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Working abroad? Here’s when it’s time to come home

3 Oct 2018

Relocating for work can be one of the most exciting experiences you will have, but sometimes that move should only be temporary. Hays’ Grant Torrens is here to show you the signs it’s time to come home.

I am of the opinion that moving overseas for work is one of the best things a person can do for their career and is something everybody should try at least once.

Take myself, for example: I moved to London from Australia in 2006 before relocating to Singapore in 2010 and I never looked back. I have had the opportunity to increase my cultural intelligence, experience different job markets and learn new languages – and I’m in no hurry to leave!

But, sometimes, an overseas move doesn’t last as long as mine has, with some reaching their expiration date sooner than planned, and this is OK too.

I have run international teams in Asia for quite some time now, long enough to recognise when an employee is ready to return home. Here are the three key signs that I’ve picked up on.

You have taken all you can from this experience

As I said, there is so much to be gained from working in a new country and, when you first moved here, you may have felt like you hit the ground running and learned about 20 new skills overnight.

But now, everything has started to slow down, to the point where you are wondering if you are actually moving backwards. It’s been a while since you experienced anything new, and your gut is telling you that maybe you have taken all you can from this move.

Think about what you wanted to learn and achieve when you first moved overseas. What were your objectives, and have these been fulfilled? If so, what does the next step in your career plan look like, and does it involve working abroad?

Working overseas has to align to your career goals and if you don’t feel like you are moving forward any more, then maybe it’s time to move back.

Opportunities are just as promising at home

When you moved overseas, your career prospects were looking much better abroad than they were at home. Your expertise was in high demand, and you were in a position to get the best benefits, training opportunities and salary.

But now, some time has passed, you have a new host of skills and experiences to your name and, actually, your career prospects back home are now looking pretty good – in fact, employers are approaching you, offering more financial rewards and better career development.

That’s the good thing about today’s world of work. It is much more fluid and flexible than ever before and, while working overseas can do wonders for a person’s career, there will usually be opportunities in your own home country, too.

You still don’t feel settled

Perhaps the issue with staying in this new country isn’t anything to do with your career. It’s been a year or more of trying to integrate with the team, get to grips with a new culture and build a social life. And maybe on the surface of it, you’ve succeeded. But deep down, you still don’t feel a sense of belonging. You can’t help but think if you were going to feel at home, you would do by now.

What’s more, you miss your home country, your friends, your family – and you find that you jump at the chance to speak to others about the life you left behind.

While your career progression path is important, so is your personal wellbeing. And, actually, you can’t give your career your absolute best if you aren’t happy in your environment – this is true for anyone, not just people working overseas.

If you are still feeling unsettled, even after doing everything you can to adapt to your surroundings, then maybe home would be a better place for you to continue your journey – both personally and professionally.

As I said, I really believe that everyone who wants to grow as a professional should try working abroad at least once in their career. But, if an international move comes to an end quicker than you anticipated, returning back to your home country doesn’t mean you are regressing in any way.

In fact, if the above signs resonated with you, then I would suggest that, in this case, moving home actually means moving forward in your career.

By Grant Torrens

Grant Torrens is the business director at Hays Singapore. His team are specialist recruiters for banking operations, projects and change management, risk management, trade finance, sales and trading, private banking, and insurance.

A version of this article originally appeared on Hays’ Viewpoint blog.

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