Race to the Top: Working Outside the U.S.

Q: My supervisor recently asked me to consider applying for a position overseas. Is this a good opportunity?working-overseas

A: A big decision. Obviously, it is difficult for me to give you advice about the nature of the job. So, I’ll keep my observations focused on working overseas, in general, and how it tends to fit in a corporate career. In general, taking a position outside the United States is a great opportunity, particularly for people who see themselves working for their companies for a long time. The marketplace is global, senior managements’ perspective is global and seeing the non-U.S. business first hand tends to shape how you work exponentially.

In general, when your boss approaches you with an idea, your first reaction is important. Throughout my career, I have tried to be open to any suggestions of new assignments, special projects, and more responsibility. Your first conversation should end with you saying “Thank you for thinking of me” and “I would like to learn more.” Most supervisors don’t float ideas about changing your career path without careful consideration. A great question for you to ask when you have the second conversation: Why do you think I am the person for this job? That simple question can give you a lot of information about how your boss sees your skill level, management style and long-term potential.

Overseas assignments are often exciting, but there are a lot of details. They can last anywhere from one-five years or more. Every company is different. And, sometimes you can move more than one time, depending on the assignment. If your boss piques your interest, your next question should be, “Is there someone I can talk to that has had a similar assignment?” In the case of working overseas, there is no substitute for first-hand information.

Also, be prepared to spend a fair amount of time with someone in the Human Resource or Talent division. Working outside the U.S. requires paperwork and will likely impact your benefits. There is usually a special group of people that know all of the ins and outs of being in different markets and even how all of the markets compare.

One last thing – many of my colleagues who I respect and who have taken overseas assignments have said, frankly, that it is best to do so early in your career when, often, you have more flexibility. My general rule of thumb still holds true: if the new assignment means you will have a great boss and will be able to do great work, I would consider it at any stage, but I can’t deny that the overwhelming view of people who have done it and have had great careers is that the earlier you do it, the better.

Lilyanne has worked in corporate America for 25 years and has supported eight CEOs. She wants to answer your career questions – so you can get ahead at work. Email your questions to Lilyanne@racetothetopcareers.com <mailto:Lilyanne@racetothetopcareers.com> , rttcareers@gmail.com or through your favorite connection to the Houston Forward Times.