For every step we want to make in our career. There is always a strategy behind it.
We take into account the location, asking ourselves where my expertise would thrive and if there is a demand for the skill set, we look at the industry, using market intelligence to see which is the most recession-proof, and has been less impacted by the economic strain.
To weed out the competition in a highly competitive market, we also factor in the evolving trends and the necessary academic certifications needed to excel. Most importantly, we evaluate and leverage on our personal and professional network.
But when it comes to relocation, what strategy do we implement to ensure that our expertise is being utilised in the best way possible?
The truth is there is no one-size-fits all strategy. In fact, it works on a case-by-case basis. What may have worked for person A, will not necessarily work for person B. The setback person C experienced may not be relevant to Person D.
Each circumstance, professional journey, and country of relocation differs. But one thing does remain the same is the mind-set and your approach to integrating into the employment market.
In the west, your understanding of the market from indigenous perspective is just as or I dare to say even more important than your expertise and academic qualifications. So what that means as a professional relocating to a new country (again – on a case by case basis) it will not always be a smooth & Horizontal Shift transition.
The Horizontal Shift is a process where you move along your career and your job title is the same but your responsibilities or hierarchy differs due to organisation size, industry, and remuneration.
For example, a Regional Sales Manager in a Small and Medium Scale Enterprise would have fewer offices under their purview, work with fewer employees and have less Key Performance Indicator in comparison to a Regional Sales Manager of a multinational organisation that has a countrywide footprint, larger staff strength and higher market penetration expectancy.
Some sectors can be exempt from this ideology such as IT, and sectors that are reliant on technical expertise because they are focused on tangible products and do not necessarily need market intelligence to thrive.
For example, if you’re a car mechanic, whether you are fixing cars in Nigeria or Hong-Kong, the parts and the car still remain the same.
If you’re a Microsoft Azure Engineer, your location has no impact on your expertise because it is a system you are administering to sales and marketing on the other hand is a debatable sector.
The success of a sales professional is a combination of your technical expertise (i.e., know the product/service you are selling) and your understanding of consumer trends and the market you are selling to.
You can have all the attributes of a great salesperson which is only half of your role, to be completely successful, you also need to understand how the region operates, which differs from state-to-state talk less from country to country.
Human Resource, finance, law, healthcare and education etc. are all sectors that require you to have proven knowledge of the country’s corporate and regulatory governance. This would be in the form of converting a local accreditation like the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria into a globally recognised certification like the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, or Chartered Financial Analyst as finance professional.
As a medical professional, this would entail converting your local license into the country’s national regulatory board.
So, with all this being said, how does a professional integrate into a new employment market without demoting their value because of their lack of market intelligence?
Firstly, before venturing into the land of the unknown, measure your bandwidth. Research your sector and expertise, then draw up a comparison to what your current role is, its equivalent in the country of relocation and be realistic.
Accept that it may be lower in terms of hierarchy and responsibility, but it would be much better in terms of remuneration and exposure to a new market that you can leverage on.
Don’t wait until you get there to do this; a lot of people make this mistake with the ideology that as soon as they arrive, they will get a job and when it doesn’t go that way it is a huge shock to the system.
The more you mentally prepare for that landing, the softer it will be. You have to gauge your expertise strategically and apply for roles that are best matched with your level of experience or your transferable skills can be demonstrated.
Do not fall into the trap of “desperation” by applying for an entry level position as an experienced professional just to get into the door. As a recruiter, they would be reluctant to shortlist you because you are immediately seen as an “attrition case”.
Someone with such experience wouldn’t develop a career of longevity and it would be a waste of their time and yours.
Secondly, have the Supply to Grow attitude and not a Demand to Supply. Supply to Grow simply means that you have a skillset, an expertise that can be of value to an organisation and you are willing to join the organisation to help them achieve their business objectives as well as grow as a professional, no airs and graces.
This is a necessity when trying to integrate into a new employment because from the onset the odds are against you due to the lack of in-country experience.
What an organisation wants to see is a skilled professional who can contribute significantly to an organisation and is ready to unlearn to relearn a new environment.
Demand and Supply attitude is typically what we see in the workforce. We weigh up our expertise, demonstrate our market knowledge, leverage on our network and seal the deal with the expectation that you have what an organisation wants so they should pay for it. While that is true, you cannot go into a new market with that mindset.
Demonstrating a Supply to Grow; approach doesn’t take anything away from the career you have built or the validation of your craft, it simply means where the odds are against you something has to give temporarily in order for you to thrive permanently.
I have seen so many instances where in an interview it was all over before it began because the wrong approach was demonstrated.
I have also seen professionals have talked their way out of job offers because they imbibed a form of negotiation that may work in Nigeria but carries no weight in the West.
Thirdly, when you have successfully integrated, sit back and absorb and stay in an organisation long enough to establish your presence. Not only for the authenticity of your expertise in your new location but to demonstrate your understanding of how the market works.
When shortlisting, employers in the west do not just look at the level of your expertise, they look at how long you stayed in the organisation that your impact was relevant. Unless you were in a contract or temporary assignment, to any employer this is a red flag.
Don’t be in a hurry to move companies so soon because you have a new location on your CV. If you try to move prematurely, it will put all the work you put into integrating in vain. Look for ways to progress within the organisation that first opened their doors to you, despite your lack of international exposure it will pay off.
Take the time to engage with your colleagues, learn about their journey, and carve your niche by encompassing what you have known, what you have learnt, and how you can thrive.
While you’re there, maximise the opportunity to fund your professional development so that when the time comes to move on to greener pastures, you are equipped with the tools to leverage in a new environment with international experience and multi-faceted expertise.