Many of my peers understand the importance of having a global mindset, but few possess the knowledge, motivation and sense of urgency to make the move abroad. Moreover, the initial sense of curiosity and possibilities abroad are replaced by the fear of the unknown, ambiguous situations and foreign cultures. Even when these fears are minimal, many don’t know the starting steps that are necessary to be taken in order to put idea into action.
We see articles about planning one’s global career through outlets like the Harvard Business Review and even news organizations such as China Daily, and those who are sparked by these articles still don’t know where to start. These reading help serve as a guide, and below are the list of concrete action steps I’m taking in order to make my goal of moving abroad a reality:
1. Define an expertise. The best way to evaluate your skill set is to do an audit of your strengths and those that you can improve on. Take a piece of paper and write this out. Recognizing what you are good at allow you to create your narrative in order to help others understand your background. Also, being honest about skills you can improve on will allow you to seek learning opportunities to develop these skills. Once you have a list of your strengths, write an elevator speech that touches upon your background, what you are currently doing and what you are hoping to do, using the skills you have listed thread to string together these pieces into a whole.
2. Reach out to people who are working on global assignments. While it may be hard to contact those who have traveling assignments, you can still contact professionals who are based in your region but support a global project or those who may be collaborating with a global team. Send friends a Facebook message, peers a Linkedin message, or better yet, pick up the phone and contact someone you know who is either in this position or know someone in this position. People with work experience abroad are not a rare find in this day and age; they may be right within your network.
3. Develop some global experience in your area of expertise, no matter the scale. It is imperative to have some global experience before you apply for a global position or move abroad, in order to give you a strong starting point that will help propel your job search. Look for opportunities to translate your expertise into a strategy tapping into global or multicultural consumers– perhaps volunteer for a project in a division that deals with customers abroad. Read books about intercultural communication, multicultural leadership and working with remote teams. This will not only give you an understanding of the environment you will be facing, but it also shows interest and commitment in taking the leap. The most fun kind of learning is working with others, so get to meet as many people from various areas of the world. Ask them what it’s like to adapt to a different culture, and learn from their experiences through the stories they share.
4. Identify a region. While it may be easy to say you’re open to any region in the world because you just want to move abroad. You are more likely to help others direct you to an opportunity if you know where you want to go. Even if you want to gain experience in various parts of the world, pick a starting point. This will also help you focus your learning of the language, customs, markets, political structures and business environments if you commit to a region. The more specific it is, the better. I would even venture to say, look at the world map and find an area that interests you. Choose a starting point. If that location doesn’t turn out to uncover opportunities, you can just shift gears and focus on the second option in your list.
5. Seek jobs. At the end of the day, after you’ve taken the steps above and feel prepared, you still need to look for opportunities since they will not likely arrive at your doorstep without you seeking first. Job searching can be done through networking events, informational interviews.
6. Take the plunge if nothing else works. If you are not finding the opportunities here despite sufficient preparation and a solid background, it might serve you best to just buy that one-way flight to test the waters abroad. If you plan on doing this, make sure that you set a Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timely goal. This shouldn’t be too difficult if you’ve identified your dream position and assessed your skills. Take a list with you detailing the contact information of key people and companies that you’ve gathered in your talks with people from your home base as well as from your own research. A crucial task before you leave is to set a deadline by when you should have a position in order to give you focus. Begin with three months to help maintain a sense of urgency and motivate you to do all the heavy lifting as soon as you arrive. Keep in mind this not a vacation, it’s the beginning of a new phase of your life.