4 Ways To Decide If Relocating Abroad Is The Right Career Move For You

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Sep. 5 2018, Published 8:36 a.m. ET

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Last year I left the comfort of my hometown of Queens, New York for the job of my dreams in New Zealand.

Alongside my husband and two kids, we embarked on a journey literally around the world, to start a new life for this next step in my career.  A study conducted by HSBC on global expatriates found I’m in good company. Close to a quarter (22 percent) of expat millennials (aged 18-34) moved abroad for their career.  

Whether you’re actively evaluating a job offer or simply flirting with the idea of an international opportunity, here are four steps to decide if relocating abroad is the right career move for you.

1. Thoroughly Research The Company And Role

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It might be surprising that the first step in evaluating a job in another country is the same as for one across the street. Regardless of where it’s located, it’s still a job you’ll have to attend on a daily basis, so conduct your research accordingly. Where is the company positioned in the industry and what is the vision for its future? Where does your role fit in the organization, and how will your contribution enhance your professional growth? Leverage your professional networks and immerse yourself in online searches to gather enough information on whether the opportunity itself–separate from its location–is the right fit.

2. Learn About Living In The New Country

Outside of the typical due diligence for any new job, research the new city and country you’ll call home. While it’s tempting to get lost in beautiful vacation photos and excursion descriptions, remember that residing somewhere new is completely different than visiting as a tourist. Understand the everyday differences and think about how those impact your life.

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For example, will you have to learn a new language to simply get around day-to-day?  What are the biggest cultural differences? How ethnically and internationally diverse is the new city and are they friendly to American immigrants? Along with your research, don’t be afraid to ask questions on the country’s culture as you move forward in your interview process. Your new employer and colleagues will want to be as candid as possible. After all, it wouldn’t benefit them if you joined only to leave after your experience fell short of your expectations.

3. Evaluate The Life Change

If the first two steps check-out, personally reflect on the reality of leaving.  Depending on the distance, visiting family and friends as frequently as you once did might not be possible. Don’t underestimate the impact of distance and consider alternatives, such as regular video calls and annual visits, to maintain the relationships that matter most.  The same is true for your professional network.  While you won’t enjoy regular coffees chats with your old colleagues, checking in via email, social networks and even scheduling a call will keep those relationships warm.

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Outside of connections, a financial reality check is in order.  Even if your offering salary seems impressive, be clear on the varying costs in living expenses.  Your income may be higher, but your rent may also be more expensive.  While an initial check on uncovers prices for everything from jeans to a one bedroom apartment, your best bet is to simply ask the employer for price ranges and resources to help determine true costs.  Additionally, if you have any debts that you’ll be leaving in the states (i.e.: student loans) be clear on the currency exchange rate and account it into your budget.  You wouldn’t want to be surprised when a huge chunk of your take-home pay is dedicated to overseas payments.

Finally, consider the general quality of life you currently enjoy and the routines you’ve built to preserve it.  Perhaps it’s your weekly yoga visit or your favorite cozy neighborhood restaurant.  Contemplate on how you will transfer these into your new life in another country and how open you will be to the variances.

4. Keep An Open Mind

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Friends considering relocating sometimes ask something along the lines of, “What if it doesn’t work out? What if I hate the job? What if I hate living there?” If any of those things do actually happen, the answer is simple. You can always move back.  Instead though, why not focus on the other side of the What if? What if you take the opportunity and end up with an expanded perspective that benefits you both professionally and your overall life in general? Then you will forever be grateful that you took a risk, gave it a shot and became a better person because of it.

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