Managing Transitions

Three Valuable Lessons I Learned in my Global Assignment

woman globeIt has been several years since our expat assignment in Belgium but the experience remains fresh in my mind. The two years we spent in Belgium strengthened not only my career and understanding of global business but also my family’s bond.  The experience enriched our lives. Being an Asian American female executive in Europe sent by an American company holding the top job was not common those days.  I was not the typical expat, therefore I was not stereotyped and eventually, I think my uniqueness worked to my advantage.


  1. I learned what it takes to work closely and intensely with people from different countries. I learned to accept and appreciate differences including my own uniqueness. I learned that No did not necessarily mean No and Yes did not mean Yes.  I learned to probe further to understand others. I learned to flex my style to be effective.
  2. Since time was limited and we knew this experience would not last, we made instant friends.  We valued our new friends and chose which ones were going to remain our friends even when we moved back home.
  3. I learned a lot about myself. My executive coach was invaluable to me.  At our very first meeting he said since I am Filipino American, I am viewed as an Asian in Europe even if I came from the US.   They expected me to demonstrate typical Asian norms, because this what they know.  I realized how much I’ve forgotten or abandoned being Asian having lived in the US for most of my career years. I took a journey back to who I really am. It was quite an experience to have the freedom to be me again and get in touch with my “Filipina-ness”.

I will never forget my coach, Robert Brown, who helped me navigate through several difficult situations. He became an ally to me, a trusted advisor, mentor and friend.  He introduced me to a new business network who helped me understand local business better. He genuinely cared for my success and became a close family friend.  Sadly, Robert passed away a few years ago.  His influence on my life, career and our family was invaluable and we are forever grateful.

If you are in an expat assignment today or working outside your home country, you may be experiencing a range of emotions – from excitement to frustration.  From loneliness – missing your friends and family , to enjoying meeting new people and discovering new sights and experiences.  How are you viewed by your local colleagues?  What impact does your presence have on them?  How can you make the most of your expat assignment?


Join us at The Conference Board, Global HR Academy on June 9-12 and learn more about what it takes to be successful in a global role.  To read more about the Academy, click here


To apply and receive special pricing, contact Fana Tekle at or call her at 212-339-0210.


How to Succeed while on a Global Assignment

global assignmentHave you just moved halfway around the world, sold your belongings or placed them in storage? Do you struggle to learn the local language? Are you on a plane most of the time, constantly jet lagged and have a huge fog in your head? Is headquarters calling you for regular updates? Do you feel like you owe your company for sending you in this assignment that you are willing to work day and night to prove your worth? You take conference calls at all times, they seem to forget that you are in a different time zone.

In the meantime, your personal life is non-existent, business pressures don’t seem to lighten up and you have not had the time to explore your new world.  You set some goals before you took this assignment – trips to explore the local sights, learn the local language, make friends with locals, but your work and travel have taken priority and you are stressed and lack sleep.

As glamorous as the word expat may sound, the reality of many expats lives are far from it.  Expats do not travel for leisure or live a life of discovery and exploration. Expats work long hours and take on the pressure of running the local business. They do not have their support system and they miss their family and friends.

The difficulties of expat lives can be managed and the assignment can be memorable and career enhancing.  Handled well, this could be a period of huge growth and development for the expat, their family and their careers.  What are some of the ways that your expat assignment can be successful?

  1. Keep headquarters regularly informed.  Set up regular calls or emails to let your bosses know the local conditions.  Try not to surprise them.  If you have bad news, deliver bad news in a timely manner with a couple of solutions that you have vetted out with your local team members.  Stay connected with mentors back in the home country and set up regular calls with them.
  2. Develop a new support system locally.  Find people who you can trust inside the company and outside.  Join your local professional organization and make the time to nurture new relationships.
  3. Learn at least 10 most popular local words – words of greeting, respect, agreement or disagreement, common courtesy words.
  4. Find a way to exercise regularly or find ways to keep your mind, body and spirit clear and centered.
  5. Figure out the number of weekends or vacation days that you have and plan to see the local sights.  Book your tickets.  Before you know it, your assignment is up and you would not have been able to see the sights if you didn’t plan in advance for it.
  6. Plan your home vacations yearly so you have something to look forward to.  Keep connected with friends and family through social media.
  7. Hire a local coach, find a trusted mentor.  This has been the most valuable thing I have done while on expat assignment, one that I would recommend to everyone outside of their home country.  Your trusted coach will help you gain perspective, reframe your thinking, challenge you when needed or push you out of your comfort zone to grow.


Being out of your comfort zone, while difficult, is a period of high growth and eventually high rewards.  An expat assignment is not for everyone, but you have that call inside you and you have it in you to succeed. With the right moves and a trusted support system, the benefits of an expat assignment far outweigh the challenges and difficulties.  Enjoy the journey.

