There’s no doubt about it; moving abroad for work can do wonders to your career. Research has found that gaining experience working abroad leads to faster promotions and the development of a wider range of skills. While the benefits can be extremely prosperous for your career, the decision to move abroad is a large one and leaves many ambitious executives tearing out their hair with stress. Fear of failure is a common fear to have, especially when the stakes are so high in your executive role. The last thing you want to do as a seasoned executive is to move abroad for work, find out that the job or location isn’t for you and then return home after a few short months with your tail between your legs. But egos set aside for a second, as hard as it may be, you shouldn’t let the fear of failure dictate your life and stop you from trying something that could be the opportunity you were searching for your whole life.
International relocation can be stressful and draining without a clear plan in place. To have a successful job relocation, you need to eradicate anticipatory stress. Anticipatory stress is the fear of not knowing what’s around the corner. A disorganised international relocation can put you under a huge amount of unnecessary stress which can be damaging to your mental wellbeing. The key to avoiding this lies in planning and preparation. You need to prepare yourself for every stage of the relocation process, from thinking the decision through initially to building your network upon arrival. Organisation will keep you sane during your move. Additionally, your mindset plays a critical role in how you deal with challenges. For an international relocation to be truly successful, you need to shift your mindset to a more positive and optimistic one. Success will be determined by your ability to embrace new experiences, challenges and cultures. Those executives that are reluctant to embrace a new culture or let the stress of the move stress overwhelm them will find an international relocation extremely difficult.
Consider everything thoroughly
So you’ve applied for a job involving international relocation and received an offer. But, before you sign on the dotted line, you need to consider every little detail about your move. Assess whether the move is right for you and how it will affect your life; will your family move with you? If they don’t, can you afford to pay the rent or mortgage of two houses? How will your relationship with your partner fair living in different countries?
Moving abroad might seem like a fantastic opportunity initially, particularly if you’ve already visited the country once before and enjoyed it. You might have fallen in love with Germany and its culture on your recent vacation to Berlin, for example. But moving there permanently is a different kettle of fish entirely. The seasons change drastically, you may be expected to speak fluent German and the work culture might be completely different than what you’re used to. It’s important to consider whether your quality of life will be compromised with the move and whether it’s worth doing so for career progression.
Utilise your existing network
One of the best ways to determine whether relocation is a good fit for you is to speak to members of your network who have moved abroad previously. Hearing first hand from other ex-pats about their experience internationally relocating might help you make your final decision. Ask them for advice and tips – don’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions:
- Was the move worth it?
- How difficult was it to settle into a new culture?
- How long were they away for?
The more specific you are, the better. For example, if the job you’ve applied for is based in Switzerland, and you know an old colleague who once relocated to Switzerland, it’s worth reaching out to them. Alternatively, if you know someone who has moved from Switzerland to your country, you could ask them for the reasons behind their move:
- Were there not enough career progression opportunities?
- What does this country offer that Switzerland doesn’t?
- Do you regret your move at all?
Organisation is key
So you’ve decided to go ahead with your job relocation, but what happens next? How do you get from point A (your home country) to point B (your new country)? How do you actually start putting plans in place?
International relocation stress usually manifests itself in managing all of the logistics, such as finding a new house to rent or buy and obtaining a visa/work permit. To manage this stress, you should keep on top of important dates and deadlines. Find out your official start date at the new job and put this in your calendar or diary. Count down the days until you start by crossing them off. If you can visually see your deadline in front of you, you’re far more likely to organise your time and tick everything off your to-do list by that date. Work your way backwards from your start date and decide when you want to move by – it’s probably worth giving yourself at least a week or two to settle into your new home before you start working. Of course, this will depend on the length of your notice period and your start date. Nevertheless, set yourself targets. For example, you need to move by X date, so you need to have shipped your belongings by Y date.
Contact your prospective employer
Many life science organisations offer relocation packages. Be proactive and get in touch with them to check whether they offer relocation assistance. This could be anything from enrolling your children in the local schools, applying for your Visa or putting you up in temporary accommodation upon arrival. Whatever they offer could make a massive difference to your job relocation and alleviate some or all of your stress.
