When we consider relocating, the common theme is the idea of an easier life. But expat life is not easy; it can be incredibly rewarding, but it is also frustrating, challenging and can be very isolating if you are not both motivated and committed to making it a success.
I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that to your potential overseas employer or relocating corporation, ‘you’ are the sum total of your resume. Actually, ‘you’ are your resume, your (carefully selected) references and your interview technique. You are not the person your therapist sees every Thursday, your overdraft, nor the parent whom your children alternately love and loathe.
This is also the bad news, because these are the characteristics that might give more insight for the HR department, your future boss and your relocation / destination service providers. They are the traits that affect not how you will behave in a new role, but in your new life.
People choose to relocate for a vast array of reasons, and many of them are not great. In fact most of the time, we don’t even stop to consider what’s driving us, and by the time we realize that it might not be such a good idea, the contract is signed, the flights are booked, and the household contents are halfway across the Indian Ocean.
No-one might ever ask you what it motivating you to move, but someone should.
That’s exactly what the first stage of any relocation process should be; asking yourself why you are considering such a major life change, and what do you really hope to get out of it? It’s the time to be honest, put pen to paper, and see if the things we want in our future life require a geographical move, or simply a little attention closer to home.
To get you started, here’s a snapshot of what prompted our first relocation, and the disadvantages we tried to predict. The categories are intended as a guide – feel free to add your own. Take as long as you need to brainstorm all the beliefs, expectations and plans for the assignment, and put it somewhere where you can add to it as moments of inspiration / enlightenment / terror appear. And don’t get caught up in specifics – this is to provide you with an overview, rather than a detailed list of pro and cons.
Once you have clarified your motivations for moving, list them in order of importance, including the positive and negative points. If your top three positives all involve a change of location, it’s time to move on to the next step – defining your expectations.
For those of you who are experienced veterans of the relocation world, we’d love to know what motivated you to start relocating, and what’s changed. Is there something that we’ve missed?
Photo courtesy of the Geoff Charles Collection at the National Library of Wales