More than ever before, we as young professionals have to drive our careers. I think more than ever before, we as young professionals have a desire to drive our careers. I look at it this way - if I’m not proactively working through the process of my next role, or of that next experience to be gained, then who is? Now, as optimists, we all hope our employers are looking out for us as well – but we owe it to ourselves to work with our managers and mentors to get the best out of our careers!
One option for us all to consider is taking our talents abroad on an international assignment or a “tour of duty” as discussed in the January/February addition of HR Magazine. Of course, being intentional and thoughtful in how we make this happen is critical, and there are many considerations as we think about where we want to land, and for what reasons. But if possible, it is experience that can be incredibly valuable for yourself, and your employer.
As part of Microsoft’s HR Trax program, a leadership development program, I was fortunate enough to take on a one year international assignment in Dublin, Ireland. For context, I’m a small town guy from the great state of Minnesota, so when the wheels touched down in Dublin (w/my wife and 3 year old son by my side), it was my first time ever to Europe. Not only was I going to be working in a country I’d never been to, I wanted to learn personally and ensure my wife and child thrived as well. As I reflect back on my 365 days abroad, I had many valuable experiences, both personally and professionally, but will summarize as below:
- I learned a lot about myself being in unique and unfamiliar situations. Although I was located in Dublin, I was on central teams which drove processes/initiatives across our 11 international areas. I learned how to partner/collaborate with colleagues across the globe whose work styles and cultures were very different from my own. Learning to accommodate and be creative in this environment was extremely rewarding.
- The experience strengthened my awareness about country cultures and how work is delivered across Microsoft International. Furthermore, I have a better understanding of what it is like to work away from Corporate, thousands of miles across the globe, and I can bring this perspective back to my colleagues in Redmond, WA.
These experiences gained aren’t unique to my assignment – I think they are experiences gained in many “tours of duty.” I find myself referencing my experience abroad in discussions I have every day in and outside of work.
So if you’re asking yourself if you should take an assignment abroad? My answer is - don’t think twice, just do it! It was the best year of my life, and a rich experience I would never take back. In this new and evolving global economy and market, having international experience will only help your career. The personal development you’ll gain, and the experience you can bring back to your organization, is incredibly rewarding.
After all – enjoying life should be our career – I think taking a “tour of duty” getd us closer to just that.