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Could A Job Abroad Be A Boon To Your Career?

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No matter how local your job or company feels, we all work in a global ecosystem. And because of that, many companies—especially multinational organizations–view those with international work experience as having an advantage.

A recent report by PwC, “Talent Mobility 2020 And Beyond,” predicts the number of those who take on global assignments will rise by 50 percent over the next decade. That’s because so many companies now operate across borders and their employees need to have a more global, borderless mindset.

One way to get that mindset is to relocate for a job internationally, where you will be exposed to new ways of doing business and a variety of cross-cultural experiences. That can make you more valuable to your company and your industry, and build your confidence as well. Rare is there a downside, as long as you’ve assured there will be a job waiting for you in the U.S. when you return.

Many international assignments are short term, lasting less than a year. Some are rotations, which give high-potential employees international exposure and a well-rounded base of expertise. If you’re thinking about trying to relocate abroad for your current company—or a job at another firm–here are some things to consider:

  • Are you moving overseas to accelerate your career at your current organization?

An international move may wind up a great experience for you personally and professionally, but it is not a guarantee that you’ll move up the ranks at your current organization any faster than you would if you had remained stateside. The only way to know that is to look at the paths of those that have worked abroad for the company before, and see how their careers progressed after they returned. Much depends on the needs of the company, your particular expertise and the kind of work you’ll be doing overseas. If it’s largely the same work you do in the U.S., your career path may not be greatly accelerated.

  • How could an international assignment benefit your long-term career?

If you work in a multi-national organization, it’s likely that in order to reach the highest levels of that organization you will need, at some point, experience managing an international team. Working for the company in a foreign country will give you the chance to do that.

The best way to make sure an international assignment has a lasting impact on your career is to do your homework before you make a commitment. Make sure you have outlined your long-term goals before you apply for international work. With those in mind, you and your manager can determine how the international assignment will both fit with and support those goals. It’s also important to ensure that there’s both a job for you when you get back and a strategy in place that lets you capitalize on the international experience you will have gained.

  • Do you need to build an international resume?

Not necessarily, but depending on the industry in which you work—for example finance, real estate or manufacturing–international experience can be an important component of a well-rounded resume. In fact 63% of employees globally feel international experience is critical to furthering their career, according to employee mobility research from PwC. And more than 10 percent of employees work overseas each year.

Along with building an international resume you will also be developing a global network of contacts through the work you do on the ground and by joining international professional associations. By attending association conferences and interacting with others working abroad you can also build your knowledge of global business issues.

About the Author

Eilene Zimmerman is a journalist who writes about entrepreneurship, technology, small businesses and the workplace. She was a career columnist for the New York Times and is a regular contributor to the paper's small business section.