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Considering a career move overseas? Make sure the grass really is greener.

For the past 16 years Chris McCann has recruited at every level for clients across Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Prior to this he worked in KPMG’s Expatriate Tax practice. Here he presents a checklist of factors to assess when executives are considering whether and where to work overseas. 

Political and economic uncertainty continues to drive client and candidate enquiries across our London and APAC offices. Such enquiries usually come from partners and executives who already possess an international mindset and are open to relocation. Of course, everybody’s risk perception and appetite is different and trying to extrapolate scenarios such as Brexit or Hong Kong protests is difficult, so it helps to go back to basics. 

Here is a checklist of basic considerations we recommend you address and understand before a crisis forces urgent decisions and a high risk of unsatisfactory outcomes.

Before assessing international career opportunities, you should understand your current situation, then decide what you want.


Your Finances

Analyse your monthly budget and cashflow to compare your current living costs and your monthly net cash position. Do you have mortgage or rental obligations? If you own your own home, would you sell it or rent it? If you are the partner of a partnership or the director of a limited company, what are your obligations? Do you usually have a complicated tax position?

If you use an accountant, find out your national and state tax rates and explore expatriate tax issues.

Make sure that you are not missing anything from your domestic finances such as loans and credit cards. Scenario-plan various implications; how long you could last if you were to lose your job? How would the travel and insurance costs of emergencies would be covered? Do you need to move assets or savings into different jurisdictions or currencies? What are your annual healthcare costs? For British people heading abroad, navigating private healthcare to ensure the same coverage as the National Health Service can be quite an eye opener.

Your Partner

If you share your life with someone, then it always makes sense to discuss both your lives’ goals, ambitions and lifestyle preferences: the sooner the better. They must be aligned and agreed before you look at any job that would require international relocation. This is key and any possible compromises to either of your preferences should be agreed now.

These “kitchen table” chats are easier said than done, but if you avoid them or not do them honestly, then you risk worst case scenarios such as being left at the alter or missing out on an excellent opportunity.

Having the best shared life for both of you is the ideal, and your careers should fit in accordingly. Example discussions include ideas about living overseas for a few years, one of you going back into tertiary education, one of you working away for long stretches of time, and when to start and raise family.

When progressing the discussion to specific destinations, early questions include whether your partner will also be able to be employed there. Do they need to apply for a visa to be employed? Is a marriage certificate or proof of civil partnership required?

Family & Dependants

Children’s education and school fees, parents’ and sometimes grandparents’ welfare is your responsibility, so it is useful to think about how this can best be provided.

In the event of a parental emergency how quickly could you travel home?

Living in your destination country, will your children go to a state school, a private school or be home schooled? How much will this cost and will it be paid by your employer? Will your older children have a secondary/college education at a boarding school in your home country? If you are thinking of starting a family, should you put off moving until your children are born, or is your host country’s health system good enough not to worry?


Pension & Retirement

If you are saving some income you will might expect to retire and enjoy it. Have you planned and set in place savings plans for this?How much do you need to save per year to achieve your pension objective? How does this impact the salary structure and costs you would accept for a new job in a new location?

Geographically, where would you like to live when you retire?

If you want to retire to somewhere that is not your home country then you might think about moving there soon enough to build your career, develop client networks, build personal relationships and ultimately meet the visa criteria to be able to stay there for good. Conversely, do you want to visit all the countries on your bucket list after you retire, or live in some of them now while you’re fit enough to enjoy them?


The Quality and Cost of Life

Once you have done all the above and understand the key priorities for your family, finances and career then you can apply them to analyse potential destinations.

Cost of Living: use websites to assess and compare your costs of living, such as the following:

Quality of Life: Seek advice from friends and old colleagues who are already living in those countries. Ask them about their personal quality of life and how much their communities welcome foreigners. Also refer to online data:

Expatriate Tax matters: Combined with living costs it’s vital to know what your “net of tax” salary will be. This isn’t a bad place to start:


PEST Factors:

Assess cities and countries in terms of the Political, Economic, Social and Technological factors, all of which will impact your happiness and success. These factors include consideration of a destination’s:

      1.  Political and economic stability: the leanings or dominance of political views, the extent of respect and adherence to the  country’s laws and legal processes and the stability and strength of its economy and currency;

      2.  Societal structure and norms in terms of ethics, cultural tolerance, cohesiveness;

      3.  Effectiveness in controlling and managing its natural resources and environment;

      4.  Application and management of technological advances;

      5.  Security, in terms of its relationships with neighbouring countries, the comparable strength and organisation of its military forces, and to what extent its military leadership is subservient to the people and their elected leaders.

That’s quite a lot to think about. Here are some useful places to start:


In Summary

These questions might all seem obvious but taking time out to consider them carefully can lead to comfortable changes in life and career direction. They are not just important to help you make the best possible career decision. You should expect to be asked about them in any interview, including questions such as:

“Have you done your homework about our job, firm and country?”

“Can you explain why you want to come here?”

“Are you serious?”

If you have assessed all the 6 topics above before you apply for new opportunities, your answer to all of these will be “Yes”.

Carlyle Kingswood Global has decades of experience in helping partners and executives navigate their careers around the world. We can help. If you are seeking a move right now, do get in touch.