For many life science organisations, the best talent isn’t always on their doorstep. For leadership-level roles, organisations tend to look further afield and source talent internationally. With international relocation at their disposal, organisations truly have no limitations when it comes to securing the best candidates.
For executives and senior managers, international relocation can be a fantastic opportunity. It allows them to forge a fresh start, enhance their careers and broaden their personal and professional experiences in a different country. With thirty-seven per cent of individuals willing to relocate to advance their careers, it’s clearly a desirable opportunity for the ambitious executive. All things considered, however, it’s a huge adjustment and something that requires a lot of thought, due diligence and preparation on behalf of the relocator. A failed relocation could damage your career, disrupt your personal life and cost your employer dearly – according to Mobility Magazine, organisations could lose approximately $76,000.
So you’ve applied for a job which would involve international relocation and received an offer, but before you leap at the chance to accept, take some time to truly consider everything. There’s nothing worse than making rash decisions that you’ll end up regretting later. Have you considered…
- …if your family will relocate with you, or will they remain at home?
- …the lifestyle changes of an international relocation?
- …the employment law and your rights in your new country of residence?
Before you sign on the dotted line, take some time to truly consider everything. Without further ado, here are 10 things to consider before an international relocation:
1. Lifestyle changes
This is perhaps one of the biggest adjustments you’ll have to make when you relocate. While you might have enjoyed vacationing in Berlin previously, for example, living there is a different kettle of fish. Let’s explore that scenario further.
Depending on where you are relocating from, the seasons and climate may be drastically different in Berlin. While most Germans speak English, they would prefer you conversed in German, and they have an extremely strong work ethic. In addition, the culture could be different from what you’re used to and you need to consider how this impacts your quality of life; is it improved or compromised? If you hate cool climates, have an unwillingness to learn German and prefer a relaxed working environment, then perhaps relocating to Berlin is a bad idea.
The best way to discover these cultural and environmental differences is to visit the location and neighbourhood. This will help you to get your bearings and determine whether it’s the right fit for you. Despite tight time frames, some employers will support you during this process and may even provide you with the funds to do so. When prospective employers decide that you and only you are the right person for the job, they’re prepared to go to great lengths to sign you up. Try not to rush this process, but really immerse yourself in the environment; if you can’t picture yourself living there, then perhaps it’s not the right opportunity.
Of course, sometimes it won’t be feasible to visit the location. Ideally, you would have travelled to the location before, either on holiday or on business-related travel, and have a rough idea of what you might expect. In these instances, you’ll have to go with your gut, doing what research you can to justify your decision. Are there ex-pat communities? What are the transport (rail, road, air and sea) like? If you’ve never visited the location before, then you’ll have to dig deep and decide whether you are determined to make the leap come-what-may.
The decision to relocate isn’t just a personal one, but one that requires consideration of your partner, children, friends and family. Naturally, many executives don’t want to uproot their families and take them away from school and their social circles. However, if the new opportunity can provide them with a better quality of life, then it’s worth discussing the prospect of relocation with them. So, before you accept the offer, you need to first consider what your family arrangements will be like. Will they come with you? Or will they remain at home?
- Children: Younger children at nursery or infant school may adjust better to moving, however, for older children – who have established programs at school, extracurricular activities and friendship circles – moving abroad could significantly impair their childhood. You need to carefully weigh up your options and assess whether bringing your children with you is the right choice. As their parent or caregiver, you will only want what’s best for them, which makes this difficult decision even harder. How will they be supported in their studies if there are language barriers? Are there local English speaking schools you could enrol them at? If you give your prospective employer the go-ahead, they might even take care of enrolling your children at local schools for you so that you don’t need to worry about it, but check before accepting an offer.
- Partner: Your partner should be the first person you consult about the possibility of relocation. Are they going to move with you or is it more logical for them to stay at home? Have you considered how your relationship will fare living in different countries and cultures? If they plan on relocating with you, will they be able to find work? There will be plenty of opportunities to meet new people at your new job, but what about your partner? Are there social groups that they can join in the event that they can’t find work immediately?
If the consequences of disrupting the lives of your family outweigh the benefits, you’ll need to make the tough decision to turn down the opportunity or move abroad without them. Have you factored in how often you’ll be able to visit them? How many days of holiday are you allowed? How expensive is a flight home for the weekend? Will you be able to make it back in an emergency?
Of course, not everyone has children or partners to think of. In theory, this should make the move easier, but how do you feel about leaving your parents, siblings and friends behind? Relocation is a really tough decision to make when you have family and friends to consider.
3. Social network
Do you remember your first day at school and how lonely and vulnerable you felt? Relocating overseas can have the same effect. When you move abroad, feelings of isolation and homesickness can come into play, particularly if you’ve left family behind. This means forging a new social network should come high up on your list of priorities. So what can you do?
- Check with the organisation to identify whether they offer many networking opportunities or support groups for employees that have relocated. Take advantage of what they have to offer as this is a fantastic way to get to know your new peers, executives in your industry and establish your professional network.
- Before you even move, you should be contacting anyone in your existing network who has moved abroad. They’ll be able to tell you about their experience relocating and advise you on how they formed a new network.
- Attend business conferences and events to meet peers and expand your network.
- Identify whether there are any local support groups in the area for ex-pats to join and meet people in a similar boat to them.
- Sign up for Meetup or related social group services to make new friends and acquaintances.
