you buy lunch from them.

2 – Allow for a Weekly “Watercooler Chat”

What I am missing the most about working in an office environment is the social part, the watercooler chats about not so professional topics, the casual bumping into colleagues and asking them about their cats and the general exchange of fun and pleasantries when you work with the same people for years. As a global digital nomad you will have to get used to building up relationships fast but there are always people that you have known for a long-time even if you worked at different companies or on different projects. And it is absolutely okay if you contact them without a reason and set up a “Watercooler” chat where you strictly make smalltalk only or chat about your family or the last tech problem you faced when trying to organize a vaccination for your mother from abroad. I know you are as keen as I am in turning into a mega productive robot but allow yourself this time by blocking half an hour once a week (that’s in addition to a daily lunch break).

3 – Visit the Zoo or Kunstmuseum

I admit that I haven’t been to the Zurich Zoo yet and the last time I went to the Kunstmuseum was probably when I was here as a tourist or when I had friends over from other countries. I admit that I tend to not fully utilize all the opportunities Zurich offers during “normal” times but if you wanted to meet me right now these two options are open and you can connect while watching giraffes or looking at a Warhol. I am sure this will go down really well as a networking opportunity. 

And: If you aren’t convinced yet at least take your kids there to support the Zoo because…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztC2QCkge2I&ab_channel=ZooZ%C3%BCrich

4 – Go for a Hike

Generally we have a lot of opportunities for small hikes in the city and out in the countryside. If you are a workaholic you might not be aware of them so I suggest you start with Uetliberg, Felsenegg, Greifensee and Pfäffikersee. I don’t own a car but most of these locations can be accessed by public transportation and if you wish to save your contact time you will need to let them know how they get there or pick them up.

5 – Share a Themed Take Out Meal on a Park Bench

With the upcoming week and the spring weather we are expecting you could invite a person you wish to meet to a themed take out meal on a park bench. Even if restaurants are still closed we have these beautiful parks in Zurich and a botanical garden where you can take your lunch in a beautiful atmosphere. If you want to make it even more interesting you could combine it with a topic or an expert interview.

If you are a Giver Watch your Boundaries

If you’re a seasoned professional with the wisdom of experience to share, offline networking can help you build trust with those who wish to seek your advice but would hesitate to reach out to you directly. By giving off an approachable vibe, perhaps giving a little impromptu talk to a group of people, you can embed that necessary bit of trust in younger professionals to reach out and network with you and others at your position. They’d go on to do it when they reach your place in their careers, and continue the cycle of positive networking!

A natural consequence of purposeful networking is the asking and giving of advice. For experienced professionals, especially those who actively network, it can soon become an overwhelming practice. Giving advice is great, it’s what makes the world turn, but when your network constantly reaches out for advice on anything from spreadsheet optimization to career planning, it can lead to the sort of burnout that makes you want to stop networking. It may also negatively impact your health!

Learning to say no is never easy, especially if you’re worried about coming off as impolite. It is, however, essential. Let your principles guide you: Develop a strategy that lets you identify scenarios where you say yes and those where you say no. Stick to this guideline and maintain your sanity!

Kind regards,

Angie Weinberger

Why you need networking principles

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRUXcBT_QS8&t=10s&ab_channel=AngieWeinberger

https://www.everydayhealth.com/coronavirus/how-to-not-let-pandemic-fatigue-turn-into-pandemic-burnout/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdFudLPyqng&ab_channel=RobBulder


Female Entrepreneurs and Finance

It’s 50 years ago that women in Switzerland were granted the right to vote and while this might seem like a reason to celebrate it is also scary. Unlike in other countries in Europe women in Switzerland had to fight for a long time to be granted this right. You would think gender equality is self-evident here but it is not. Reality is still that many women earn less than their male counterparts, that having a career as a woman is rather unusual and being a female breadwinner is still an exception. And while I always worked or had my own money since I left high school, money and I have never been great friends. Money is a source of stress for me that I either avoid completely or obsess over. In an attempt at healing my relationship with money many years ago I first had to learn a few basics and make some key mistakes. I want to encourage you to learn more about finance and money and become financially independent.

I repeatedly asked myself three questions when I started my own business in Switzerland:

  • Will I ever get my head around the financial side of the business?
  • Will I ever get better at managing the cash flow?
  • Will I ever make enough income to not feel stressed and under pressure?

Cash flow did not make sense to me. 

I am really good at computing cost projections and balance sheets for expats. I can explain the difference between purchasing power parity and cost-of-living index. I can tell you how COLA relates to foreign exchange rates. I was excellent in Math as a student. So it’s NOT that I don’t like numbers or that I am not a “numbers” person (which unfortunately a lot of women attribute themselves with). I like math and numbers but I missed something else.

My issue was more that I lacked the practical understanding of a “good housewife”. I didn’t know how much a liter of milk would normally cost in the supermarket. I didn’t know those little secrets of saving money in Switzerland such as the fact that Migros and Denner are essentially under the same corporate umbrella but you can buy twice as much food at Denner.

When I was working as a Global Mobility Leader, I had a good paycheck. In Germany, I would even go grocery shopping in the “bio” shop Alnatura. My mother would say that I might as well go shopping in a pharmacy. For me, this meant “quality of life”. It meant that I would not be stressed at the cashier on Saturday because five other people were in line behind me like in the other supermarket. And I had the idea that I was eating healthy and helping the environment by buying “bio”.

