Living abroad can be a life changing and eye opening experience. By submerging yourself in a new culture, you gain a new perspective on life, meet new and diverse people and feel connected to a community of global citizens. Not only can you benefit from the personal enrichment of living abroad, it is also an excellent career development opportunity and can pave the way for leadership opportunities.
From navigating a new city, juggling time zones, adapting to new cultural expectations and learning a new language, living abroad can sometimes feel like a master’s program – it certainly felt that way to me as I relocated across Asia and Europe from the US. It requires you to learn quickly, be flexible when things don’t go as planned and accept that change is the new normal. All are important skills that can be transferred to the workplace.
A recent study led by William Maddux, an associate professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD found that people with international experience - or that identified with more than one nationality - are more creative, flexible and better problems solvers. They are also more likely to start new businesses and products. These finding are consistent with the fact that of the top 25 US-headquartered tech companies, 60% were founded by first or second generation Americans, as reported by Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
While it may be challenging to live away from your familiar native ground, what you gain from stepping outside your comfort zone can be an invaluable asset for life and a fast track to leadership. In fact, the WSJ recently reported that almost 40% of CFOs at the largest public and private companies in the U.S have worked abroad and according to Korn/Ferry International, this number is anticipated to increase.
Having lived and worked in APAC, EMEA and USA and as the CEO of a company that employs over 25 nationalities, I see on a daily basis how the experiences acquired from living abroad are a competitive advantage for companies. Living outside your home country enables you to view the world through a wider lens and approach situations from a number of different points of view.
For example, on my engineering team alone, we have employees from 10 different nationalities. Not only does the team have to familiarize with the various personalities, they also need to understand and adapt to different cultures. This international exposure is a competitive skill set for the 21st century organization and can really help businesses to succeed outside their home market.
Living abroad has made me the global leader that I am today. It is also why I am so passionate about building a company that makes it easy for people to enjoy all that living abroad has to offer. As companies continue to expand abroad at momentous rates, the skills that employees acquire working across borders are essential to building successful global leaders in a global economy.