If working abroad is a viable option for you, it’s an incredibly rewarding experience and comes with a unique set of challenges. Moving your home (and possibly family) thousands of miles away to a foreign country is not a decision to take lightly. As with any other huge decision, it takes careful thought and broad research to make sure it’s the right choice for you (and your family) – but where do you begin in deciding if this is right for you? Related: 5 Great Places To Work Abroad I have combed through many recommendations from the countless expat candidates I’ve interviewed and compiled research from international relocation experts to create a concise guide to help you decide. So, if you're considering working abroad, take a look at these tips:
Personality FitIf you haven’t already had the experience of working internationally, then you will need to consider that there are researched and proven predictors for success as an expatriate when it comes to personality types. Tom Cooper, executive director of EAP at Cleveland Clinic, shares:
Overall, if you approach life and work with openness, curiosity, and acceptance, if you focus on the things you can influence/impact, and if you share the values of mutual support and pro-active communication with your organization, you will do well as an expatriate. If you can “go with the flow,” you will deal effectively with the inevitable logistical and bureaucratic issues which arise. If you have tolerance for ambiguity, you will avoid some of the stress that comes with rushing to judgments. You will quickly find that although our Western culture emphasizes individual priorities, other cultures promote the needs of the community, larger social groups, and “belonging.” In time, you will find this a supportive context, too.
Make A Questions ListFind out from your initial research what is important to ask before your interview process begins. From religion, to food, to relocation expenses, to transportation - the list is extensive. Even something as basic as the days of the work week can vary from country to country. So, start the list now and keep adding to it as you have discussions with others. Be sure that people in your life know you’re considering opportunities abroad, and you may be surprised by who they can introduce you to and options they can recommend for you. On a similar note, consider what you are going to leave behind; should you relocate? Identifying what you would likely miss most will help you then generate an action plan on how to address these factors in your new city and help you focus your initial research.
Rely On InstinctsIf at all possible, visit the location you are considering moving to before making the decision to relocate. Besides the obvious reasons of experiencing the city firsthand, you may also be financially responsible for relocating back if you don’t stay for the required period of time. While you’re there and speaking to people who have been there, go with your gut on whether this feels like the right fit for you at this point in your life.
Consider FamilyWho, if anyone, will you be bringing with you? A “trailing spouse” of an expat should always be factored into this decision. What will he/she do? Research the employment visa situation in the region, especially if your spouse intends to find work. If you have children who are of school age, additional research will be required regarding the local school systems. While research concludes that successful expat adjustment into the new position and new culture is directly related to being a match for the position, and believing in the mission of the organization, family/marital factors have also been proven to play a critical role. In fact, for decades, "family issues" have been attributed as the leading cause of unsuccessful international assignments. Proven success factors include a willingness of the entire family to relocate, a stable marriage (if married), along with adaptive and supportive family members. It’s imperative that you are honest with yourself about the state of your family and the likelihood of your family being easily adaptable to this new environment. It is also important that you and your spouse both have a cultural empathy and low ethnocentrism, meaning being very open-minded to this new culture.
Expect Ups & DownsIt’s very important you know that your expat experience will have its ups and downs. Research shows there is typically a “honeymoon period” during the first few weeks in a new city. Once you’re settled in and getting into the rhythm of daily life, you will more than likely experience some culture shock as you continue to acclimate, and that’s completely normal. If you approach this opportunity with an open mind, and if you are prepared with some coping mechanisms, you will wind up much more content with your decision.
Dig DeepWhat is the real reason you’re interested? EAP professionals have explained that expats who are running from something at home (marital issues, depression, and financial problems) will typically maintain these struggles, and they may possibly worsen when in an unfamiliar area; a new city is not going to fix your personal challenges. So, be sure you are relocating for a positive reason, not trying to escape from a negative one. There are many reasons to consider relocating to Abu Dhabi for this once in a lifetime opportunity. Here are three key reasons we have identified as the most common among our most successful employees:
- Enhance your Career by gaining international and “start-up” experience as we work together to open a world-class hospital.
- Embark on an Adventure as you are enriched by a vibrant culture while living in beautiful corporate housing and having easy access to travel within a unique region.
- Impact the Global Community by making a difference within the healthcare field and to the critical care patients in this part of the world.