Some organisations may not offer relocation assistance, but this shouldn’t deter you from negotiating. This will usually work best during the negotiation stage of your job offer. You could research shipping costs and pitch this to them; ask if they’re willing to help you contribute. Your prospective employer might have overestimated these costs which would explain why they’ve never offered assistance previously. However, if you find a good deal, they might be more likely to accept.
Visit the location in advance
For executive positions, the notice period is typically 3-6 months. If your schedule allows it, try to find time to visit and explore the area at the weekend. Only by doing so will you be able to identify the best neighbourhoods, schools and begin looking into houses on the market. To have the quality of life you desire, you need to ensure that the neighbourhood suits your lifestyle.
If you can’t visit the area yourself due to other commitments before you officially move, it’s worth reaching out to your prospective employer and colleagues. They will be able to offer you valuable insight about their recommendations on the best neighbourhoods, traffic and commuting times. They can also give you practical knowledge concerning your hobbies and interests in the local area.
Don’t make long-term commitments
It can be tempting to dive headfirst into your job relocation. You might be tempted to spend the big bucks on a new house, but renting might be the best route initially. You don’t know how long you’ll move for or even if you’ll enjoy the job. The last thing you need is to be paying for a mortgage on a house in a foreign country feeling unsatisfied in your new position and desperately wanting to return home. This is particularly important if you were unable to visit the property or neighbourhoods before the move; you may find that you dislike the neighbourhood or the house isn’t as spacious as you imagined. So while it can be tempting to jump all in, renting is still a perfectly viable option. If owning a house is important to you, consider short-term rentals first – 6 months is a good amount of time for you to settle in and commit to the idea of purchasing a house when the rental comes to an end.
You may even be fortunate enough that your prospective employer offers to put you up in temporary accommodation. This could only be for your initial month on the job but this gives you enough time to scout out the area for a house to rent or buy.
Build a social support network
You’ve made the move…now what?
Building a network upon our arrival is probably one of the most important things you can do. As social beings, we naturally crave human interaction. If we don’t experience the human intimacy that we crave, our mental health starts to deteriorate. In other words, if you move across the world – leaving friends and family behind – and realise that you have absolutely no one to turn to, your mental health is going to decline.
So how can you build your support network in a foreign country?
- Check to see whether your prospective organisation offers clubs and groups for employees to socialise. Getting to know your colleagues on both a professional and personal level will help you to build a relationship on strong foundations.
- Join groups outside of work; try new hobbies or join sports teams, such as football or running clubs. If there’s a particular sport that you enjoyed playing back home that doesn’t have a team in your new location, why not set one up?
- Utilise LinkedIn – put a post out to local executives. Mention in the post that you’ve recently relocated and ask if anyone would like to meet for a coffee or a walk around the local area. This is a great way to meet likeminded individuals and get your bearings of the neighbourhood.
- Online services like MeetUp will help you to find people in the area with similar interests as you.
The faster you build a robust network, the more settled and happier you will feel with your decision to relocate for work. Not to mention that feeling grounded and settled in your personal life will help you with your job performance and peace of mind.
The key to a successful job relocation lies in planning, preparation and organisation well in advance. It will be overwhelming to land in a foreign country knowing absolutely no one. It’s important to be proactive and start connecting with individuals before you even set foot on your new turf through LinkedIn, for example. Ultimately, feeling settled in your new home and country will allow you to perform better at work, clear your mind from distractions and ensure a work-life balance.
For more job-search advice tailored to senior managers and executives in the life sciences…
- Read 10 Things To Consider Before An International Relocation.
- Read The Pros And Cons Of Relocating For Work.
* Fraser Dove International is a talent consultancy operating across the life sciences industry. While our roots lie in executive search, we provide more than the traditional recruitment services. Uniquely placed within the market, we have been providing cutting-edge talent solutions and insight to organisations at all stages of their journey – from start-up to established leaders – since 2013.