Whether you’re interested in leading the opening of a new plant, joining an established department within your organization or finding the team that will take a growing company into a new country, a global assignment will expand your perspective, make you a more flexible and powerful problem solver, increase your value as a leader and challenge you in new and exciting ways.
Landing a global assignment isn’t easy, though—the review process can be lengthy and competitive. Succeed with these strategies:
- Do your research
Know the types of work your company is doing around the world, as well as the long- and short-term objectives and needs for each location. The more your particular strengths and skills align with your company’s needs in a given country, the better positioned you are to land the assignment.
- Communicate your value proposition
To land the position you want, you’ll need to make a persuasive case for not only how your work abroad will advance the company’s goals, but also how what you learn will make you a better leader. Identify specific areas of need and build a case for how you are best positioned to meet them. Consider and communicate the ways in which working in a specific country will make you a more valuable member of the organization.
- Know what you’re up for
Opening a new factory in the Philippines over three years is a very different experience from joining an established office in London for a one-year assignment, and relocating with all the benefits of an expat assignment is a different experience than taking a local position. While being flexible on location and duration will increase your chances of getting a position, being unrealistic about what you and your family are up for is a serious mistake.
- Take a test run
If a short-term opportunity arises in your country or region of interest, go for it. Relocating for a few weeks or a couple months to address a specific challenge will give the company insight into how you perform in that location and will give you insight into whether a longer-term position is right for you.
- Demonstrate leadership at home
In a global assignment, you may need to take a conference call with HQ every week at midnight or lead in an entirely new way in order to ensure success in a different business culture. Demonstrating flexibility, responsiveness, adaptability and drive—along with honing skills that answer an identified need abroad—will strengthen your chances of being seen as the best fit for a given assignment.
- Have patience
If you think you’d like to work overseas, it’s never too early to start researching and preparing – the process can take anywhere from one to five years. Once you have a sense of where you might fit and the nuances of your company’s selection process, express your interest to your direct supervisor and then make sure your performance reflects the qualities needed for success in that role.
By Mark Thompson (EMBA ’01), vice president of human resources – Eaton Corporation, with Laura Schmitt