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.

3 Ways to Make it Easy for your Contacts to Help you find a Job

job listingsMy client is job searching and gets disappointed when some of his contacts do not have time to meet for coffee or for a networking phone call.  I asked him why he wanted to meet with one contact in particular – she has an influential role in a reputable global company.  He said it was to seek advise on his job search, though he was not aware of a suitable role in her company for him.  We worked on a plan to be more purposeful in his networking.

The reality is – your contacts are extremely busy.  They are juggling job and family pressures and although they want to help, they simply don’t have time or honestly don’t know how.  Here are 3 ways to make it easy for them to help you:

1. Research their company or industry.  Learn what is going on in their company and be relevant. Are they going through a growth or downsizing phase?  Are they expanding into new markets or divesting off pieces of their business.  If you find a recent interesting article about their products, market, or competition, send it to your contact.

2. Apply on-line at their job site for roles best suited to your experience and background.  Send your contact a note that you have applied for this posting and ask if they are willing to put in a good word for you.  Give them a brief summary of why you are a perfect fit for the role.

3. Be very specific on what you need from your contact.  Do you need a recommendation, an introduction or  a reference?  A recommendation is a request to say something positive about you to the hiring manager. An introduction is a connection via email or phone to the hiring manager then you take it from there. A reference is requested by companies at the later stage of the job interview process.  This is appropriate if your contact has directly worked with you and can attest on your work ethic, talent, skills and/or abilities.

I suggest sending a request via email followed up by a phone call.  If you do not get a response, try again 2-3 times depending on your comfort level.  Don’t be offended if you do not hear back, simply move on to the next contact in your network or try again after a couple of weeks.

My client followed this targeted approach and successfully engaged his contact on a specific job within her company.  She was so delighted to send a note to the hiring manager and even asked that he keep her posted.  Purposeful networking is being respectful of your contact’s precious time and yields better results.

You are the Driver of your Career. 4 Ways to Improve Your Driving

driver red top down

I remember recurring dreams about driving whenever work stress got too much for me. I would dream that I was driving a car and would fall asleep at the wheel; or I’d be driving a car with my children at the back, fall asleep only to wake up in a sweat; or driving a car and get lost in the dark unable to find my way. Eventually I looked up the meaning of driving dreams and found one interpretation that made sense to me — driving dreams are about driving careers. I am driving my own career and feel the responsibilities of decisions that impact my family directly.  Work anxiety and fear of failure are strong emotions which I accepted as natural consequences of being an executive.

I had a great corporate career and am very grateful for it.  If I could coach my younger self about this very topic right now, I’d ask her what is the price that I am willing to pay to be an executive?  What is it about the work that is causing me stress?  How can I diffuse and handle this?  Am I fully aware of what I am doing and feeling? I was fortunate that during my formative years, my bosses provided me with a success coach. Some of my most successful and productive years were when I had a coach or mentoring relationship with a more senior and experienced supportive person. In addition to having great coaches, I could have improved driving my career more consciously.  I would coach my younger self to be more self-aware, more reflective and more purposeful in planning career and personal success.  I would pause more to regularly ask for directions and ask more feedback about my driving.

As the driver of our career and personal life, are we driving too fast or too slow? Are we distracted when driving? I usually started my drive to the office dialing into my voice messages — this was when cell phones were allowed on the road. I’m grateful that I did not hurt anyone, what was I thinking then? I thought that cleaning up my voicemail would improve my efficiency and productivity. I know now that calling my staff early in the morning added unnecessary stress to them. I guess I was obsessed to get voicemail checked.  I would coach my younger self to enjoy the drive, downtime and some silence.

As the driver of our careers, do we know where we are headed? Wouldn’t it be great if a GPS career apps with a soothing voice could be attached to our cars and order us to “recalculate” when we take the wrong turn in our careers or “make a right turn” at the exact time?  Are we driving above the speed limit of our career growth, making other drivers upset with our speed? Or are we too slow in the fast lane or too fast in the slow lane?

Here are 4 simple proven ways to be a better driver of your career:

1. Know your destination. What is your ultimate career goal? Where do you see yourself 10, 20 years from now? Is it to be a CEO, a VP, a Manager? It is important that you are clear about your end game. As you think through this question, keep in mind that while there are varied, diverse & untraditional careers, most are built with 4 similar structures: Early Career – usually an individual contributor, Mid Career – either professional or manager track, Executive Career – Director ,VP or C suite executive and Second Act – usually pursuing your unique passion or giving back.

