How can I prepare for a move abroad?

I
have been an HR manager for nine years and my next goal is to become an
international HR manager, although my experience so far is entirely UK-based.
Any suggestions on how I can prepare for such a move? What qualities,
experience and knowledge will employers look for?

Clive
Sussams, recruitment consultant, Malpas Flexible Learning

Many
HR professionals aspire to international roles as part of their career
development. It is not easy, however, to find such appointments if you have not
had any international or expat experience, even in more junior positions.

My
initial suggestion would be for you to seek employment with an international
company which could give you the option of transferring to a suitable role
internally or at least give you the opportunity to gain some exposure to
international HR work. It may also be worth learning another language if you
have not already, as this may make you attractive to some employers.

To
be successful in an international role you will need to have a very retentive
memory and good understanding of employment and social cultures, as well as a
sound grasp of best practice HR and remuneration development.

Louise
White, consultant, EJ Human Resources

You
will need to convince a future employer that you have prepared yourself for the
upheaval this role could have on your personal life, as you will undoubtedly
have to spend considerable time away from home, which can be disruptive, tiring
and lonely.

Even
if you are predominantly UK-based, working with different time zones will
result in longer working hours. Tact, diplomacy and patience will be required
to deal with different cultures and an understanding how culture impacts on the
way business is carried out, is also essential.

Try
to build up a network of contacts who you can turn to for advice on
international law and consider taking a course in international HR, which will
show a future employer you are taking decisive action to achieve your goal.

Peter
Wilford, consultant, Chiumento

First,
you should explore opportunities within your current company. If it has an
international arm and overseas opportunities, you should ensure you are well
informed on the way these areas are developing and be clear about what you can
contribute. You should look to create opportunities to work closely with
someone with an international remit – ask someone with such a role to mentor
you, to encourage that side of your development. In addition you should seek
secondments or project work abroad in order to build your experience.

If
your own company does not provide scope for international work, you should look
to move to a company which does. 
Realistically, it would be highly risky for a company to appoint someone
outside their company to an international role without a track record in
international work, so that is unlikely to happen. You should consider a
sideways move to a company with international scope if it will lead, in the
longer term, to the work you desire.

From
a skills point of view, although it would be easier to make the transition if
you did have some international experience, it is still worth trying the job
market to see what success you have.

Other
key qualities for international work would be adaptability and flexibility,
dealing with ambiguity, a positive attitude, open-mindedness, excellent
communication skills, strong commercial awareness and resilience.

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