Stepping out of one’s comfort zone can be a challenge for any professional, including an entrepreneur. However, research shows that moving to a different country for education or work can actually improve your business acumen.
It is a well known fact that professionals with some amount of international experience stand out from their competitors in terms of many functional and behavioral skills. That’s why many people choose to take up training courses, internships, assignments, or job offers in other nations.In addition to gaining exposure to the working style of a different country, there is a lot more you can learn and do while working abroad. Read on to find out why moving abroad will make you a better businessperson.
The environment of commerce and business has never been more international than it is today. Interaction and integration among people worldwide has become mandatory in this age of technology. Almost all governments as well as organizations around the globe are driven by international trade and investment regulations, seeking a common economic, financial and communicative platform. To be successful at work or in business, it is imperative for any professional to have at least some amount of knowledge and experience about the culture of other places. Moreover, in order to work with the people of any country it is essential for you to know what makes them tick.
Almost every organization today operates on a global platform and is required to deal with investors, clients, partners, vendors and other stakeholders from across the world. Being universal is therefore the key to the success of any service or product. This is why most multinational establishments are hiring executives and top managers from foreign countries.
It is possible for you to learn about people and cultures through books and the internet; however a personal element is much more useful. When you study or work overseas, you tend to interact more with the people around you on a daily basis. Over a period of time, you should be able to understand not just their behavior, but also their attitudes, values and beliefs. These aspects play a very important role in the way people do business. For example, anyone who has worked in Japan will know how essential it is to treat everyone with a lot of respect. Similarly, people only realize that the Brits aren’t as formal as they may first seem to outsiders, after doing business with them for a while.
Showing cultural sensitivity towards the people of different regions will definitely give you an edge over your competition right from the beginning.
Mobility has become a great way for people to showcase their skills to stakeholders. Employers usually prefer offering the more challenging opportunities to applicants who have studied or worked abroad for some time, as they can bring a more diverse perspective to their business. Professionals who take up assignments or jobs overseas therefore have the tendency to grow in skills due to the steep learning curve.
As a businessperson, you could gain an insight into new ideas or strategies that work well in other places and the implement the best practices within your setup, thereby enabling your firm to grow at a much faster pace.
Many entrepreneurs have set up highly successful businesses in their homes, by trying out an idea that they came across in a foreign country. They have the advantage of exclusivity, as they become the “pioneers”, with no competitors in the initial stages. With the right strategy in place, such establishments continue to rule the markets even in the face of competition.
This trend is especially common among those who are in the food, hospitality and entertainment businesses. Of course, it is essential that you learn everything there is to know before investing your time and money into something no one in your territory has tried before.
Moving to a different place gives you the chance to learn a new language. Being bilingual or multilingual offers you a huge advantage in today’s corporate world, even though English is used as the main language for business in most nations. In fact, many professionals learn a foreign language, just to interact more easily with their clients or partners from a different country. It is best to start learning the language even before you move, so that you can use a few words and sentences to get around. It isn’t necessary to sign up for a class to do that. Many people learn foreign languages from books and mobile apps.
At times, people of different cultures speak the same language but have a different way of communicating. For example, Americans and Brits both speak English, but the manner in which they get the message across is not the same. Similarly, Asians tend to be very high context (good at reading between the lines and making assumptions) whereas people from the western countries are low context (they don’t assume anything and prefer to have things spelled out for them). The level of formality used by Asians is also a lot higher than most Brits and Americans.
Living with people of a particular culture will enable you to understanding their communication styles. Adapting your communication patterns accordingly will help you to interact better with others.
Settling down in a new place is far from easy, especially in the initial months when you have to make major changes to the life that you have been used to. The unfamiliar environment will bring home the fact that most social norms and customs are not set in stone. A majority of the people you interact with will probably follow a different set of rules, and if you want to become a part of the society, quick adaptability is essential. The entire experience is likely to increase your resilience levels in the long run. The ability to be flexible is a huge advantage in the business world.
Interestingly, leadership styles also vary from one culture or country to another. For example, in Germany, managers usually motivate their staff members by showing solidarity with them when it comes to following procedures. In France, the management tends to focus more on the performance instead of the outcome. Being able to change your leadership style according to the region you are running your business in will improve your overall management skills.
As you achieve common goals by working with a diverse set of people, you should find yourself in a better position to manage a team that consists of varied types of individuals. This will also enable you to accept different people’s points of view with a higher degree of fairness and objectivity, thereby adding synergy to the way your business is handled.
Most people stay connected with professionals from around the globe with the help of social networking sites. Businesspeople who have never met each other often stay in touch on a daily basis through emails, telephone and video calls. However, living overseas gives you a chance to develop strong personal connections with people in that country. Even when you move back home, you can continue to nurture these relationships, both personally and professionally.
Staying in touch with all your overseas connections could prove to be highly beneficial for your company. Your network may come handy in expanding your base of clients, vendors or other important contacts.
Relocating to a new place has to be worth your while in monetary terms too! Fortunately, most companies offer professionals a high compensation package for signing an overseas contract. Some people earn earn almost twice as much abroad as what they earned back home. This is one of the main reasons why aspiring entrepreneurs take up long term job opportunities or short term assignments in other countries. They believe that they can save up a larger amount of money within a shorter span of time, which will make it possible for them start their business sooner.
Unfortunately, not everyone manages to put aside what they thought they would, either because of poor planning or overspending. To avoid this problem, carefully calculate all your possible expenses and the exact amount of money you will make, before you take up any offer. Don’t forget to factor in your moving costs, rent, utility bills, travel and commuting costs, and other expected monthly expenses. Also keep some money aside just in case of an emergency. Negotiate your package accordingly and if possible, get your employers to pay some of your rent, utilities and travel expenses.
In many cases, people don’t manage to save up as much as they can, because they lead a highly active social life. To reduce this risk, it is best to have some part of your income put directly in a savings account or go towards an investment that cannot be touched for a while. Keep reminding yourself that the funds in this account are for your future business so that you don’t touch them. The good thing is that once you get used to living within a budget, you will have better control over your spending habits.
Credit cards are very useful but they also increase your risk of getting into debt. If you do rely on cards, make sure that you clear the balance as soon as possible. Financial experts usually advise people to use their credit cards only in case of an emergency.
Deciphering a completely different culture usually helps a person to become more creative. This is one of the benefits of expanding your comfort zone, or indeed stepping out of it. As a foreigner in a new country, your primary goal will probably be figuring things out as soon as possible. At the same time, you should also look for simple and more effective ways to overcome any challenges that you face on an everyday basis. All these practices are a great way in which you can develop or hone your problem solving skills.
Every business comes with its fair share of challenges and your ability to resolve problems in a calm, composed and effective way will be very beneficial. Don’t forget to get creative and consider your knowledge about culture, value systems, beliefs and attitudes when looking for a solution.
Remember that moving abroad will no doubt be beneficial to you personally too, in several different ways. Most people who have had this experience claim to have become more a lot more independent, self-reliant and confident than before, as a result of stepping out of their comfort zone. Of course, integrating yourself into a new society will also make you more adaptable and understanding towards various situations. A longer stint will allow you to gain a broader and more sophisticated view of the world, through which you could diversify the thoughts and values you grew up with.
It is important to bear in mind that living overseas isn’t necessarily a criterion for success in case of every businessperson. Many people have done very well for themselves, in spite of never having set foot in a foreign country. On the other hand, some people have seen failure even after spending years abroad. So, while international experience can help you hone your skills, the success of your ventures will depend on several different factors.
Have you worked abroad? Share your experiences in the comments below, or answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!