What to consider before accepting an international assignment

January 17, 2017

The prospect of an international assignment can be very exciting, an opportunity to develop new skills and experience new cultures. However, embarking on an international assignment takes careful planning if the transfer is to be a successful one for you and your family.

We explore some factors you may want to consider before accepting an international post.

An international assignment is where an employee from one country temporarily accepts a role within another country. The role may be with the same employer or with an external employer.

There is no doubt that an international assignment can be very rewarding and fulfilling, a largely positive experience.

Assignees get to experience new business environments and office cultures, while broadening their global mind-set, useful traits in any organisation.

In general, the more carefully you plan for an international post, the better your chances of success.

Assignees should find out as much as possible about the new position before accepting. Even if the move is internal, the culture in the new office may be very different from what you are used to. Thorough research is vital.

Investigate what makes the new position different from your current position. Why were you chosen for this role? What will success look like in your new role?

Remember the international assignment is not just about you. Your job performance has earned you this assignment, but you must bear in mind your companies objectives in sending you overseas. Understand the challenges and the company’s needs.

Obviously family considerations are incredibly important when considering an international assignment. At first the prospect may seem daunting, however, with careful planning and preparation, moving abroad can also be one the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences a family can have.

For the best chance of a successful move, involve your family in the decision making process from the outset. Researching the country, culture and logistics should be a family project.

There are many considerations, particularly when moving abroad with children. We’ve published some informative guides to help with choosing a school for expat childrenlearning a foreign language and moving overseas with your pets.

When weighing up financial considerations in relation to your assignment, factors other than salary should be considered, including;

  • Cost-of-living allowance
  • Accommodation allowance
  • Tax reimbursement
  • Children’s education allowance
  • International healthcare plan
  • Pension continuation

Whether provided by your company as part of your compensation package or through a private policy, a good international health insurance plan is crucial to ensure continued access to quality healthcare and avoid expensive medical fees while overseas.

International health insurance is designed for those living or working overseas for a prolonged period of time. It covers treatment for both emergency and routine healthcare, and provides expats with flexibility in terms of choice of doctor and treatment facility, with the ability to receive treatment anywhere within their region of cover.

When experiencing a medical emergency, or even routine medical care, in a country where you are not familiar with the health system, and where you do not speak the language, international health insurance cover will ensure you get the medical attention you need.

When assessing health insurance options, expats on international assignment should consider including a repatriation plan.

The ability to adapt is important for a successful assignment. In addition to adapting to different language, culture, regulations etc... You may also need to adapt your own work and leadership styles to better fit with your new situation.

Keep in mind that an international assignment presents an opportunity to develop an international professional network, as well as developing your social network and meeting new people in your host country.

Remember to plan for your return, staying in contact with colleagues and friends in your home country will make the transition back home easier.

An international assignment is a wonderful opportunity to develop yourself personally and professionally, as well as exposing your family to exciting new cultures and people. Advance preparation and careful consideration can ensure that time spent on international assignment will be some of the most valuable of you and your families lives.