There was another issue why I stopped learning more about finance, investments, saving money when I was employed: I had a bad relationship with money. Money stinks. Money doesn’t make you happy. When you have money, you don’t talk about it. I had all sorts of relationship issues with money. Money reminded me of scams or bad deals my mother and I had gotten into because we were naive and believed a banker would know what they were doing.

This article is for you if you started out as a business owner or if you feel that you need to heal your relationship to money. And if you are not a female but you feel you need to get better with money, you may read this article as well. Let’s try to understand a few basics of finance and financial independence.

Maintain a Cash Flow Plan

If you want to run a sustainable business, work with a cash flow plan. It can be a simple one, but you need to have your finances in order. In the early days of my business, I asked my BFF (who is a Finance guru) to review my business plan. She explained that I would just need to ensure that there is a cash flow in and that this is bigger than cash flow out. Easier said than done, but I still use that same plan a decade later.

Move from Fixed Income to Fluctuating Income

When you are used to a certain lifestyle with a fixed monthly income you rely on that paycheck a lot because you tend to tailor your lifestyle around your consistent monthly income. If you are unemployed or if you start out as a freelancer you have to get used to a fluctuating income. 

A starting capital and cash reserve are important. If you are responsible for rent, health insurance, phone bills, transportation, food and other necessities you need to ensure that you can cover your basic needs for several slow months. In the first five years you might make a lot less than you are used to. You will need to change your lifestyle significantly.

Ideally, you have a reserve for a year in your bank account or someone who would help you out such as a parent or friend. Don’t bring your partner or spouse into your business. This can weigh heavily on your relationship and you also have to consider what it means in case of them facing unemployment, serious disease or death. Before you start a business in Switzerland, you should understand what this would mean for a (married) spouse. The legislation is not always logical, hence you need professional advice before you stir yourself and your partner into a dead end.

Read Finance Information with Different Angles

It is challenge to read finance information when it is written in a bad way and often directed at bankers or industry professionals rather than the “simple user”. I have addressed communication with bankers several times already. Most financial information is written in a way that no one wants to read it. Some of it does not even make a lot of sense. I received a weird letter the other day and sent it back with edits and side comments. The main message was: We could not deduct money from your account but there was a lot of fluff around it. It took me a while to understand why this company wrote to me. 

Also, I was very happy when a few years ago for the first time the bank gave me two female relationship managers: One for my personal account and one for my business account and we immediately noticed that we had a lot in common.

I have started to read the Cash Guru and I also find the LGT Navigator helpful. If you like “Gossip Girl” you probably enjoy “Inside Paradeplatz”. Another good resource is Finews.ch

Learn Vocabulary and Budgeting

If you want to appear financially competent when talking to your bank manager, financial advisors, insurance brokers, mortgage providers, or lawyers, you need to know a few basics and speak their language. For example, you need to understand interest and how it works. Also negative interest, debt, and how you get into debt. What is an advantage of a mortgage versus paying rent? How do open and closed investment funds actually work?

In the early years and even before I launched GPT, I used to spend more than I earned. I applied “Reaganomics”. What works in politics, does not really work for a small business. At the time, I did not really understand that this investment could hinder my potential for getting out of the red figures in the long term.

I made bad financial decisions. For example, I started to pay myself a salary too early. I listened to an advisor and should have listened to my gut feeling. Remember that other people’s experiences in the business world could be biased. They have opened their business many years before. Switzerland has also suffered from the global economic crisis.  Often the Swiss have access to networks that foreigners will not really get into. Depending on your type of business, you should have a current account, which balances your company and your personal investments. I would advise that you separate your private and company accounts.

Split Larger Invoices

My business is cyclical and once I understood the cost and earning cycle, I could prepare myself better for the downtimes. For example, I have a lot of annual invoices in January but January is often a slow month. You can ask to split invoices into smaller payment plans. Often, when you ask the insurance provider they are willing to support you on a payment plan. If you want to be ahead of your costs, you should ask for larger invoices and pay them as soon as you possibly can. You can ask for an extension of a payment deadline and mainly you have to know that you need to be in contact with the company who raised the invoice to you. They don’t like it if you ghost on them.

Pay Vendors and Freelancers in Advance

When I can I pay all my freelancers in advance so that they would always get their money. It means that I have to budget their quarterly invoices too and it happened once or twice that I had to put a service on hold because of lack of funding. 

Another principle I have developed is to check my account twice or thrice a week, sometimes even daily. I issue an invoice as soon as the service has been delivered or as soon as the booking has been confirmed.

Many large relocation companies and training agencies have very long payment periods. I suffered greatly from these in the early years of my business. I had delivered a service but sometimes was only paid 60 to 90 days later. In some instances, invoices got lost in cost center discussions and bad processes. Once I got paid two years later only. Now, I am more careful about the agreements in the contracts and I follow up on outstanding invoices faster. This doesn’t always guarantee that all invoices are paid on time but companies sometimes agree to advance payments and you can always decide to stop working with a client if their payments take too long. However, with private clients you should always agree to a full payment in advance or a payment plan.

At the moment you might still try to find a job in your new country and you hesitate about working as a freelancer or starting a side gig. The good news is that the steps for both are pretty similar. We will be happy to give you further guidance and inspiration through our HireMeExpress program starting again in April. Sign up here to find out everything you need to know in order to earn an income in a new market. 

Angie Weinberger

HireMeExpress

HireMeExpress is the online course that will get you from desperate to carving out an income and feeling at home in your new country. Sign up here to find out everything you need to know in order to land a job in Switzerland or another market you are not familiar with. We will shortly give you access to videos, live workshops and add you to our waiting list for when HireMeExpress opens again in April 2021.