As the legal market continues to grow and as firms are increasingly expanding into new international territories, there are a developing number of international opportunities across all business support functions. So what do you need to consider if you are thinking of working abroad?
It may sound obvious but before you start applying for international roles, you need to decide what you really want to get out of the experience and where you want to work. You need to do your research into what countries suit you best, both culturally and in terms of the progression routes available, so that you have a clear idea of the roles you are most suited to apply for and the locations that these roles are in.
How to prepare for success
Doing your research is more than a quick internet search: you should have previously visited the country whether on business or for pleasure; spoken to people who are based there/were previously based there; and have a clear understanding of the cost of living, visa requirements and cultural differences.
Before you embark on your job search, you should also have spoken to your friends/family about your decision to look abroad for your next role. It is no good getting to the offer stage for a role only to find that your partner has no interest in leaving their current life behind and relocating. The responsibility rests with you to make sure you have done all this before making that all-important application.
Understanding the differences of the international role
Once you have done the required research and are applying for roles, it is important to remember that the scope and remit of roles is often very different to those based in London. Although international roles are typically based in one core location, they often encompass other countries within their remit and so tend to be broader in their scope than London based roles.
It is not uncommon to look after multiple practice or sector groups, and team sizes are often much smaller and typically less well resourced. You are unlikely to have centralised pitch and event teams, for example, so expect a role that requires you to do more in terms of the day-to-day operational activity as well as implementing more strategic initiatives.
Speak the lingo?
Another question that I am often faced with is in regards to language requirements. Do you need to speak an additional language in order to successfully make the move?
The answer is – it depends very much on the location of the role and the language capabilities of other people in the team. For the majority of roles across Europe, English plus fluency in the language of the country where the role is located is often a non-negotiable pre-requisite. This is often the reverse for roles in Asia and the Middle East. In this instance, the language requirements are often satisfied by local hires within the team. An additional language here is a definitive advantage, but it is not the be all and end all.
The move itself
Once you have reached the offer stage for a role, firms will help out with the relocation. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to this as it varies, but a firm will typically pay for your flight out, the first month in a serviced apartment and any reasonable shipping costs. They will also take care of your visa or employment pass and will often provide you with a point of contact who can help you sort out a local bank account, answer any tax queries and help you settle in to a new country.
The benefits of change
Moving abroad is a really exciting thing to do. Having that international experience on your CV can really open doors and help you progress your future career. You will often take less of a step up making that move, both in terms of salary and responsibilities, as you will have little market knowledge. But the benefits of the opportunity far outweigh a smaller salary increase or less senior title.
You cannot directly compare London salaries with those abroad, anyway, as you need to take into consideration a different marketplace and typically lower tax. Job titles are also often different and not as interchangeable. Instead, you should always judge an offer based on its remit, its responsibilities and the career development benefits it will bring you.
So, remember, do your research and embrace the opportunities that you are offered. The learning curve can often be quite steep and it will take time to settle into your new environment. But it can often be the experience of a lifetime.