Know What You Want
I used to be in charge of Executive Development for a large corporation. One day a middle manager came to talk to me about her career dreams. Within the organization, she had been designated a “hi po”–a high potential with the ability and likelihood to progress several steps higher. She was a good performer at her management job. She was quiet and soft spoken, and well respected among her peers.
She told me that she wanted to work internationally. She became quite animated as she discussed the kind of opportunity she wanted. Our company provided, at that time, international opportunity for the very top leadership, but not for others. Best case, she would have to wait years and have many other assignments before she got an international assignment. Worst case, it wouldn’t happen at our company. I didn’t share that explicitly with her, but we both knew it. Instead, we talked about the kinds of skills she would need to be good at such an assignment and how she could acquire those skills while she was working at her current job. She went away with some lists and lots to think about.
She took a couple of different assignments within the company that broadened her skills. Her desire for an international assignment didn’t abate, though, and she began to research opportunities. She investigated recruiters and companies that could provide her with the kinds of opportunities she wanted. She read about being an expatriate and came back to talk to me about the risks associated with that. She discovered that failure rates are high and can vary between 10% and 50% depending on the country. The reasons for failure range from cultural adjustments, language differences, assignment overburden, physical breakdown, and family stress to organizational issues such as a change of strategic direction, or failure to provide sufficient support. Some organizations do a very good job at preparing employees for international job change, as well as helping them repatriate when the assignment is complete.
Doing it on your own is a completely different. You have to teach yourself the things that the company would want you to know. This preparation process took several years for her. She was successfully employed during this time, but at the same time, she was focused on her goal–finding an international assignment where she could be successful.
She found a job opportunity. Luckily, there were people she knew connected to the company (this is highly recommended) and they were able to provide some
support. She took a job in a country far from home–on the other side of the world. She was lonely and overwhelmed and she turned all that into a blog-like communication to her friends and colleagues. She told us about her new experiences–her challenges with different cultural norms at work, living in a building with an elevator but erratic electricity, travel, food, and expectations. She worked several years for that company, landed another job at another company-same country, and then with another company, different country. She continues to learn and grow and be a valuable asset to her employer. And she is living her dream!
That First Step
All of us who received her communications were absolutely awestruck by her bravery. She was actually doing it! We were jealous. What experiences she was having!
She did it for herself. She didn’t wait for the organization to do it for her. She didn’t let the reported failure rates, or the things she didn’t know how to do, or the fact that her current organization didn’t have the opportunities, or the thought of selling her stuff, moving and being completely out of her comfort zone stop her. She took one step at a time, with a clear eye on what she wanted and where she was going.
What’s Stopping You From Taking That First Step Toward Your Dream?