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How an international assignment can boost your career

15 March, 2017Phil Renshaw

This blog is the first in a five-part series on the importance of international assignments in the finance and banking industries.

Working overseas on a long-term assignment in your business has considerable advantages for your employer and, crucially, for your career development.

Research consistently shows a shortage of top talent around the world. This means that you are in demand, provided of course you develop the talents and capabilities that employers in financial services are looking for. Given the importance of globalisation to strategic success in financial service as explained in my prior blog, you can develop these skills by going on a long-term overseas assignment. I emphasise long-term, meaning 12 months or more, because the potential to develop is considerable and is unlikely to be achieved in a short visit.

The capabilities sought by financial services employers will always include some specific technical skills, but in most cases we can identify the key requirements that apply in all cases. Technical skills, of course, include understanding and anticipating foreign legislation, rules and standards, as well as knowledge of the global market place. An international assignment can expose you to new and more high-profile work enabling you to gain technical skills and crucially, to build your leadership potential. As described in my last blog, financial services businesses have an increasing desire to recruit people with these experiences.

The ability to transfer your existing skills into new departments and market places requires a combination of technical and softer skills. From a future leadership perspective, it is these softer skills that are critical. These include flexibility and adaptability, communication skills, resourcefulness and resilience. Of course, learning these may not be easy which is why a positive outcome will likely boost your confidence and show that you can go beyond your comfort zone. You can learn, develop and clearly demonstrate that you have all these skills from an international assignment.

It is important to realise that you could face all sorts of challenges on an assignment from different cultures, to different ways of working and different expectations. And all this when your previous support network, family and friends are back home potentially thousands of miles away and in a completely different time zone. You can definitely anticipate a certain level of stress and hence working overseas is not for everyone. However, if you can ensure the appropriate support from your employer and you take steps to organise your own support network, there are significant potential opportunities available to you.

There is an ever-growing demand for employees with international experience. Research has shown that CEOs with international assignment experience are able to improve the performance of their organisation compared to those without such experience. Furthermore, CEOs and CFOs have been shown to achieve higher salary packages as a result of their international experience. So we know the benefits exist which is great for those of you who have always wanted to work overseas anyway. The challenge then, is to find a place. In my next blog I will describe how to go about this.

About the author:

Phil Renshaw is an expert in the value of international assignments, and is pursuing research in this area within financial services for a PhD at Cranfield University and as a Henry Grunfeld Research Fellow. He also leads the Leadership in Banking module in our MSc in Banking Management and Practice. You can contact him directly at phil.renshaw@edu.libf.ac.uk