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Three steps to take before taking a post abroad

Apr 16, 2018
Peter Gillespie FCA has survived four postings abroad. Here he discusses some steps you should take before making the big move.

Transfers abroad with your employer can be great professionally; they often push you far beyond your comfort zone and give you valuable hands-on experience of different cultures and ways of working. However, it won’t be all plain sailing. In fact, you might be taking some major personal and professional risks. Before committing to such a transfer, there are a few things you should think about, such as how well do you and your family cope with change, your partner’s working situation, any language barriers, the legality of your marriage in your destination country and, most importantly, is this something you really want?

If you have thought through all these issues, here are a few steps you should take before transferring to another country.

Research the offer fully 

 The offer might seem like a great opportunity first glance but you should do some deeper research before committing. 

Take some time to visit the location with your partner and meet the people you could be working with. You and your partner’s happiness will depend greatly on both location and the company culture, so make sure it fits with your lifestyle.

You should identify and weigh up the “issues” – learning curve gradient, personal health and safety, accommodation, schools (if you have kids), friendliness of the people, cuisine, culture and laws – and decide whether you’ll be able to (at least) cope those first few weeks after you make the move. Make sure to look into what options (work, leisure, educational) your partner will have in your new location. 

When looking into the offer, be sure that the skills and responsibilities gained will really be worth the upheaval compared to other opportunities at home. 

Set the right expectations

When it comes to transferring abroad, getting decent terms is difficult. Unless you are indispensable, HR’s offer might not be that impressive. They’ll pay for you to get you there, a few a few nights in a hotel and maybe a some language lessons, but then they’ll expect you to be operational the next week. Forget thoughts of salary increases, cost-of-living adjustments, professional help with accommodation, contributions to loss of partner’s earnings, assistance with nursery or school fees, currency fluctuation guarantees or more than a few paid trips home.

They’ll probably also insist you sign a local-country contract in place of your existing contract. There may be some warm words about re-employing you eventually in your home country, but this won’t give you any guarantee as to which job, where it will be, or on what basis. 

Don’t expect HR in your home organisation to keep your personnel record up to date, nor to consider you for new positions until do you get back. Be sure to stay in contact with key people. Send these contacts a copy of your annual appraisal and keep notes of your achievements.

However, you should remember that you’re moving for the experience and the possible opportunities when back home – they could be great.

Prepare to come home

You’ll have to come home eventually and sometimes it can be even tougher than going out. You’ll have to give up the lifestyle you’ve (at last!) come to enjoy, and the local friends you’ve made. Sometimes that can make all the effort you’ve put into acclimating to your adopted country seem like it wasn’t worth the effort. Give yourself the time to prepare for your return.

Your international experience may not make you as marketable outside your organisation as you expect.  Recruiters won’t fully value your achievements abroad but with the right wording on your CV and some great networking, you can make the time away really work for you. Just remember that it’s possible many won’t know the country, nor understand the issues you’ve faced there, even if they think they know it well. 


Any transfer abroad will stretch you and your family, but it can be an ultimately positive experience for all of you if you’re willing to make the risk. Just make sure to it is the right move for you – professionally and personally before you go.

Peter Gillespie FCA is founder of Meaningful Metrics.