Question – The best ways to prepare for working abroad

Moving to a foreign land for your career can be daunting, but there are things you can do before making the decision and ways you can get ready for the big trip. 

Question: I am looking to work at a social enterprise abroad, how do I even begin the process of due diligence and getting advice from people who are currently working there? Alaia 21, UK

Sounds like a great adventure Alaia! You’re right to highlight the importance of carrying out due diligence before making the move though.


My take

As with many things when it comes to careers, it’s worthwhile starting with yourself. What’s important to you about this move, what absolutely MUST be right and what are you prepared to take a risk on?


What to consider?

Areas to consider could include the following. Consider writing these days or copying them into a Word document for future reference. Always good to have them handy!

 

  • The organisation’s financial stability.
  • The background and credibility of the leadership.
  • The prospects for growth.
  • The extent of any positive social impact they claim to achieve.
  • Other CSR factors.
  • The organisation culture.
  • The contract – both formal and unspoken – with employees.
  • The opportunities for your own learning and development.
  • Opportunities for growing your network.
  • The team you will be joining, and the nature of the work you’ll be doing.

 

Come up with a long list and group them into similar categories. You’ll probably end up with 5-6 areas for further investigation.

Think through consequences. If the enterprise collapses after 6 months, will you still have learned something and make some good connections? If they have a great positive social impact, but they work their employees to the bone, could you stand that? How long for?


Gathering information

The obvious starting point is the organisation’s website.

Get a sense of the work they do and the culture they want to present. You can usually also identify people in management roles, and you might be able to access annual reports or financial statements, and find out who ultimately owns or funds the enterprise.

LinkedIn and social media will be a great resource. Reach out to employees for a conversation. You can be direct about this: let them know you are thinking of working for the enterprise, and that you’re trying to learn a bit more about them.

Then think more broadly: talking to ex-employees, customers, suppliers, funders and beneficiaries will give you a more complete picture.

Check the relevant trade press and local news to see if there are any stories. Check they are registered with relevant trade bodies or regulators.


Mitigating risks

Perhaps you can start by doing an internship remotely before committing to the move, to get a sense of what the work is like.

Or you could work as a freelancer for a period, so that if it doesn’t work out, it won’t look like a false start on your CV.


The bottom line 

The former head of US military forces and former secretary of state Colin Powell is credited with the 40-70 rule of decision-making. You should have no less than 40% of the information you need to make a tough decision.

But don’t wait until you have 100% of the information you need, or by then the opportunity will have passed you by. 70% will be sufficient if it includes the elements you identified as essential.

@thredmag

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