International relocation will require proactiveness on your behalf. Although the last thing you may feel like doing is putting on a smile and socialising, it’s more beneficial to form a robust network that can help you adjust to life overseas.
4. Visa and work permit
You won’t get very far in your relocation without a visa and work permit. A visa is a document authorised by the government of the country you want to relocate to that allows you to live and work there for a specific amount of time. Visas vary for the purpose of your stay in that country, but you will need to obtain the right one before you leave your home country. Bare in mind, however, that applying for a visa can take six months or longer, so it’s worth applying as soon as possible and keeping the organisation up-to-date during this process. Some companies sponsor visas. Clarify whether your prospective employer will sponsor your visa.
However, a visa doesn’t necessarily authorise the right to work in the country, which is where a work permit comes in. A work permit comes with its own challenges and the issuing criteria can vary from country to country. Additionally, some countries allow only one spouse to have a work permit, which therefore compromises your partner’s ability to work. However, many organisations will take care of obtaining your permit for you, therefore alleviating some of the stress and anxiety.
5. Relocation assistance
Most life science organisations will offer senior managers and executives a relocation package. This can range from basic to generous, depending on the role, location and organisation. It’s worth negotiating your relocation package. When you relocate for a new role, you want to do this before accepting and signing on the dotted line. Alternatively, the executive search firm partnering with the organisation can take care of negotiating a generous package on your behalf. Relocation assistance could include:
- Shipping your possessions for you.
- Allocating you a travel allowance to include a visit/s to the area during your decision-making process or during your search for accommodation.
- Putting you up in temporary accommodation when you first arrive until you find a suitable place to buy or rent.
Due to the complexity and stress of international relocation, negotiating a fair and generous deal from your current or prospective employer is definitely worth your time.
6. Selling your home
International relocation is stressful enough without factoring in what to do with your home. If you don’t live with a partner, children and don’t own your home, you have less to worry about, though moving home is still no easy feat. If you are renting, you will need to give notice to your landlord in line with the terms outlined in your tenancy agreement. This is typically a month but can vary, so check the terms carefully.
However, if you are renting with your partner or family, or own your own home, there is much more to consider. First things first, are your partner and/or family relocating with you? If they are, and you are renting, you can just hand in your notice to your landlord. If they are not relocating, and you are living in rented accommodation, you will have to ensure they can continue to pay the rent in your absence. You might have to consider finding a new home to rent if they can’t.
Your options differ if you own your own home. Providing you are the sole occupier or your family are relocating with you, you can choose to rent out your home or sell it. The decision to sell or rent your house is no small feat and is dependent on how long you intend to relocate for and whether you can afford to maintain an empty home in your absence. If you can, and you wish to keep your property, hold on it. You can either rent it out or leave it unoccupied. Just bear in mind that an unoccupied house still incurs costs, for example, tax, utilities and routine repairs.
If you own your home and your family aren’t relocating, then you have to consider whether you can afford to maintain your home and your accommodation in the country you are relocating to. If you can’t, you will have to sell or rent out your family home and find alternative accommodation for your family, whether that be another home you purchase, rented accommodation or living with family.
Writing this section makes the above seem somewhat trivial, but moving house is considered one of the most stressful life events, let alone the relocating for a job. Take your time to fully consider the implications, whatever your decision.
7. Research the location
Doing your homework before you accept the offer is important. As mentioned earlier, if it’s possible, try to visit the location before you make your decision so that you can immerse yourself in the culture and way of life. What are the best neighbourhoods to live in? How long will it take you to get to work? What are the local schools like? A good way to determine the best fit is to mark each neighbourhood you visit out of 10. Additionally, you should try to get in touch with existing employees of the organisation to learn where they live and what they perceive as the best neighbourhood.
8. Thoroughly research your prospective employer
Don’t make any rash decisions. Signing the contract before you’ve read the small print could be catastrophic to your career and reputation. Have you read the offer letter or contract thoroughly? Researched the organisation, its values and culture? Are you satisfied with the offer presented and the opportunities for progression?
If you’re having second thoughts, it’s not too late to pull the plug. As long as you haven’t already given them a verbal acceptance or signed the contract, you are allowed to turn down the position in light of your research.
While many executives think that international relocation is an advantageous opportunity, they don’t take into account the true costs involved. Will you be earning more or less once you take currency fluctuations and local tax laws into account? Make sure that you understand the tax treaty between your home country and the country you’ll be moving to. For executives that have financial responsibilities, a decrease in income might not make relocation worth it.
10. Employment law
As an ex-pat, you need to ensure that you know your rights and what rights you are gaining or losing by relocating to a foreign country. Things to consider include:
- Childcare: The balance between work and family life is never easy. What does the employment law state in the new country about maternity leave? Or about flexible working hours due to children?
- Sick pay: How many absence days are you allowed? Is it more or less than what you currently have?
- Holiday: How many paid holiday days are you entitled to?
International relocation can help to propel your career in the right direction. With benefits come drawbacks, however, so it’s best to be aware of them so that you can make an informed decision. When you have an offer presented to you for a new job, take some time to really weigh up your options and consult trusted members of your network. The last thing you want to do is make a rash decision, move to a foreign country and then regret it later.
For more job-search advice tailored to senior managers and executives in the life sciences…
* Fraser Dove International is a talent consultancy operating exclusively across the life sciences industry. While our roots lie in executive search, we provide more than the traditional recruitment services. Uniquely placed within the market, we have been providing cutting-edge talent solutions and insight to organisations at all stages of their journey – from start-up to established leaders – since 2013.