Communication is key to working abroad

Britons
seem to be somewhat reluctant to travel abroad for their careers. That was the
surprising findings of a survey conducted by Personnel Today together with
career consultancy Penna Sanders & Sidney. But here Dot Morfett,
international comp and bens director for 3Com argues the case for taking the
international route.

3Com’s
globetrotting international comp and bens director Dot Morfett has made a
career out of international management. But then, as she explains, she began
life with an internationalist bent, combining a degree in languages with a
masters in HR and squeezing a stint with the VSO in North Africa in between.
Her career over the years has led her to Africa, Asia and America, where she
first began working in the IT sector – plunging in at the deep end with a role
developing global leadership programmes for Perot Systems.

Although
currently heading up 3Com’s international payment and reward team, Morfett is a
practiced HR generalist able to turn her hand to most things. Her broad remit
on joining was to "consolidate processes and organisations across the
world, to make sure [local] organisations work in as consistent a way as
possible. In many ways, she can be seen as a cultural super-conduit. One of the
best things about the job, she says, is you never get stale. "It’s an
opportunity to learn every day. You appreciate there are many different ways of
getting to the same place. You look for parallels in all the different cultures
you go through and try and share that knowledge. You try and develop people so
when you leave they can carry on."

Morfett
is not surprised that so many survey respondents expressed fears that working
abroad could prove a career dead-end. It’s easy to lose sight of the
contribution that an international role can have on overall career development
"unless you have a management programme in place." At 3Com she has
worked hard to perfect this. When someone is relocated abroad "we keep
very close to that person and make sure there’s a reintegration plan when they
return". She often gets people to talk to others about their experiences
over lunch.

The
most difficult and frustrating part of the role (apart from being in Chicago
and finding your luggage is still in Dallas) is being absent when something important
is going on at work or at home. But underpinning all this is "a very
supportive family". If you’re going to juggle the two, she says, "Be
very aware that you need to work harder to keep personal communications
flowing".

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