Homeward Bound: Managing Global Career Transitions

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” Nelson Mandela

Career junctures of any sort are rarely straightforward. Arriving at the moment of ‘what’s next’ often causes us to reassess what is really important and how we would like to architect our lives. This question takes on an additional layer of complexity when it comes to international transitions.

Sometimes these junctures can be lifestyle driven, other times the tug of family (such as aging parents, children entering a critical time of school), or work opportunities can be the catalyst.

Like many within the Insync Network Group community, my significant career juncture came when I made the decision to return ‘home’ to Australia. After seven years in the UK, I was considering my next career move and was presented with a great role along with the salary and benefits to match. I had loved living in the UK but ultimately, I knew that I wanted to return to Australia. Given the organisation did not have a presence in Australia there was no option of relocation, so the decision to leave this opportunity behind was not a light one.

My time in London afforded me incredible opportunities both personally and professionally. My career took on a soaring trajectory with the prospects seemingly endless (both internally and externally), and brought with it challenge, diversity and perspective. If there were two words that characterised my career at that point, it was growth and momentum.

Family and lifestyle largely drove my decision to Australia and as a result, little consideration was given to the true impact on my career. I felt the additional knowledge and skills and global experiences and perspectives I had gained aboard would support me in my next step – regardless of where that may be.

As a result, the extent of planning my return started and stopped with managing the logistics and social aspects of the move on each side of the world. Arriving home, I was looking forward to taking some time to consider what the next step was and how I could leverage my experiences acquired to that point.

Then came the cold hard realisation that I had completely underestimated the challenge of moving my career back to a significantly smaller and highly networked market – one that I had no presence in, no networks in and in a city I hadn’t lived in.  

Like many returning Australian’s, I spent countless hours attempting to convey my professional story with little or no traction in the market. Whilst fully cognizant that I may have to take a sideways or slightly backward step to re-enter, the reality I might have to disregard my offshore experience altogether was alarming. This left me feeling shut out of the market and wondering if I could make the permanent move home work at all. Compounding the challenge was that my experience had been built in a market that largely didn’t exist in Australia.

There is no doubt that my failure to plan my career transition was at best, naïve and at worst, ignorant. It was one that proved incredibly costly in terms of how I positioned myself to the market and the level at which I re-entered.

While I have ultimately rebuilt my career and do not regret my decision to return to Australia, there are many things that I wish had considered and planned for prior to loading all my worldly goods into that shipping container. Doing so would have helped me prepare more effectively both socially and professionally.

6 Key Tips for Managing an International Career Transition:

  • Planning is paramount: Just as you do with any other move, start planning well before you get on the plane. Defining what it is that you need from your career and lifestyle will help you make informed and timely decisions, regardless of your primary motivation for returning. If your desire is to transfer your career at a near similar level, your engagement with the local market should start at least 6-12 months prior to arrival – and even longer if you are in the senior leadership ranks.  
  • Do your market research: While it is important to know what you can and want to do, it is another thing to know what the market will let you do. Australia is a significantly smaller market than where most expats are returning from. It is also highly networked and is imperative that you understand the local industry drivers, key business and leadership changes and the ‘on the ground’ challenges being faced.
  • Connect, connect, connect: The importance of our networks cannot be under-estimated, and the digital tools at our disposal make it entirely possible to begin building or re-establishing your networks before you return. Map your ‘old’ networks but take the time to identify who the key people are in the industries, organisations and roles that are of interest to you.
  • Hone your positioning: It is important to articulate your offshore experience and do so with local relevance. Often, you may need to communicate this to an audience who has no experience with the scale, diversity or level of complexity you have been exposed to. With the ever present ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’, doing so without downplaying your value or experience is one that requires very real consideration.
  • Build your resilience: Too often we fail to adequately prepare ourselves mentally and emotionally for the move back to a once familiar place. Just because we have lived here successfully once before doesn’t mean it will be easy – in fact it is often the hardest move you will ever make. People change, communities change, we change. Knowing how and where we fit in that new landscape is a journey in and of itself. 
  • Join the Insync community! Finding others who ‘get it’ when it comes to moving home plays an enormous part in successfully transitioning. Like many of the expat communities that we are returning from, there is an intuitive understanding of the journey you are on and a strong desire to support through the sharing of knowledge, insights and networks for all areas of life and career.

To learn more about our membership programs and how to join our network, book a call here or send me an email directly and I will be in touch.