2. Choose your lane. How fast do you want to drive your career? Do you want to be known as a Fast Tracker, high potential who gets promoted every couple of months? Or are you perfectly happy to be in the middle lane at certain times of your life?  What are you consciously giving up by staying in your chosen lane?  Are you accelerating or decelerating to get off ramp?

3. Keep your engine tuned up. As you move up the career ladder, ensure that your skills and knowledge are constantly enhanced. Keep an eye on your career dashboard, know when you are running out of gas, when you need to recharge your batteries or perhaps change your car?  This includes taking extreme care of yourself and what is important to you. There is no joy in reaching your destination only to find out that no one is there to share your success with you.

4. Lastly, don’t be a road rage, follow proper driving etiquette and don’t monopolize the road.  There are several roads to take you to your destination. Keep a positive attitude, build lasting relationships and help others along the way. The latter is the most gratifying career act that you can embrace. It is guaranteed to come back to you multiple fold in ways that you have not expected.

How are you driving your career?

Building Your Legacy Part 2

women golfAs  an HR professional, I found that much of my enjoyment and success on the job is a function of who I worked with.  In the mid 90s when the role HR Business Partner was not as fully understood or developed, I was privileged to have a business leader who was willing to partner with me and discover the impact that this role can have.

Jon Wiese was the SVP for Americas Sales and Services at Lucent Technologies.  He was considered a high potential, very smart, super direct and willing to listen.  The weekend after he took on the role,  he announced his first VP promotion, a male high potential.  The women in the group were puzzled and wondered why they were not even interviewed.  I raised this to Jon, while in the back of my mind, a bit worried that this was the end of my early career as an HR Business Partner.  Jon called me back to his office the next day and asked me how we can fix this.  He sponsored Virtual Golf – a women’s network that promoted and mentored women in Sales.  By the time Jon left the group, almost half of the executives were women.  Jon also introduced me to Coaching.  He believed in the value of having an executive coach and provided me with one.  This opened my eyes to the world of executive coaching and I knew that someday, I would be one myself.

With sadness, I heard this week that at 56, Jon went home to be with our Lord after a long courageous battle with cancer.  I enjoyed working with Jon, he was a wonderful mentor who raised the profile of women in the company.  More importantly, he taught me to be a coach and have the courage to speak up, a critical skill for an HR Business Partner and Executive Coach.

5 Ways to Create Your Lasting Legacy

applause peopleA few days ago, top senior influential human resources executives in Silicon Valley gathered at Juniper Networks to honor Aryae Coppersmith, the beloved founder of HR Forums ( ) which has been in existence for 15 years.  It was time for Aryae to move to on to his next big passion, but more about that later.  As the HR leaders honored Aryae’s contribution to the growth of our profession, I couldn’t help but reflect on how he brought extremely busy senior HR leaders and their CEOs together for conversation and leave a lasting legacy.

Maybe you have already figured out your legacy, maybe you haven’t even thought of it.  Here are 5 ways to get you started with lessons learned from my friend Aryae.

1. It was never about Aryae.  Aryae represented a cause – bringing HR leaders together informally to grow, share and support each other.  He was always the guiding force behind the movement but the spotlight was on the members, their guests and their contribution.

2. Build Community & Trust – the group fondly remembered dinners and breakfasts where top of mind issues of CHROs and key executives were discussed in confidence.  The CHRO role is a tough and lonely one to have and having an intimate group of peers who they could trust was just what they needed.

3. Ask “How I can Help?”  As networks were re-ignited and new ones built, people were sincerely interested in the other person’s life.  Aryae was always interested in others, he sincerely listened, and remembered well.  He kept in touch, even after people have moved on.

4. Emotional connection – As colleagues said goodbye to each other, I know they will never really say good-bye to Aryae.  There was a deep emotional connection in the air, a sign of a lasting legacy.

5. The bigger purpose will bind us together.  Aryae shared his inspiration for his next chapter.  Based on research, he said that in 10 years or so, there will still be poverty, homelessness and lack of education in the world for about 3B people.  He doesn’t want that to happen.  He is doing something today so our future will be so much better.  He created One World Lights,, an organization connecting people from all over the world who are doing what they can in their communities to make this world better and learn from each other.

More blessings and fun on your New Act Aryae!

Whatever your life situation is,  it is not too late to think about your lasting legacy.  What would yours be about?  Please feel free to share your thoughts.


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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%