Travel

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 http://www.conference-board.org/globalhrleadersacademy/.

 

To apply and receive special pricing, contact Fana Tekle at fana.tekle@conferenceboard.org or call her at 212-339-0210.

 

My Husband is a STUD. 7 Tips to Make Your Career Transition Smooth

 

husband movingI read that relocation is one of the top stressful changes one could experience, third to death of a loved one and loss of a job.  I’ve mentioned before that we moved 17 times, across 3 continents in our 30 plus years of marriage.  Every transition is a family decision.  We discussed and agreed on the merits of the move, and did not look back.

It was not easy, especially with children in school, but my husband made it easy. While I adjusted to the new job, Danny looked for an ideal home location, researched schools, oversaw the movers and transacted the sale or purchase of our homes.  He has very good instincts in choosing locations and never settles until he has found the perfect home that met most of our needs.  We handled all our transitions smoothly and I did not worry, until I accepted an expat assignment in Belgium.

In my new role, I was responsible for the regions outside the US and knew that I’d be traveling extensively.  Once our daughter was happily settled in international school and we were all moved in, I was concerned about how Danny would adjust to a new life in a strange country.  Although we tried really hard to learn French, it is not an easy language for us.  My concerns quietly nagged me until I read about the STUDS.

On a business trip, I came across an interesting airline magazine article about this group called the STUDS – Spouses Trailing Under Duress Successfully.   They are husbands of expat wives hanging out together supporting each other through their transition in Belgium.  I got so excited about the possibility of Danny meeting new friends. Typical guy, he did not seem that excited nor did he contact them.

Browsing through their website, I saw that they had a biking and golf group.  I sent a note to the email address pretending I was Danny and he very quickly invited me to play golf the very next day. Danny had a great time! He enjoyed their company so much; they met for golf every day from Monday to Friday.  Occasionally they would invite the wives and organized wine tasting events, trips or picnics and I always looked forward to these events.  I met equally busy and high achieving expat women who were just as excited to have some kind of a social life in a foreign country.  The STUDS are fun-loving, very helpful husbands from all over the world.  They exchanged recipes, compared dry cleaning prices and commiserated on common experiences about living in a foreign country.  They made our expat experience delightful.

You may find yourself in the midst of a career move with a trailing husband/partner and children.  They may not be as eager and excited about your move, or they may be actively complaining about each strange new experience.   As the initiator of the move, you feel responsible, guilty, sometimes helpless about their adjustment.  Here are 7 tips to get your family happily settled in a new location.

  1.  Honest Talk – Before accepting the new role, discuss the pros and cons of the move with your spouse/partner.  We had spreadsheets, lists, metrics to aid us in the decision.  As we got better at this, we also asked each other how we felt.  I learned to read Danny’s body language and used this as cue.  He may say yes to a move, but I sensed his body and facial expressions said otherwise.  Once you are aligned, and only when you are aligned, call a family meeting.
  2. Have a Family Meeting – discuss the advantage of the move for your family, career and each member of your family.  Hear the concerns from each member and together work on a plan to resolve their concerns.
  3. Take advantage of all that your company or new town offers: attend cross cultural training, language lessons, employee assistance programs and orientation.  Check local listings for neighborhood meet ups.
  4. Invite family and friends over for a visit. Most will say yes, but only a few will actually make it.  It’s ok to cast a wide invitation and schedule them based on your availability.  Likewise, book your vacation back home so you have something to look forward to.
  5. Explore and Discover.  It’s ok to prolong your tourist status indefinitely. Seek groups that have similar interests as yours.  Break up the empty calendar by booking your leisure time with discovery appointments. Book tickets to his favorite games, restaurants, art shows or parks.  Sign him up at the local basketball, running, cycling or golf group.  Join a dancing or painting class together.  Actively explore your new location together and learn something new.
  6. Encourage him to establish a daily routine. Danny kept himself busy by managing our finances, household, post office – yes, this is a big deal in Belgium, licenses – another big deal and all items required to settle down in our new home.  He had his own home office space equipped with a TV, PC, printer and all his files.
  7. Proactive Therapy. At the end of the day, realize that you cannot truly make someone else happy.  Your spouse/partner needs to sincerely want to make your new location work for your entire family.  I booked my family including myself to proactive therapy sessions before the move.  I prepared the kids for what therapy would look like and sent them in one by one to see the therapist.  After their meeting, I curiously asked how it went and all they said was – “its confidential Mom”.  If you sense resistance, passive or otherwise, some proactive therapy could help.

Career relocation can be tough.  It can also be one of the most rewarding and broadening learning experience for you and your family. Are you considering a career relocation or have experienced one?  Feel free to share what helped.

 

Define Your Non-negotiables, Align Your Priorities Part 1

woman working w familyWe create priorities all the time, shift and reorder them as needed.  Non-negotiables are those that are the top of your priorities, you fight for and keep them no matter what.

As you schedule your day and make decisions and choices, observe if your priorities are aligned with your non-negotiables.

My friend Lynda developed a very successful executive global career in Finance without the need to relocate out of the Toronto area.  It was important for her to be close to her family, keep her children in the same school while she took red-eye flights and worked all hours to accommodate multiple time zones.  Her non-negotiable is not relocating out of Toronto.

Georgia chose to live in Southern California and declined promotional roles that required relocation.  She instead chose to change careers.  She had a role in field sales with flexible time while her son was younger and moved to human resources with less travel when he got older.

As I look back at our family life & career, we have moved 17 times, across 3 continents over the course of our 30+ years marriage.  We relocated for promotional job opportunities, with a supportive husband, 3 children and my in-laws.  I love my career and chose to stay with it.  My marriage is my non-negotiable.

Aligning priorities with non-negotiables are important for work life success.  They are not easy to hold up and adhere to all the time, but they strengthen over time.

Are your non-negotiables clearly defined? Are your priorities aligned with what you say they are and how you choose to spend your time?

 

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