Eyes wide open

Anyone contemplating an overseas career must
understand what they’re getting themselves into and what they’re getting in return, says expat Briton and career nomad Simon Edwards, CEO with the Hongkong Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC NZ).
An accomplished linguist, Edwards is one of 350 HSBC employees who spend their careers on continuum of overseas assignments. Former offshore stints prior to arriving in New Zealand eight months ago include Singapore, Hong Kong, Paris, London and New York.
He says the key reason for expat failure is not going into it with the eyes open. “We’ve traded-off building up close friends and planting deep roots, and there’s knock-on effect for family. Once the kids are at school there’s also whole new set of challenges. It’s also meant that my wife’s career has been put on hold. But in return, it’s been never dull moment for over 20 years,” says Edwards.
He says while there are no generic skills critical to an overseas assignment, executives and their families must go with an open mind, have high level of tolerance and become extremely adaptable, especially culturally. For example, news of his New Zealand assignment came with only six weeks’ notice, and four weeks out from Christmas. He says executives must also learn to take the rough with the smooth. Some overseas postings will be better than others. But, he adds, it’s these sorts of assignments that groom executives for future roles.
“I’m usually provided with comprehensive information pack for each new assignment. The constant filtration of information throughout the HSBC network is also helpful as is relocation support in each country. But having the opportunity to work alongside my predecessor for several weeks, and be introduced to their business and social networks was invaluable in smoothing the transition into New Zealand.”

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