Consultancy, strategy and change

Seven top tips on how to avoid an international career

The delivery of change in organisations is an increasingly globalised business. Whether it’s a matter of offshoring to achieve cost savings or providing better decision making locally, an organisation's human infrastructure is increasingly likely to span several time zones, cultures and languages.
For those oddball people who like the idea of developing a global career this all might sound like a good thing, but what about the sensible professional for whom ‘international’ means two weeks in a timeshare in Gran Canaria and ‘exotic’ means an olive in their G&T? What are the best strategies to ensure their careers stay distinctly domestic? Based on my experience of helping candidates over the last two decades, here are my seven top tips.

1. Be completely clear about what you want

As the most likely threat to your domestic tranquillity is your own business, make sure your line manager, global CO and HR function know you have absolutely no intention of ever leaving the UK. Avoid networking at all costs, especially with overseas colleagues you meet on projects, and do absolutely nothing to show any interest in the commercial interests of the business overseas. If your business has an ‘internal’ recruitment site, where overseas positions are advertised, then make sure it is picked up by your spam filter.

2. Qatar? Is that contagious?

Another really good tactic if you’re going to avoid getting on a plane is to do absolutely no research whatsoever. Not knowing the culture, geography, history, or on what side of the road they drive in any given country is always likely to be impressive at interview and ensure that some other poor mug gets the job. If, by some fluke, you end up getting the job, not knowing on what side to drive will at least mean your agony is short lived!

3. Do you have offices in Queensland or Wellington?

Clearly most businesses have less need for change managers in beautiful, ordered countries where they have established operations than they do in developing markets where the local candidate resource may be less strong. Use this to your advantage. Ensure you only show the remotest interest in countries with nice weather, decent plumbing and where speaking a version of English is de rigueur. Given the large amount of home grown talent in these locations you’re likely to be a very ‘uncompetitive' resource and have no chance of getting the job.

4. Speak slowly and shout

A word on language. An interesting ‘double bluff’ strategy to ensure you keep your airmiles down is to send out vast – and I mean vast – numbers of CVs in English to employers and recruiters who don’t speak the language. This is only really effective in countries where English isn’t the lingua franca (Latin America for example), but nothing so effectively demonstrates your unsuitability as a candidate than a belief that everyone should speak English. Make sure you make it clear in your CV that this is your view by showing no proficiency in any foreign language at all. (For clarity, writing ‘Basic Schoolboy French’ is acceptable as you’re unlikely to convince an international programme director if all you can manage is ‘la plume de ma tante’).

5. I hear Bridlington is nice this time of year

Applying for jobs in one country while living in another is very difficult and this can be a huge advantage. As most employers will look at locally based candidates before they think about relocating an expat, make sure you do nothing to suggest that you might self-fund travel for interviews. On no account use your annual leave to do a recce and meet local recruiters.
Finally – and I really want to stress this for emphasis – if you happen to have family or friends already living in a country, under no circumstances use their contact details as your ‘local base’ on your CV. This will give prospective employers the unpleasant idea you are serious and already have a local support network.

6. Show me the money

Companies relocate expats because they believe the additional cost of the deal will be returned in the form of better work outcomes and knowledge transfer to local employees. This can be a considerable investment – in some countries an expat may ‘cost’ 10 times more than an equivalent local – and this is worth knowing if you’re looking to spend more time queuing on the M25 each day.
Having ludicrously inflated ideas of your own value is a good starting point, but also unrealistic ideas of package will help. Most companies don’t offer school fees, housing allowances, fully expensed cars and wafer thin after dinner mints to expats these days, so make sure you insist on all of them. You’ll definitely not get the job.

7. Register with Accrington's No.1 recruiter

Given the (welcome) complexity of getting a job overseas, it is vital that you don’t have the resources of a global recruitment company at your disposal. Register with local recruiters who can get you a great job with their mate Stan who works up the factory, but whose global network only extends as far as the blokes they play golf with. By working with a global player like Michael Page Consultancy, Strategy & Change, you run the risk of meeting a consultant in the UK who can make the necessary introductions to colleagues overseas.
So by fulfilling my seven basic steps, you’ll ensure that the closest you’ll get to the Gateway to India is picking up your lamb bhuna after your Thursday night darts match. It is a tried and tested route which has prevented countless candidates from getting a job overseas and, if it worked for them, it can work for you.
(If, by mistake, you found your way to this page in the hope of learning something about developing your consultancy career internationally, then please click here to be connected to a consultant who can advise you.)