They Made You an Offer, Now What?
Global Business Week – How Going Abroad Can Advance Your Career
By Mary Welch
You have your chance to shine in an international role with your company. Now what?
It is imperative that the assignment be successful – for the corporation, the individual and her career, and her family. So what are the best practices to ensure success?
Once you’ve decided to go – the next step is to make use of the company’s relocation services.
“We are all about the transition and helping the family,” says Ruth Ferguson, SVP and HR head of Bank of America’s Asia-Pacific region. “When my husband and I moved to Hong Kong, we had people take us around to show us different neighborhoods. We had cultural integration and language lessons. We had people help my husband with employment.”
She says it’s the bank’s policy to try to be flexible. “For instance, if a child is graduating in June, we may try to arrange the relocation date so that it won’t disrupt graduation. Or we may help the employee go back home to help aging parents. We work to make it an amazing experience.”
“You have to know why you are going, and ultimately what you need to do to succeed and how you will be measured,” says Newell Rubbermaid’s consumer group president, Penny McIntyre. “You will be naive to think you will go overseas and figure it out when you get there. Make sure you understand your assignment. Know your deliverables.”
Life after the assignment
Another important discussion to start before a deal is made is to have an understanding on what the next career move will be, after the assignment. It is essential to continue this conversation while you are overseas.
Discuss how the employee and the company will leverage the experience and increased skill sets gained by the employee. Starting the discussion when the woman is transitioning back is far too late.
While companies cannot guarantee the “next step,” the employee should emphasize she expects a new assignment upon returning to the home office, or at the very least, a timetable for the next step.
“Things do break down if there isn’t a clean line of what will happen when the person returns,” says Scott Sullivan, executive VP of Global Sales at Brookfield Relocation Services. “It sounds basic but, honestly, you are off the radar screen while you are overseas. Yes, you will have a job when you return but you need to know how the company will recognize and reward you for what you have accomplished. Not having this discussion is a major reason why the person leaves the company when she gets back. It is a retention issue.”
“We don’t guarantee the next role for our expatriates,” says Terry Hildebrand, Coca-Cola’s head of global talent and development. “We don’t necessarily know what those roles would be; we’re talking a few years out. But it is critical that the woman understands that we know she is building a portfolio of experience and she will be eligible for key roles when she returns.”
Coca-Cola’s Therese Gearhart with bottlers in India.
Before a woman accepts an assignment, she should have long and serious discussions with her family.
Therese Gearhart, who recently moved from Turkey to South Africa for The Coca-Cola Company, says her husband and her children are brand supporters. “This was a family choice. My husband and my three kids understood what I was gaining by taking these overseas assignments and they agreed we were all in it together.”
Gearhart adds that the process has to be very inclusive. “When I was transferred from Turkey to South Africa, I told my 14-year old daughter first so she could help ‘sell it’ to the younger ones. Also, being a teenager, I thought it would be more difficult for her to move. She had one question and one comment – she asked where we were moving and then said: ‘Way to go. I’m so proud!'”
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