A prestigious assignment away from your home country usually promises swift career growth as well as the opportunity to build personal wealth and redefine personal development. But for the fast-growing breed of Global Executives, comprising leaders from diverse backgrounds and nationalities, the job description goes beyond the conventional top-line & bottom-line numbers to successfully integrating with the local community.
Overcome language barriers, bridge cultural differences and drive away nostalgia for family and friends back home with a run-down on how Global Executives take on the business of transition.
Soak up & soak in every culture
A high Cultural Quotient is a must-have qualification for professionals operating in a cross-cultural or international working environment. The success of an expatriate is directly co-related to their knowledge of the local business environment and culture, as these play a crucial role in influencing business decisions and relationships. From understanding the socio-economic profile of the country to participating in local traditions and celebrations, assimilate every aspect of life in the host country. However, as the corporate world recognizes diversity as an asset that brings different perspectives to the company, those who earn the tag of ‘Global Executive’ need to be sensitive towards issues of workplace diversity and the nuances & values of increasingly global workforces.
John Mathews is VP, Strategy with a leading credit rating agency in New York. Six months ago, he was asked to migrate a project to Mumbai, India. John opines, “It was difficult to adapt to the local traditions and working environment. Small issues were enormous challenges – like trying to reach meetings on time despite traffic conditions. It used to stress me out at first, but later I realised that being stuck in traffic is one of the most valid reasons for being late to a meeting. Today, I often find myself reaching meetings at the much-joked about but acceptable ‘Indian Standard Time’ (IST).”
Move up the learning curve
No matter how much you read or know about a particular country or region, for a successful extended stay, there is an inevitable learning curve. A continued learning mindset is the most valuable asset a professional brings to an overseas assignment. Structured learning, too, is a favoured option amongst expats – right from taking classes in the local language to signing up for short term courses in local history. An interesting trend that is gaining importance is the successful transfer of knowledge between expatriates and those from the host country. Look for opportunities to become a part of knowledge transfer initiatives with local colleagues.
Aiko Sato works as a Senior Systems Analyst in a technology firm in Tokyo. Her employer asked her to relocate to Germany for a couple of years, as a part of a collaborative project with WHO. Aiko says, “I knew that language would become a big barrier. As I landed in Germany, I started appreciating how foreigners from other countries would have struggled in Tokyo, not being able to read or converse. I decided to learn basic German on the Internet and afterwards took language classes to become conversant in the language. It not only helped me to survive in a foreign land, but also provided me with the opportunity to learn a new language, which became a plus point for me after my return to Tokyo.”
Commit to a long haul
Before accepting an international assignment, it is important to understand the employer’s expectations and especially the long-term commitment required to the project at an employee’s end. They appreciate employees who are able to take complete ownership of an international project and remain committed to executing the assignment from start-to-finish. The successful completion of overseas projects reflects dedication and sincerity towards challenging assignments and adds to your career growth chart. Organisations are looking more & more for talent that is committed to developing their careers in the global context rather than looking at overseas assignments a one-time project, so this could well become your window to the next big opportunity.
Usha Ranganthan is Senior Product Manager, Clinical Research with a pharmaceutical company in Chennai. As an assignment to undertake a clinical research program in a remote African city, came her way. Usha has this to say, “It was a tough decision. I knew that being part of a research program I had to commit to a long-haul and would not be able to quit mid-way. I prepared my family well in advance to avoid any last-minute stress. I also assured my organisation that I would only return after the successful completion of the project. My professional attitude towards the entire project ensured tremendous cooperation from my colleagues and the organisation. Now, after coming back from the assignment, I am packing my bags again for another international project.”
The opportunity to work overseas is rich with possibilities in terms of your career and in becoming a truly global corporate citizen!
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