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3 Steps To Confess Your Abroad Dreams To Your Boss

We are half way through the year, meaning it’s time for the dreaded bi-annual employee review cycle.

Cue thousands of employees furiously collecting moments of success from their past 6-months of work while readying themselves for development discussions.

However, if going abroad and gaining international experience with your company has been on your mind this year, a mid-year review (or any set 1:1 reflection time with your boss) provides a terrific opportunity to broach this topic.

But, how?

Talking openly about your career dreams can be nerve-wracking exercise! But, the hardest part is getting started.

Here is a 3-step approach to confess your abroad dreams to your manager:

1. Make it more than just about you.

Sure you want to go abroad because it’s utterly amazing and life changing, but your boss will need more than that to see this as a worthwhile talent investment.

Start the conversation by talking about the changing needs of business in today’s global marketplace and the need for employees to be global thinkers. Grab some statistics from industry websites or mention global business goals within your organization.

Let your boss know that developing global skills that support business growth is important to you.

Finally, state that you’d be very interested in working abroad with the company in your next role and ask your boss if s/he would be willing to guide you on this path.

2. Show you are really serious.

At this point, your boss’s emotions could go in many directions. Be prepared for excitement, dismissal, or pointing you toward an HR document.

But, don’t let the conversation end here!

Instead, say that you expect this take multiple conversations so you’ve prepared additional ideas that you can get started with right away.

At this point, you want to pivot to focus on the global competencies you want to gain and ask for your boss’ feedback.

This is a crucial step because it conveys both your seriousness and your willingness to develop in order to make working abroad possible.

As a reference for selecting areas to gain global knowledge and understanding, I like the Global Competency Index (GCI), which focuses on a persons ability to interact effectively in a global setting.

Here are 2 recommended global competencies that you could suggest expanding as part of your development plan:

  • Increase your global business awareness (cosmopolitanism)
    1. Cosmopolitanism is your level of interest and curiosity about countries and cultures different than your own and the degree to which you seek out foreign information.
    2. If you’re serious about going abroad for work, you need to take an interest in what is happening in the business outside of your working country. You can start by asking to be included on newsletters, global calls, and inquiring about diverse team perspectives. If you’re business is only domestic, this could mean following the international industry trends though trade journals and intercultural readings.
  • Expand your comfort range (inquisitiveness)
    1. Inquisitiveness reflects your openness to and active pursuit of understanding diverse ideas, values, norms, and situations. Are you able to see business norms from new angles and can you adjust your working style accordingly?
    2. In a foreign environment what is right versus wrong is not always clear. For example, when you never actually talk about a contract during a contract meeting. To work on this competency, ask to shadow a foreign counterpart on calls and investigate how foreign counterparts view emails or company calls.

3. Gain experience now.

For many people getting an abroad assignment with their company takes time. If this seems to be the case for you, don’t be discouraged. Instead keep up the momentum by gaining international exposure and develop skills in the interim.

Here area couple of ideas that support you building global knowledge without being abroad:

  • Tag an international exposure trip (2-3 weeks working abroad in another office) onto a vacation.
  • Volunteer to work on a global project or global task force team.
  • Ask for a business mentor from another country or mentor a new hire from another country.
  • Take (many times free!) online courses to up-skill on Khan Academy, uDemy, edX, or Coursera.
    • Complete this course about working effectively across cultures.

In the end, if going abroad for work is on your must do list, then leverage review cycles to have a more direct discussion with your manager about your future global development.

One last word of advice: go in prepared! Your level of preparation can show your commitment and excitement for gaining this one of a kind experience.

Good luck!


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