Relocating for work, whether for promotion or in pursuit of a new opportunity, is commonplace in the life sciences. The pace of globalisation has seen major players expand into new territories and emerging markets, providing plenty of opportunities for relocation for those keen to explore new cultures and advance their careers.
Unsurprising, their search for talent is equally global. In order to secure the best talent, life science organisations are willing to search for executives and senior managers locally, nationally and internationally. These organisations are aware that for these business-critical jobs, local talent doesn’t always cut it. Thus, more and more executives are being persuaded to relocate overseas for work. It’s a major life decision that affects not just you, but family and friends, and not one that should be taken lightly. While homesickness and feelings of isolation are normal, relocating can also bring long-term career prosperity and open up new opportunities.
The pros and cons of relocating should be weighed up before you make a decision about whether to accept a job offer or promotion involving international relocation. To examine the situation from all sides, we’ve compiled a list of pros and cons:
1) Career advancement
Relocating for work can bring long-term prosperity in your career. Many life science executives are encouraged to relocate for work through the following incentives:
- Higher salary
- Greater responsibility
- Relocation assistance
It’s hardly surprising then that in a study of 1000 people, 49.3% said the most common reason they relocate is to obtain a higher paying job or career advancement. You could earn more working in an equivalent position in a foreign country, or local tax laws and exchange rates might mean your money goes further. Relocating overseas can also help you acquire new skills, increase job security and expand your network.
2) Some employers will offer relocation assistance
Many executives are put off by the idea of international relocation due to the costs involved. Shipping and housing costs can stack up, not to mention frequent flight home to visit loved ones. However, with many life science organisations prepared to go to extreme lengths to secure top-talent, many offer substantial relocation packages. In fact, around a quarter of employers assist with moving expenses. Depending on the organisation and the levelling of the position, this could involve:
- Finding temporary accommodation: The organisation could put you up in temporary accommodation until you find a house or apartment to rent or buy.
- Enrolling children in school: If moving with your family, some employers will enrol your children in a local school to minimise the impact on their education.
- Handling shipping: A move abroad will naturally involve you shipping your possessions. Your future employer could handle this burdensome task for you.
Relocation assistance can help to reduce the costs and stress of moving abroad. It’s definitely worth negotiating as part of your job offer.
3) Exploring a new culture
Some executives are attracted to the idea of living in a new country and experiencing a new culture. It can be exciting to start a new adventure and immerse yourself in a different way of life. Working in a different culture will also allow you to develop transferable skills that will be attractive to future employers. For example, the ability to work cross-collaboratively in a diverse team is a quality that many employers look for.
1) Expensive to relocate
The most obvious con is that relocation can be extremely expensive. Buying or renting a house, shipping your possessions, not to mention, obtaining visas and taxes can all add up. Some life science organisations will offer a relocation package, which can help somewhat with the initial costs, but if they don’t, then there’s a lot to consider:
- Will you be buying or renting a house?
- How much will it cost to ship your possessions abroad?
- If your family is staying home, can you afford to pay the rent or mortgage of two houses?
2) Partner may struggle
If your partner is making the move with you, their quality of life will need to be considered too. Will they be able to find work? If they don’t, this could put a financial strain on your relationship. Additionally, if they can’t find work, how will they be able to form a social circle of their own? Are there support groups for ex-pats?
Alternatively, if they aren’t going to make the move with you, how will your relationship fair while living in different countries? Do you think you’ll be able to manage a long-distance relationship? How often will you be able to return home and visit them?
3) Uprooting children’s lives
As a parent or guardian, you only want what’s best for your children. However, forcing them out of their school and away from their social circle can be extremely distressing. The older they are, the harder they’ll find it to adjust to a new home, culture, language and school. If you’re moving from the US to Germany, for example, will your children be supported in their studies if they’re not fluent in German? Will they be able to form a new social circle? What about the quality of the schools? Are the schools in your catchment area good? If they’re not, can you afford to send them to private school?
4) You have to make new friends
As human beings, we naturally crave human connection. Moving across the world can feel very daunting, lonely and isolating at first. It may take a while for you to truly settle into your new home and culture. While you would normally turn to your close friends and confidants in times of need, you will only be able to do so via telephone or video call. 33.9% of participants in a study stated that getting acclimated to a new community proved the most challenging element of many people’s moving experiences.
Due to cultural and language differences, making friends abroad isn’t as straightforward as it seems. Although they might not have the same values and interests as you, it’s important to keep an open mind. Make an active effort to try new activities and join local groups so that you can meet new people. It’s also worth checking whether your organisation offers networking opportunities.
It’s also worth noting that networking and making friends can be particularly challenging for introverts. Starting from scratch in a foreign country can be incredibly intimidating, especially for those who are less likely to put themselves out there. You might want to reconsider relocating if you are not one to venture beyond your comfort zone.
5) Loss of stability
Leaving family, friends and your current way-of-life can be nerve-wracking. And what if you don’t like your new job or it doesn’t live up to your expectations? The contract may state that you have to work for the organisation for a minimum of one year. This may lead you to start feeling trapped, especially when you’re far away from home.
You may also find the language barriers to be distancing. If you are relocating to a new country, a willingness to learn the native language is a prerequisite. Consider paying for language tuition, or put time aside to learn the language in your personal time.
6) Obtaining the right documentation
International relocation isn’t as simple as just packing and leaving. There are a lot of legalities and processes that need to be followed before you set foot in a new country for business purposes. For example, you will need to obtain a visa (documentation proving your right to live in the new country), which can take up to six months to obtain. Additionally, you will need a work permit – a document authorising your right to work in the country. It should be noted, however, that some employers will take care of this and speed up the process for you.
7) Culture shock
Every culture has its own beliefs, values and etiquettes. Before you move, you should be aware of any strict laws and behaviours considered inappropriate. Do your research before you move, and try to befriend your coworkers so they can teach you the ins and outs of their society.
You need to weigh up the pros and cons of a job offer or promotion that involves international relocation, ensuring that the benefits of relocating for a position outweigh the negatives. If it’s possible, you should try to visit the location and neighbourhood to give yourself an idea of where you’ll end up living. Buying a house in a foreign country is a big commitment, especially with the uncertainty of the position, so it might be worth looking into renting. If the position isn’t right for you then there’s less at stake.
It’s also worth noting that relocating will naturally be easier for some executives over others; those with a sense of adventure and who don’t have family or relationship commitments are more likely to take the plunge. Sometimes a big risk can equal big rewards.
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.