In a more globalised world, there are compelling reasons to consider spending at least part of your career overseas. And for business services professionals – particularly those in BD and marketing – there is increasing opportunity to do so, with both local and global firms offering exciting roles across international locations. Totum’s recent agreement of an alliance with Australian recruitment firm Seldon Rosser takes this to the next level – as we work together on roles spanning the UK, Europe, Asia and Australia. Law firms across Asia Pacific are keenly interested in candidates that have gained experience in the sophisticated business services teams of a UK legal market. We have the combined capabilities to tap into this demand, sourcing great talent and helping deliver their successful move. In this Part 1 of our two-part international focus, we look at some of the opportunities of moving overseas and the key factors in making the decision. In Part 2, we will then consider the application process and the logistics of successful relocation.  

Why work internationally?

For those seeking adventure and a change in lifestyle, the obvious answer is why not? But for a BD and marketing professional enjoying career advancement in, say, the London headquarters of a large UK firm, there may be the sense that the best opportunities are where you’re at. After all, this is where business services functions have grown quickly in terms of size and sophistication, and many a global-oriented role might be based from the London headquarters. However, there are opportunities growing all the time in exciting locations overseas – ones that don’t just offer a change in scene, but also real career development opportunities. The largest markets, with the most BD & marcomms roles, are Hong Kong and Singapore, although roles may occasionally also come up in smaller centres like Bangkok and Tokyo too. Some roles require language skills (usually essential for Mainland China, for example) but don’t let this count you out; the majority of roles in Asia do not make languages a prerequisite. We also know of many business services professionals who consider their move overseas to have been beneficial from a career point of view. A BD manager we spoke to for another article on BD roles overseas described his job in the UAE as offering him the ability to generate ideas and implement them, a stark contrast he felt to many BD roles in the UK where the primary requirement is to ‘keep things on track’. Another based in Singapore described managing a team of six and a portfolio of practices that have total revenues larger than most UK law firms outside the top 15; these are opportunities he doubts he would have secured if he’d remained in the UK.  An example of a placement we are currently working on is that of a BD Manager in Hong Kong (HK). The role offers the right candidate the opportunity to step up into a sophisticated and progressive BD team, with a mentor to support development. Reporting directly to the Head of BD for Greater China, the BD manager will be responsible for the HK office – working across all practice groups and sectors. The role is varied spanning all facets of marketing communications as well as BD and involves working closely with partners. It’s also just one of a growing number of such roles in the Asia Pacific market. There are lots of reasons for looking at career opportunities further afield:
  1. The opportunity to join an exciting and dynamic cross-border workplace. Although international roles are typically based in one core location, they typically encompass other countries in their remit and tend to be broader in their scope than London-based roles. A senior BD and marketing professional we know is based in Singapore, but he is responsible for practice groups in Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, China and Korea. For many, the chief job satisfaction comes from the many different languages and cultural backgrounds you’ll experience, and the learning curve of working across borders.
  2. BD roles in overseas offices are also evolving rapidly, offering opportunities to shape strategy, get involved with clients and impact business growth. Whether a local firm, or an international office of a global firm, the BD & marketing team may be smaller than its UK equivalent (although teams are growing), but this might also offer more opportunity to take on a broader remit and responsibility, advancing your career in ways that would be more difficult as a small cog in the big wheel of a London base.
  3. Experience working in a different location to the head office can also be beneficial. Many candidates we speak to say that time spent working in a regional office gives a deeper understanding of how firms really work, and how to overcome potential sticking points arising from different markets, cultures and perspectives. Candidates can then bring this valuable learning back to the London head office.
  4. Overseas opportunities tend to be more generalist, but recent years have seen rising sophistication in BD & marcomms teams, leading to larger teams and more specialist roles. Professionals are enjoying an ever-increasing variety of roles on offer.
  5. Salary is unlikely to be the driving factor in a move overseas. It’s worthwhile noting, however, that salaries in Asian markets are similar to what you can expect in the UK market. But while rental costs in Asia can be high, other living costs and income tax brackets tend to be lower – 15% max in Hong Kong, for instance. Also, many firms will attribute a portion of salary to ‘housing allowance’ which can be sliced off before calculating tax.

Things to think about

For those of you tempted by the opportunities described above, the obvious starting point is to do your research. Think carefully about the countries that would suit you best, research the roles on offer, and think what kind of career progression you are hoping to achieve. It helps if you have visited the proposed country before or at least know what it’s like from talking to others who have made a similar move. Also contact a good international recruiter at an early stage. Totum or Seldon Rosser, for instance, can guide you through the opportunities and see where your skill-sets/capabilities and aspirations might best fit. Don’t forget to bring your family/partner into discussions from the start too. You’re in a tricky place if you get to the offer stage only to find your partner isn’t interested in moving with you! But assuming you have these essentials covered, there is a lot to be said for venturing overseas – for both a fulfilling personal and career experience. In the next part of this international focus, we will consider the application and interview process, and how to successfully manage the logistics of relocating overseas.  Contact us today if you would like to know more about the international opportunities we can offer – email Rebecca Ellis at [email protected] or Graham Seldon at [email protected]