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When Your Boss Sends You Abroad: What You Need to Know

There’s nothing like expanding your horizons by taking in fresh new vistas: and many folks do indeed enjoy exploring other countries – the people, the cultures and the refreshingly different day to day routines, when they’re on vacation or holiday. But did you know that, with the accelerating multi-culturalization in the U.S. economy, it is becoming common practice in business to send employees overseas to carry on a business assignment? In many cases, it is for a short-term project.

If you’re raising your hand to volunteer, know this: you cannot have unrealistic expectations, as enchanting as it sounds.

It can be downright challenging to do business on foreign soil.

However, if you prepare well, your trip abroad for your company will enable you to combine business with pleasure!

On The Plus Side

Here are the benefits: You won’t need to ask for time off; your boss and you will be on the same page about when you’re travelling; there is no need to work out schedule-conflicts with your co-workers or research how you’ll get to the foreign country; what you’ll eat, where you’ll stay and what you’ll do.   It’ll all be taken care of for you!

Despite its drawbacks, being sent overseas by your company can be one of the greatest ways to experience, first-hand, the inhabitants, the ideas and the societal mores of another country.  You’ll feel like a true cog in the wheel of a community that you’ll soon become quite familiar with.

It’s a great way to explore a culture—there’s nothing like immersing yourself in day-to-day routines to start to feel like a “native” pretty soon.

What You Need To Know

So your boss just asked you if you’d like to trundle your family off to a satellite office in Spain or China for a few months  and you’ve landed the assignment. You’re ecstatic!

The company has agreed to return you to your regular job when you return, so you’ll have no anxieties there.

Of course, the company will cover your moving and travel expenses, even setting you up in a hotel temporarily until you’ve settled on an apartment that’s near your new office.

But you or your family may be apprehensive about what to expect when you look for work in a land whose ways are still unknown to you.


However, we’re here to tell you to leave your worries behind when you embark on this new opportunity.

Yes, you need to be prepared, and to go into this job with your eyes wide open—if you hear something you don’t like, speak up!  Ask questions.  Determine if the fit suits you.

However, on the whole, being selected to travel to another land to conduct a brief business transaction is an exciting career move – one that will advance you several steps up the career ladder.

Here are a few more behind-the-scenes tidbits that may prove reassuring and informative.

  1. If you’ve been asked to go overseas for your company, realize that it’s a feather in your cap. Increasingly, companies are sending employees abroad in a bid to create and retain multinational interests.  Companies use this opportunity as a perk of sorts, for employees they wish to groom for long-term
  1. There are no if, ands or buts about it…you will have to put your nose to the grindstone and learn another language. There are approximately 7,000 languages in the world.   The two biggies in business are English (the international business language) and Spanish, but Portuguese and Chinese (Mandarin) are also in demand.  The Chinese economy is projected to grow significantly, and Mandarin is the number one spoken language in the world.  Hindi and Urdu, which are spoken in South Asia, are also being studied by some business travelers.

Remember, the continued growth of U.S. business interests rests on selling to a customer base which doesn’t only speak English.  It is crucial that your partners’ AND customers’ languages be spoken by top players in your corporation.

Additionally, your language-speaking skills will add considerably to your net worth.  In the U.S., knowing a second language AUTOMATICALLY boosts your earning capacity by 15%!  (In Thailand, that increase goes all the way up to 55%, and in India – a country the U.S. is increasingly doing business with – the figure is 34%.)

Opt to learn the language of the country that most intrigues you.  If it doesn’t come in handy for your current job, it will, eventually. And chances are that your company has a branch in the corner of the world where that language is spoken.

  1. Don’t overlook learning the financial “stuff”.  You’ll not only need to be up on the currency, and perhaps on taxes in that region, but, too, international financial reporting standards should be studied. There is some dissimilarity between each country and the U.S. standards.
  1. Start NOW to cultivate acquaintances in far-off lands. This serves a two-pronged purpose:  you’ll have built a reputation before you even arrive, and you’ll have allies in a part of the world where it would help tremendously to have a friend or two to introduce you to the basics of life in their country…as well as to take you in hand to advise you on the many subtleties of etiquette, so that you may avoid making any embarrassing faux pas in social scenarios.
  1. DO take the time differential into account. In Thailand, for instance, there’s a 12-hour difference.  If it’s 9:00 A.M. in your office and you’re EST, it’s 9:00 P.M. over there.  It’s imperative that you oblige your overseas colleagues by taking their phone calls and by returning (truly) urgent e-mails at this time. Get up a little early and stay a little late. It’ll pay off in dividends; your help will be remembered.

Your Own Plan of Action

Did reading about the globetrotting that’s going on (and which will increase) in corporate America whet your appetite?

Now that you know that most medium- to large-sized company’s strategies these days involves cross-country transactions, you might be trying to think of a way to approach your boss about sending you to a branch in another country.

Well, you can be sure top management will eventually need loyal, dependable talent – you!—in other regions.

You can only Skype, chat, text, telephone, fax or correspond via e-mail or snail-mail so long.  There comes a time when every employer sees the value of face-to-face interaction.

Present the case that way:  it will be evident that you’re attuned to your company’s needs –having  researched the countries it does business in, as well as having boned up on operations in other countries — and are eager to demonstrate your can-do attitude. You might remind your superiors that, rather than put out feelers for a new, unknown talent, they are going with a “sure thing” when they send a qualified employee – someone whom they already know.

Go for it!

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