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June 24, 2016

Working Abroad: 5 Tips for Success

Ed Pearcey

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So, you've said your goodbyes, signed the contract, and packed your bags. Now it's time to start on a new adventure, and take your working life abroad.

A mixture of excitement and fear overtakes you, as you wonder if you're fully prepared, whether you've made the right choice, and what this could all mean for your career.

Well, as someone who's been through this experience a couple of times, once to Germany (a small educational establishment) and once to Austria (with a massive multinational), I'd like to offer a few tips to help you to make your time a success.

Going Abroad, Be Prepared

Yes, this seems blindingly obvious, but, if you have the time and resources, do as much preparation as you can, including a quick visit to the country if you've never been. Research the local customs to ready yourself for any quirks that you might encounter. For example, eye contact is welcomed in Russia but not necessarily in Japan.

Accommodation

Your employer will often arrange your accommodation, although how much say you have in what it's like or where it is varies. Some employers will handle every detail, while others will just give you some money and ask you to make plans. My experience, in both instances, was somewhere in between.

It's not necessary to have permanent accommodation arranged before you set off to your new country, but you will need the contact details of local lettings agents or local property listing websites. Your new colleagues will often be able to help with somewhere to stay, something that I benefited from in Austria.

Have an idea of what type of place you want to live in, and how much you want to spend. My accommodation in Austria was basic, to say the least, but it served its purpose. It was relatively cheap, near my office, and near the city center, which was all I wanted.

Restrictions

Make sure you have your visas and other travel documents in order well before you're due to leave. Your employer, particularly if it's a large one, should be able to help you with this, and will likely make all the arrangements for you. If not, double check times, dates and spellings, and ensure that you're permitted to do the work you're moving abroad to do.

Language

Even a few words spoken in a foreign language can be useful, and can act as a fantastic ice breaker. My language skills were pretty mediocre when I left for Germany, and could have been much, much better as I had several months to prepare for the trip.

I'll admit that my lack of German did hold me back when I first arrived. But I tried to speak a little each day, grew more confident around my work colleagues, and eventually my language skills improved.

Out and About

Early on in your stay, before your workload increases, go out and get to know the local area. This will help you to get the best from your experience. It's a great opportunity to learn about the county and its people. Try not to let the length of your stay (it may just be just a few weeks) limit what you do. My first trip was 12 weeks, my second was 18 months, but you can still learn something from even the shortest visits.

Good luck, and try to love every moment. Remember that despite the problems associated with working abroad, many of which are purely procedural, it still represents a massive opportunity for personal development.

What are your top tips for successfully working abroad? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Managers and leaders have been using Mind Tools for over 25 years

Now, 24 million learners globally benefit from our extensive Content Library, development tools, and custom learning experiences. See how Mind Tools for Business can help develop your managers and leaders.
Find out more

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