Expat & International Careers: New Strategies Required for Career Success Abroad in Today's Global Marketplace
by Megan Fitzgerald
Having 20 years experience in career, organizational and business development in 40+ countries, I can tell you that the world of work is going through some dramatic changes right now.
Companies and organizations worldwide recognize they must expand outside their borders if they want to survive, but must do so with less resources. International assignments (and their compensation packages) are being redefined to minimize costs while meeting staffing needs overseas. A complex and dynamic global economic climate means things change quickly and organizations must be able to adapt and respond accordingly.
Current career and talent management strategies no longer work
Despite widespread unemployment, there are incredible skill shortages and an unmet demand for talent worldwide. This is leaving companies unable to fill positions necessary to drive growth outside their borders and capitalize on opportunities in new and emerging markets. Organizations are trying numerous strategies to attract and retain their talent while developing their global competencies. And yet we have high jobless rates and reports showing that 30+% of expat professionals and executives are actively looking for new jobs while abroad and a third of them leave their company within a year of returning home.
Why is there a disconnect between the supply of and demand for talent?
One of the reasons is because career and talent management strategies effective even a few years ago are not working in today's global employment climate.
There are no one-size-fits all solutions
Living and working abroad while supporting those who do (or aspire to), I am seeing all of these changes first hand. Given my experience working across many sectors, industries, economies and countries - profit and non-profit, developed and developing worlds - I can also tell you that there are no one-size-fits all solutions.
Without an in-depth understanding of what you offer and the ability to customize your approach to advancing your career or business to the changing needs in your target market, sector, culture and organizations, your chances of finding work or clients and succeed overseas are greatly reduced.
Some important principles to follow to support your success abroad
That said, there are some important things to remember when seeking jobs or clients in the global marketplace:
- Without clear targets - job/role or clients, markets, cultures, organizations - it is impossible to create a map to get you where you want to go. But just as importantly clear targets allow you to focus your efforts and gain critical intelligence necessary to compete with other highly qualified candidates and influence the right decision makers.
- Without the right intelligence you have very little chance of making your value proposition extremely relevant, compelling and respectful of the cultural forces at work in your target market and country.
- A generic value proposition or personal brand - a message of value that could describe thousands of others and does not truly speak to the values or the needs of its target - will help you simply get lost in the massive global pool of talent.
- A generic strategy for how to run an interational client or job search will not equip you to successfully navigate the unique terrain dictated by your targets. Going over water or through mountains, desert, swamp or forest - or a combination of those things - each requires a different sets of tools, strategies and approaches. An one-size-fits-all strategy will inhibit your ability to succeed.
- Not considering the impact that culture will have in every step of your journey to find for international job or clients can do an equally good job of sabotaging your search.
The bottom line
The reality of today is that if you are not moving forward in your search for work abroad then you are likely moving backwards. Missing opportunities presented by this dynamic employment climate are ones that your competitors will happily take for you.
To be clear, that is not a suggestion to run out and take action without having addressed those 5 issues mentioned above. Action driven by impatience or anxiety rather than informed strategy rarely gets you where you want to go.
Build a foundation for your search that will support you. Do the digging, the work and the research to understand the factors to consider in developing your approach and put together a compelling, relevant message of value so you can realize more career or business success abroad.
EXPAT CAREER SUCCESS TIP: If you are a current or aspiring expat searching for clients or work abroad without success, rather than continuing to follow the same strategies and approaches and getting same results, just stop. Reflect. Ask yourself: do I have clear targets? the right competitor and market intelligence? a relevant and compelling brand? is my approach customized to my target? have I addressed the influences that culture will play in my search? Then before taking any more action do what it takes so that you can answer all of those questions with a yes.