The decision to uproot my life at the age of 23 to pursue an international job opportunity was not easy, but I’m eternally grateful I went for it.
This post is going to be about the life lessons learned by throwing caution to the wind and moving to the opposite side of the world. As you might’ve read in my intro post last week, I took an opportunity to move from Boston to Sydney literally five months into the start of my career.
For my entire college and high school life I had been drawn to Australia. The people and traditions, the weather, the famous landmarks everywhere – all super appealing to me. I had told myself I’m getting to the land Down Under at my first opportunity, and chose to study aboard there during the summer of 2012. This solidified my love for the country and my desire to go back once I became a member of the working world.
I absolutely, never in a million years thought that opportunity would come about as fast as it did. Call it the right time, right place, but Acquia was growing in that region and needed willing and able young reps to make the move. I raised my hand and never looked back.
I’d like to provide all you awesome Home At 30 readers some insight into the experience of moving and working in a foreign land, and seven reasons I think taking the chance and making an international career move may be the best thing you ever do. Hopefully, you guys/girls will remember this post when someday an offer is made to you!
7 Reasons an International Job May Be Your Best Move
1. Embracing a new way of living
Face it – there are certain aspects of life you are never going to be able to grasp sticking to one area your whole life; and this goes beyond vacations and business trips; you’ll never know the true day-to-day balance of another culture until you’ve lived there full-time.
Australia presented this opportunity to me, and I mean more than just the drivers being on the opposite side of the road (extremely easy to overlook and quite dangerous actually).
2. It’s a perfect conversation starter
The international experience you’d be able to gain working abroad is something you’ll be able to talk to anyone about for the rest of your life. I drop the Australia comment multiple times per week at work as part of my introduction and background. You immediately warm up the audience mentioning some time abroad and it also becomes a potential topic of a longer conversation.
For example – I was on a business call with an NYC-based company we were working with, and during the introduction, I mentioned the time I spent in Australia developing our team over there. It turned out the guy on the other end of the line had recently spent a month traveling around Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia. We hit it off from there and the rapport on the call was incredible.
You will find things like this happening frequently after taking a leap of faith with an experience abroad. And never mind the dating benefits of casually dropping your international history into a conversation; I won’t cover that here but I’m sure you can imagine.
3. Set yourself up for any career pivot you need
No two international experiences are the same, I get that. However, I can tell you for sure that an experience working abroad is going to put you in a highly flexible career position going forward. Every time.
People you talk with at other companies will automatically know several things about a former abroad worker. They will assume you are a self-starter who never needs hand-holding when something needs to be done; a calculated risk taker who seized an opportunity that paid off well; a person who works well with other cultures.
All of the above (really the entire article) assumes you did a good job on your international gig, by the way! With that assumption in mind, you’ll have some serious firepower to transfer yourself into management style roles, international roles, and much more based on your experience alone. Happy hunting!
4. Annihilate your previous comfort zones
Not that I was ever “in a shell” personally, but nothing before in my life pushed me further outside my comfort zone than moving to Australia.
The only people I knew in the country were co-workers I hadn’t ever met in person before the move. I had no apartment and lived in a string of hotels and AirBnb’s for the first five weeks. My company had no office and we bounced around satellite spaces for the first FIVE months! It was just an insane experience.
You may very well be moving into a more well-established international role than I did, but I promise you that the experience is going to get you comfortable with something new and exciting on an almost daily basis. I love telling people in the U.S. about my commute to work in Australia: a 30-minute ferry through Sydney Harbor, right past the iconic Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Twice a day, I would do something that tourists literally traveled thousands of miles to experience. Pretty cool right?
5. Move up the ladder, and quickly!
Few feats in the business-world jungle are going to set you apart from the pack like a successful work campaign abroad. The CEO of my current company Acquia began his career with an international gig just like I did, and look where he is today running companies and chairing board meetings.
Proving your mettle in uncharted waters internationally is going to prove to your superiors you have what it takes to be self-sufficient and execute. In my own experience, working as a jack of all trades in our Sydney office proved to leadership back home my ability to help the team in any way possible. Any manager worth their salt values traits like those in a team member, and it will not be forgotten when a promotion opportunity opens up on the team.
In addition to the ability to gain the confidence of existing managers, working an international job will often provide you a managerial crash course of your own. Moving from company headquarters to a totally new location with no office, I was my own boss 24/7. I chose how to allocate my time day to day and ensure I was exceeding targets, and holding my teammates accountable (even my superiors). These traits often fall by the wayside when you get too comfortable day-to-day in the company HQ. I saw it happen to guys/girls on my former team while I was abroad!
6. Personal finance do’s/don’ts you’d never learn staying in the U.S.
This one will vary so much depending on your job type, size of the company, etc. but rings true for everyone regardless. There are so many headaches, some inevitable and some avoidable, on the road to settling into another country.
Almost by necessity, I learned the nitty-gritty of taxable income variation for U.S. expats, and how to ensure you aren’t getting double dipped by the U.S. government. Believe me, this does happen if you are not careful. Having a company take care of the tax legwork is going to be a massive burden off you should an international job take shape, so remember to request this upfront!
Another “need-to-have” before crossing the pond is a plan for finding an apartment, buying furniture and amenities, and generally settling into your new location. Ask your company about their flexibility with expensing these things, and write off as much as you can. Keep your bank account as full as you can while transitioning!
On the topic of bank accounts – make sure you have one open in the country you’re headed before getting there. If you can’t do this for the country in question, get as far down the path as an expat can do prior to arrival. Saves major headaches when you get off the airplane, believe me.
7. Your network will be international for the rest of your life
Last but not least! The relationships I formed while in Australia are ones that I will carry with me forever, both personal and business. The same is going to be true for any of you who spend a long enough time pursuing something similar.
After my experience abroad, I have trips to plan for the rest of my life back to the great place I once called home. I’d eventually like to take my family here, show them the in’s and out’s of daily life as an Australian, and have a solid understanding of the culture.
Additionally, I still keep in touch with the large majority of people I worked with over there. A few have moved on to other jobs but the network remains the same. If I ever get tired of the cold Northeast weather and want to return to the beaches of Australia, I am literally a few emails away from getting that process in motion! Options are a young professional’s best friend.
All opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of Home at 30 and are in no way affiliated with any other organization or institution. The purpose of this blog is to give general education and information about investing, wealth, careers, and college; It is not intended to be professional advice.
Author: Joe Savoia
Joe is a 2014 graduate of Northeastern University and currently works in a field sales role for technology company Acquia. He has worked internationally as one of Acquia’s earliest Australia-based employees and helped in the early stages to develop that region. Today Joe is based out of Boston and lives in Somerville, MA. Joe’s primary interests vary widely, including everything from robotics/AI to finance, blockchain, and the rapidly evolving world of tech we live in.