Greener Pastures? Execs Should Look Before They Leap!

Dec 9, 2008

Recently, due to economic pressures in the United States, we’ve seen a tendency for executives to lean toward new international career opportunities, which they perceive perhaps as less problematic and more fertile ground for future career growth.

Perhaps, or perhaps not. While various tempting incentives and sweeteners may on the surface seem attractive, the realities of the economy and a soft real estate market here may make relocation and the sale of a home difficult. A costly trailing effect or lag time as other geographic markets eventually are affected may bring the same problems to a new career, which coupled with a higher cost of living in the new environment should be carefully evaluated.

What may initially appear as an exciting, lucrative career opportunity may in fact cost a bundle and create unwanted exposure as executives lose their U.S. base and their family struggles in an unfamiliar environment with a new language, customs and culture.

As the global economic picture softens, and the pool of excellent available talent within regions increases, more companies are taking a closer look at offering unnecessary lucrative relocation package incentives formerly served up as inducements to attract top U. S. talent overseas.

In the U.S., companies are faced with the dim prospect of taking on the transferee’s real estate obligations, which they can’t unload easily in the soft U.S. housing market. In addition, relocation costs are quite expensive.

Worth the Move?

Additionally, once on the ground in the new location, the newly transferred executive may encounter some resentment from “locals” struggling to manage careers on their own turf. This can impact on family members as well as dealing with a “last in, first out” company mindset if the local markets begin to suffer.

If deteriorating economic conditions continue to follow the U.S. and extend into international markets, these executives might find themselves out of work, in an unfamiliar environment where local labor restrictions may prevent them from seeking other local employment. Since they are now “free agents” and not covered by the reach of a former employer who is now out of the picture, the difficulty in locating new employment may grow.

The result can be daunting. No job, the necessity to launch a career search in a foreign environment, or worse, to attempt to woo a U.S. company already loaded with job-searching individuals who do not require hefty international relocation costs, or even just the extra expense of traveling for an interview.

Grit or Glamour?

While the excitement and appeal of a glamorous international assignment may sound appealing and initially appears to be just the right move for many, career moves should be made on the basis of positive growth value over the long haul.

If, on the other hand, a move creates significant value for the company as well as the individual, if the employer will provide a strong employment commitment in writing, with termination clause guarantees and, most importantly, will provide a guarantee for a return home at their cost if the assignment takes a new direction, the opportunity may be worth exploring.

As a general rule in life, we seldom create greater opportunities by moving away from problems. Perhaps the re-greening of the U.S. pastures will occur sooner than expected, with quicker recovery than the foreign markets, which is well worth the wait.

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