Making a decision to take a job overseas can be exciting if it is viable — both financially and professionally. There is a definite value that is often appreciated by employers in adding some overseas experience to your resume. Additionally, it may help you stand out from the pack — when and if you eventually decide to return home.
The full positive or negative consequences of the decision, however, may not become clear until long after making the move. That is why it is important to decide whether to move or not within the scope of your future plans rather than looking just at immediate gains.
Keep in mind, unlike the decision to switch jobs domestically, a relocation decision touches the lives of family members, and may involve cultural and social aspects that cannot be ignored. Here are a few points to keep in mind:
Do your homework
Relocation is much more than just taking a job. Survey the performance of your industry in your destination, understand labour regulations and get feedback from current and previous staff regarding your prospect employer. You must ask about corporate culture, compensation and any issues that you must be aware of ahead of making the decision. If you find it difficult to get a blunt opinion regarding a future employer, check forums and other social-media outlets where people are more open to discuss issues as long as they remain anonymous.
Between the numbers
If you take a more impartial approach and decide to research the employment situation in a particular destination, learn, or ask about, how to read figures and statistics. What might appear as a positive employment scene might be true for just a handful of industries or certain segments of workers. To get a more complete picture, contact recruitment agencies that work in your industry as well as jobseekers in your industry to back up your conclusion. This might seem irrelevant if you've already got a job. But it can help you understand the market if you are flirting with the idea of relocation and considering destination alternatives.
If you're moving a family along, a similar research needs to be done regarding the job-market opportunities for your spouse and the affordability of school for children. Don't take either point for granted. A spouse who struggles to find a job may end up frustrated and homesick — in addition to the loss of a second income. Education is similarly a make-it-or-break-it factor. Many parents may be forced to change plans after a short period of relocation if they feel their children's education is being compromised, or if quality education is unaffordable.
A good job is often the one that comes with an advancement potential. This becomes a must when you're moving abroad. While many may consider a first job overseas just a stepping stone on the way to score a better job, it is always recommended that you stick with this first job for a couple of years, at least, to develop an in-depth experience of the market and demonstrate your loyalty — an important aspect with many employers. If you take a dead-end job, you might find yourself either forced to look for a new job earlier than you like or you've to tolerate a less-than-fulfilling job.
Society and culture
Relocation is a long-term decision. If you're uncomfortable with the culture or social customs in your destination, you need to weigh your feelings against the attractiveness of the job opportunity. A successful move is to a place where you're certain that you can either integrate into the social fabric easily or, at least, be accepting and tolerant of the differences. While a cultural aspect in the move may seem far from impacting your career, being cut off from the social scene and co-workers can reflect on your people skills.
Some moves are meant to be temporary - regardless to how long they might stretch. If you're taking a job abroad with the intent of returning home after a certain period — two to five years for instance — be sure that the job adds relevant experience and skills that makes you more employable once you're back. Even if you decide to extend your stay, a job that does not alienate you in your home job market is favoured given the cyclical nature of today's employment scene.
Rania Oteify, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is a journalist based in Seattle.