A move abroad brings exciting opportunities—a sense of adventure, travel and new friendships to be formed—but there is also the apprehension of making a move and all that goes with it. I often counsel my candidates on the realities of moving abroad, and having recently relocated myself, I understand what is involved in making such a move.
At the end of 2015, I made the decision to move from Major, Lindsey & Africa's London office to our Hong Kong office. I personally experienced three phases to my move that everyone will go through when they relocate. Hopefully, my insight will start you thinking about the things you need to think about when making a move internationally.
I'm great at organizing. My partner lets me write all my lists, boss him around, put things in piles, send emails and delegate things that I do not want to do. My flat is just sections of stuff we have collected over the years so this is a great chance to clear out – did I really need to keep that jumper? Probably not.
Do the same at work – tidy your emails, create new systems, clear out folders. It's a rare time that you will have a bit of downtime from work. Sort out the life administrative details you never get around to, create that workout plan, set goals. I have been writing my 100-day plan for when I arrive in weekly segments. Some of it is very generic, but it will enable me to focus and succeed whilst settling into a new country and culture. I also take a moment to consider from what I could have done better at the start in my role in London, which will (hopefully) let me hit the ground running when I get there.
Packing your desk and your belongings, saying goodbye to family and friends—it doesn't feel real. As I gazed out the window at the autumnal trees, I realised I love seeing the leaves change color. Is this the last time I will eat at this restaurant? My last Anti-Gravity Yoga class that I love so much, how am I going to do this in Hong Kong? It's a strange feeling; there's some finality in everything but also something kind of magical about wondering what lies ahead.
Relocating gives you an opportunity to refresh and tap into new ideas that may not have become apparent without such a move. If you are going abroad, talk to people about it, internally and externally, and use it to tweak things you do, your reactions and your work. Take this time before you go to seek feedback on your performance and improve yourself. A phone call goes further than an email, so don't miss out on this unique opportunity to prepare for a fresh start. Because now it's time to go.
I'm here and the first week feels like a holiday. The weather is warm. I have that smug feeling that whilst everyone is back to work, I'm sightseeing, trying new food and experiencing new things. Then it hits me – what have I done, who do I know, where am I?! There are four stages of culture shock: honeymoon, frustration, understanding and acceptance. Keep these stages in mind when starting at a new firm – things will be different but embrace those differences. The fatigue sets in and everything seems a million miles away and incredibly difficult to get done – it is usually the simplest of tasks that put the most pressure on you.
Understand this when starting a new role and embrace the excitement. Going back to work put me in good routine, which centered me, and I channeled that energy into my work. A new role and a permanent move are daunting, but if you went on secondment instead, your experience is going to be different because there is always that looming feeling of return. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is a good thing; it helps you to grow, develop and become successful.
Moving abroad for work is a great opportunity to develop new skills, advance your knowledge and travel. There's a whole world out there, so go and explore it!
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Nathan Peart is a Search Consultant in the Associate Practice Group in the Hong Kong office of Major, Lindsey & Africa. Nathan works closely with associates to help them make a lateral move into law firms within the Asia Pacific regions as well as internationally.