Category Archives: Expat career development

Coming Home: Career Development Tips for Returning Expats


Read on if:

  • You’ve ever contemplated going overseas for work (you might find the advice here useful)
  • You are currently working overseas but are pining for home (I feel for you!)
  • You’re back home after being overseas but are being challenged by what to do next

As a consultancy that helps people achieve their career aspirations, we come across plenty of people who are either yearning for the expat life, living it now, or have just left it and want to develop their career at home. Returning expats are a great untapped resource. At least, they are in Australia. While some people manage to land on their feet again in a job that’s a logical next step in their career, many take years to regain the career momentum they had when they left, and find their experience is just not recognised like it should be.

For some, the returning expat speed-humps aren’t a problem – you might be returning to a role in the same company but in a different place. Or you could be coming back from somewhere that is very similar to home. If not though, you’ll need to manage this transition so you can extract maximum career value from your time overseas.

Start early

If you are currently working overseas and now looking to return, start preparing now. Amidst all the work that needs to be done with packing up and selling/shipping your possessions, arranging flights, cancelling utilities, doing that last road trip, saying goodbye, most people forget something absolutely critical – you might think of it as your career development insurance. It’s not applying for a job – that can be a hard, but by no means impossible, task from overseas. And by all means apply for jobs! But I don’t think it’s the most important thing.

It’s setting yourself up so that you don’t look like a newly returned expat with no idea of how things work around here.

Look for lots of opportunities to localise your experience while you’re still away. How? Think carefully about the sorts of roles you would be going for next. What ways can you show an employer that you’ll be seamless fit back into your old home country? You could volunteer to write something for relevant industry publications for people in your sector at home. Network with people in your sector and let them know you are about to turn up again – let them fill you in on what’s happening. Read up on what is happening in your sector. Join groups specific to the area you are returning to and contribute to discussions.  You can do all these things remotely and – at least – it will help you adjust to the working world back at home.

Be humble

“Overseas” experience does not equal better experience. I occasionally come across expats wondering, “Why won’t people recognise me?” That’s like saying “I’m going out of business because my customers have no idea”. It’s not them, it’s you. What you present to people must be precisely relevant to the work you’ll be doing, so the more you can tailor and position your work history for the local market, the better. The language you use is so important – a cover letter and a resume must be written for an audience – the people you’re writing for will simply ignore or discount anything they can’t readily understand. Don’t make it hard for them! Make it easy by being concise, relevant and using the style, tone and language for the local environment in which the role is based.

Finally, I’ve met some wonderful people recently who are making Australia their home. They initially struggled with where they fit in terms of the Australian job market and quickly realised that their incredible expertise is marked down because it just didn’t resonate locally (i.e. people haven’t heard of the companies they’ve worked for). What they work on constantly is eerily similar to my advice to returning expats – think local and make it relevant, relevant, relevant. They work hard at that and are getting great results.

I think there’s a big lesson there for people trying to make it back home as well!

Get in touch! Floreat Consulting Australia helps people discover their own way to an outstanding career. We offer Career Development for individuals and Consulting services to organisations.

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How to thrive on the expat career rollercoaster

163737_492998090953_6495356_nThe pressure on expats can be immense.

You’ve come to a new country and often a new job with a new network of friends to build and a new house to kit out. Often you can land on your feet but for anyone who chooses to work away from their home country, there’ll be some teething problems.

Naturally, the first months – even years – of expat life are clouded by background anxiety about getting your life back into somewhere near the more comfortable and ordered space you left at home. What you don’t need is to be miserable at work. But from our experience, this happens a lot.

Sometimes the job isn’t quite what was expected. Surviving in the organisation itself can be hard work, let alone culture shock and mountains of admin to fill out.

We’ve been there and we get it (i.e. we’ve made all the mistakes you could make!)

There is plenty of great advice around about surviving and flourishing in expat-dom. What we’re presenting below is a cheat sheet on our 5 best tips for surviving at work as an expat.

Now a warning: we don’t refer to cultural differences, where and how to find friends, how often to call home etc. There is stuff out there and to be honest, it’s fairly obvious after you have some experience living away from home, don’t you think?

This is advice for finding some more enjoyment at work if you find that things there are going off track.

1.       What are you really here for?

Is it for the money? The experience? Because your partner got a job here? To progress your career?

This is number one because you need to get a handle on this. If work is frustrating, there is a need not being fulfilled somewhere. Part of the frustration may actually be from not knowing why we’re doing things.

If you can answer the question above, your tactics to achieve your career purpose become easier to frame and, ultimately, achieve.

2.       Understand your own potential 

Are you aiming to progress to the next level of authority in your organisation?

If you are, think carefully about what that would actually entail in terms of your personal life (will you have one left if you do??!!) as well as the impact on your stress levels. We are all different and some of us will enjoy leadership roles more than others.

Be prepared to confront reality head-on – having a clear understanding of your current leadership potential helps you make sense of your career to date and where you should be heading.

3.       Work on your network across the organisation you work for – not just in your department

Most organisations you would work for as an expat are hierarchical. And the vast majority are pyramid shaped. If you are interested in moving into a role that has more authority, there will be competition. But don’t limit yourself to just your department. Many skills you learn in an organisation can be applied in a different part of that organisation. If you are getting stale working in legal affairs or compliance, a communications role might match your skill set. Think about how what you do could add value to another area of your organisation – there is no doubt it would!

4.       Get to know your direct supervisor or manager

Your direct manager or supervisor can probably be a bigger help than you think. Don’t forget, if they are an expat too, they could be dealing with similar challenges to you. A useful model to use is this one from Systems Leadership, the 3 questions about work. These are questions that all of us – no matter what work we’re doing – need an answer to be engaged at work:

  • What am I expected to do and why?
  • How am I going?
  • What’s my future?

It’s the last question that can be the toughest to answer but can kick-start a very useful conversation with your manager that leads to opportunities that you didn’t think were there.

 5.       Laugh. A lot.

Have fun. There will be a time when you’ll look back on your years working overseas and wish you were still there. Even in the toughest roles, there will be positives – take care of yourself and if you can’t see many positives, talk to someone who knows your situation and can re-frame things for you.

Floreat Consulting Australia can offer individual career development services for expats in most countries. Get in touch today to arrange a Skype call where we can discuss your options.