The Concerns of an Expat: Executive Job Opportunities When Returning Home

Relocating to another country for career progression can be an excellent addition to your resume/CV, and will likely enhance your future executive job opportunities. However, working internationally not only brings many concerns to those involved (in a 2010 survey of BlueSteps members, relocating family was the number 1 concern), but the prospect of returning home after the assignment has been completed can be even more daunting. Of course for some the worry is having to return home, while for others, a fear of being displaced or becoming less employable in their native country overwhelms.

expat executive job outlook
As one executive remarked in an AESC / BlueSteps LinkedIn Group discussion, ‘Once an expatriate, always an expatriate.’ In this particular case, having worked abroad for 15 years, when attempting to return to his country of origin, many recruiters stated he did not have sufficient knowledge of current local practices to compete with domestically settled executives. This relates to the concern mentioned in my previous article that sometimes local knowledge can trump international experience.
In the same respect, a recent article published by Sarah Butcher for eFinancialCareers regarding the decline of Dubai financial services quoted a recruiter deploring the value of an international stint in Dubai, “We’ve already had a few CVs from both Dubai and Dubai sovereign wealth funds in London,” said a director at one London recruitment firm, “but we really can’t do anything with them. It’s not particular to Dubai, it’s just that the UK market is very selective right now.”
Of course any good executive recruiter or search consultant would never ‘judge a book by its cover’, but having an easily marketable image will make you stand out from the crowd. During a time when executive jobs are scarce, executive recruiters are less likely to take the time to figure out if you are applicable for the position, so your suitability must be immediately apparent. One way to achieve this is to proactively demonstrate your knowledge of local practices. This knowledge should be drawn from work experience or further study and should be consistent across your online presence (on your LinkedIn and BlueSteps profiles), within your resume, and demonstrated clearly in an interview. Here are a few tips to mould your profile to a specific country:

  1. Get published - Write an article demonstrating knowledge of national laws and business practices. Publish it on your own blog or gain more exposure by offering yourself as a guest writer to industry publications, websites or executive-level blogs. Then provide the link to the article in emails you send to executive recruiters, on Twitter and in your LinkedIn status update. Also, join industry and country-focused groups on LinkedIn and post your article in the news section and start discussions surrounding the topic.

  2. Online profile and CV/resume - Emphasise your experience in the country you wish to relocate too, as well as highlighting your international experience - market yourself as a global executive with local knowledge. Ensure you put your target country within your BlueSteps career profile and in other online executive career management services.

  3. Interview - Demonstrate local knowledge with examples of your previous work in your home country, or make reference to domestic laws or specific working methods. Of course international experience is an excellent feature, but you must also show your ability to operate in the desired working environment.

  4. Relationships and Networking - Finally, if you think you would like to return to your home country at a later stage, make sure you keep relationships with executive recruiters, hiring managers and business contacts there alive. You will find your executive job search a lot more manageable if you already have a network to draw leads from.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Another concern for executives is that while you are stationed abroad, colleagues back home who are closer to Headquarters have the opportunity to climb the ladder faster while you are left behind in a stagnant position. As Donna Cusano, Editor for Telecare Aware suggested “Even the best get forgotten if they've spent too much time 'over there'. They are no longer part of the 'US team' especially if there are conflicts between countries and HQ (often true.)”

To ensure you do not become a ‘forgotten executive’ you must be proactive in your communication to your managers regarding your career goals:

  1. Make your goals of the international assignment clear - Set a plan for your relocation and while being flexible, make sure you are consistent with your long-term goals with your organization. If you want to go to a new country with the intention of exploring your career and are happy to go with the flow - fine. However, if you want to be there on a contractual basis, ensure your company knows that and make sure they stick to the deadlines set.

  2. Keep communication lines open - If many of your projects increasingly do not require you to deal with the offices in your native country, make the effort to build up communication in other ways. Send reports to your superiors about your progress abroad, and request monthly meetings to discuss the progress of the market you are working on. Actively involve them in your progress and ask for their advice/opinion on projects you are working on.

In conclusion, to avoid either being forgotten or seen as irrelevant in your home country, you must be proactive in demonstrating your interest in and knowledge of the domestic market, at the same time as keeping your network connections active.


This article was written by Christian Pielow from the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC).

BlueSteps is the exclusive service of the AESC that puts senior executives on the radar screen of over 6,000 executive search professionals in over 70 countries. Be visible, and be considered for up to 50,000 opportunities handled by AESC search firms every year. Find out more at www.BlueSteps.com.

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