Are you a Corporate Refugee? Part 2. 6 Ways to Cope with Your Corporate Transition

work, stress, familyThe other day I blogged about the signs of a corporate refugee.  A corporate refugee is someone who recently left the security and comfort of a corporate job and feels burned out.  While they know it is too early to sit in a rocking chair and do nothing, they also cannot gather enough energy to pursue or accept another corporate job.  What do you do if you find yourself in this situation?

  1. Be honest about how you really feel.  Do not blame yourself for feeling this way.  If being a corporate refugee sounds about right to you, be ok with it, acknowledge it.
  2. Take some time off.  It is automatic for us to start the job hunting process immediately.  If you can, try to do nothing for a few days, or weeks.  Try to control yourself  from jumping back.  Your mind and body needs space and healing.  It takes time – months, sometimes years, to distance ourselves from our corporate identity.
  3. Surround yourself with supportive and positive people.  These are people who you can share how you feel and who will not judge you.  See a career coach or begin a support group in your local community
  4. Cultivate new interests – something totally new or different from your regular activities.  Gardening, reading, art work, travel, or cooking.  New activities will not only keep you busy, but will also ignite your passion.  Experiment on activities that make you happy.
  5. Recognize that you are in transition and this is a process that you need to go through.  Read Transitions – Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges or Life Launch – A Passionate Guide to the Rest of Your Life by Pamela McLean and Fredric Hudson.
  6. Hire a coach.  I had a coach when I transitioned from my corporate life to my entrepreneurial life. My coach was my supportive partner.  He helped me figure out not only what I could be doing next, but also who I am again.  I looked forward to our conversations and even if the coaching process lasted only for 6 months, we continue to be in touch and work on certain projects together.  His perspective is invaluable.

Once you acknowledge that you are a corporate refugee, the magic begins.  Don’t feel that you need to go through this alone.  There are many resources out there that will help you transition.

Feel free to share what transition strategies worked for you.

Are You A Corporate Refugee? What are the signs?

work, stress, familyA corporate refugee is someone who just left their job and feels blah, sad or angry. He or she knows they need to get back to the workforce but something inside them says they need a break. They need to process their whole company experience in many deeper levels but do not know how. This is a new experience for them. They also feel guilty about their decision to leave or for not being aggressive enough to find a new job. In some ways, they feel like a victim. They only remember the sad and unhappy times at work and seem  to have blocked the good times. If this resonates with you, you are not alone. I’ve experienced being a corporate refugee and many of my colleagues have similar transition experiences as well. Here are some of their experiences:

  1. Corporate refugees are no longer happy or interested in their jobs or their company but are afraid to admit this.
  2. Corporate refugees have the need to revitalize themselves and a week’s vacation doesn’t do it.
  3. Corporate refugees are burned out, confused and guilty.
  4. Corporate refugees have lost their soul or no longer know who they really are.
  5. Corporate refugees need space and healing.

Here’s the good news:

  1. Corporate refugees can go back to the battle field once again and find fulfilling work.
  2. Corporate refugees eventually learn to forgive others and themselves.
  3. Corporate refugees do not ignore transitions, they master transitions.  They do not merely jump to the next job, they allow themselves time to process their experience, own it and design a new life commitment.
  4. Corporate refugees bounce back stronger and smarter.
  5. Corporate refugees eventually find their passion and use their natural talents to fulfill their life purpose.

Do not be concerned if you find yourself in the early phases of being a corporate refugee. Don’t ignore the signs.  You need to go through the process to find the path forward, there are no short cuts.  I’ve witnessed many wonderful reinventions and transformations. I’ve also experienced the transformation myself.  It was not easy, but I was fortunate to have a supportive family, friends and coaches. The transition process enabled me to achieve better work life success.

Are you a corporate refugee?  How can you move yourself through the process?  What worked for you?

The Good News about Transitions

golden gate cloudyTransitioning to a new life is never easy.  Transitions are similar to crossing a bridge, sometimes the beautiful Golden Gate bridge gets cloudy and the drive can be difficult.  Sometimes the sky is clear and the drive is a breeze.

A prerequisite to a successful transition is a positive mind-set, a commitment to ourselves to emerge positively from this transition.  A sense of confidence that we will somehow end up ok – that we will get to the other side of the bridge in due time.

The good thing about transitions is –  it is not a permanent state.  We all go through phases of transition and while they make us uncomfortable and our initial reaction is to get out of it as quickly as possible, fight or reject it,  we are best served by recognizing transitions for what they are: uncomfortable yet necessary phases of fertile growth.

The next time you find yourself in transition, no matter how difficult it is, remember that it is not permanent and there are special insights and lessons awaiting you.  Take the time to seek deep and discover these messages.


Linked In
RSS Feed
You Tube
Shaking hands of two business peopleNCHRA Logo

Are You Connecting? Maximizing Your Communication Style to Build Credibility:  Learn More>>


Loading Quotes...

Why Hire a coach?

Top Reasons Coaches are Engaged:

(HBR Jan 2009)

    • Develop high potentials or facilitate transition: 48%
    • Act as a sounding board: 26%
    • Address derailing behavior: 12%