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According to a recent study by global staffing firm, Randstad, only one in five Hong Kong employees view traveling for work as an added value to their job. On the face of it, 78 percent might seem a rather large number, but as with all statistics, the devil is in the detail.
This actually placed Hong Kong’s view of working abroad as the second most negative amongst Asian nations. Perhaps surprisingly, at the other extreme, employees in China strongly see the value of traveling for work, with a huge 98 percent believing that international work adds value to their job.
This might seem surprising, as employees in an international hub like Hong Kong are usually expected to be open to a certain amount of work mobility. In fact, PWC has forecasted international talent mobility to increase by over 50% by the time we hit the year 2020.
Could it be the case that Hong Kong is such a good place to work in and of itself, that nobody wants to leave to go elsewhere? An HSBC study certainly gives credence to that, having recently crowned Hong Kong the best place for expats looking to move up the career ladder to work. Maybe once people get here, they just don’t want to leave, and for the same reasons, those employed locally don’t look outwards either?
Well, they should! Here are five benefits of working abroad.
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Whether this be something obvious, like the local language, or something more specific to your profession such as local regulations, policy, process and procedure, working in another country is clearly an expansion of one’s professional learning and development. Korn Ferry – a global executive search firm – has previously reported that 31% of international business executives are bilingual. This is a clear example that language skills are going to have a positive influence on your ability to climb the career ladder. English is the first language for many, which makes Hong Kong a home away from home in terms of communication – with English being so widely used. Throwing yourself into an environment where the local language is more of a challenge can be very rewarding.
Even though connecting with professionals overseas can take just a few clicks of the mouse nowadays, a virtual relationship does not come close to the depth of quality in the connections you can forge in person overseas. Outside of your local environment you will get the chance to network with other stakeholders who may become influential later on when it comes to being tapped on the shoulder for your next internal promotion opportunity. Trust is a major part of doing business in Asia, and LinkedIn just isn’t going to provide the same “look in the eyes” moment of mutual trust and agreement.
When negotiating the terms of an overseas assignment it’s possible that your employer is going to reward you for the risk you are taking by going to a new country. Often you will only be offered an overseas opportunity because the business feels that you have the ability to deliver for them where someone else cannot. In fact, there is sometimes a very visible dollar value for the company in you making the move. This is certainly the case for expats in Hong Kong with more than 60 per cent of them stating that they earned more in Hong Kong than they did in their home country. This figure compared with just 45 per cent globally. The compensation packages available in other countries may well not be at the same level as Hong Kong, but if your company wants you to work in another country, that is likely to give you at least some bargaining power over the potential monetary rewards.
With international mobility assignments set to increase over the next 5 years, those who have had the chance to work overseas will return home with deeper skill-sets, experience and perhaps even pockets. Having an overseas assignment on your resume is going to support your career development and may potentially become a benchmark for employers when looking to promote or hire leaders in the future. In a world that is becoming increasingly competitive, having international exposure might not end up being an exception, but the rule. Get ahead of the game!
Call me sentimental, but the more varied your surroundings and the people you interact with, the more opportunity there is to have life enduring experiences, build long lasting relationships and make the most of your professional career overall.
As things stand, employees from India, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore are all more open-minded to the benefits of working abroad than Hong Kongers. Perhaps there is more to working life than just Hong Kong!