If I were an Expat (1/10) - Managing your own career

It is important to consider how your Expatriation fits in your career plans and what your situation will be at the end of the assignment. My experience is that one of the most frequent problems for an Expat is the frustration experienced when returning home. In many cases, it is the result of a combination of factors, including non fulfilled expectations that are known as the " Expat Syndrome":

  • "The company promised me a promotion at the time of return and now they do not have the promised job for me "
  • "They always said it would provide a boost in my career and I'm back to the same position I was before leaving "
  • "I do not understand how my company does not take advantage of everything I have learned during my stay ," etc. .

The Psychological Contract : The theory of  the " Psychological Contract " would say that the company and the expatriate reach a psychological contract at the beginning of the expatriation which includes not only the formal Expat agreement , but also a set of more or less explicit promises by the company that constitute the real contract.

The initial negotiation is very relevant to understand the situation at the time of return. We can distinguish different types of expectations :
  • Formal:  included the Expat letter
  • Explicit : verbal promises made by a company representative on a particular aspect that is not included in the  Assignment Letter 
  • Implicit : conversations that lead to misunderstandings, or discussions with unclear conclusions in which each part is left with a different expectation .
  • Situational : Those made by the employee for what they " heard " or " everyone knows "
Most misunderstandings come from non-formalized expectations causing the loss of employee motivation, and an undesirable situation for the employee and the company .

Managing your career: Consequently, Expat managers and employees should agree expectations as clearly and realistically as possible to avoid problems in the future. However, in practice negotiations are complex. Against this background , it is even more important that the Expat keeps in mind that each one should manage his/her own career. That is, regardless of the commitments of the company, you should assess the impact of the assignment on your employability and your value as professional. 

In addition to the general benefits associated with any expatriation, you should evaluate your learning and progress in various aspects:
  • Promotion or expanded responsibilities
  • Improvement of skills, competencies and knowledge.
  • Flexibility and cultural management skills in an international environment
  • Languages, etc. 

As with any career change, your objective is to increase your employability in the labor market .

Employability: In the current economic environment, an expatriation certainly increases your employability and skills to work in an international environment.

This is key, as it is becoming more common for companies not to promise specific positions * According to a recent study, only 14% of post-Expat jobs are defined before the Expatriation begins. In addition, the business environment is increasingly dynamic and competitive, companies have to adapt their structures, expatriation may extend, and unforeseen changes occur. Even the worker changes his ambition and work preferences during the time he/she is out.

Placing returned employees depends critically on good planning and the available vacancies. The natural tendency is that the Expat will end up in a job that suits his/her profile, so enriching your experience and skills is the greatest assurance of finding a suitable position upon your return .

In a nutshell, manage your career and make sure you evaluate your Expatriation, and take advantage of all opportunities it brings you to raise your employability .

This will help you to approach your Expatriation in a healthy way and avoid as much as possible the risk of the "Expat Syndrome" .

* Results of the study on Expatriation Policies by E&Y and IESE in 2013 - http :/ /www.iese.edu/research/pdfs/ESTUDIO-293.pdf