I got an unexpected but welcome email from my old boss in Spain the other day. To be honest, I sometimes forget that I worked there but he writes to me every few months to tell me how things are going at the firm and how his kids are growing up.
I worked on projects before and after my time in Spain but while I was there I did more of a client facing job in a bank branch. Still, the simple act of working abroad can help your career no matter whether you move into a different kind of role or not.
Impress People at Interviews
After a couple of years abroad I moved back to the UK and started looking for a project job. For my first interview I didn’t have a great deal of hope of it working out well. It was a more senior, better paid position than I had been used to and I had been out of the industry for a couple of years. The lady carrying out the interview was clearly reading my CV for the first time while we spoke to me and she didn’t seem too impressed. However, I can still remember the expression on her face when she got to the part about me working abroad. It had absolutely no relevance to the role but it can work as an ice breaker at interviews and it can show that you are someone who is willing to take risks and rise to a challenge. I got the job and to this day I am convinced that my experience working abroad was largely responsible for this.
See New Ways of Working
If you have only ever worked in one company or one industry or one country then you are limiting your view of the world. At first I really didn’t like the processes they used in the bank I went to work in. The screens were old fashioned looking and the whole thing seemed unnecessarily cumbersome. However, it was only when I was back in the UK working that I got to thinking that I had learn a lot about different methods of working. If I am being completely honest I was far from impressed with the way of working in the bank I spent a couple of years in. My friend Jose Luis was the manager of the branch and a good example of the attitude in the bank came when he first called me in to his office to give me dog’s abuse. I had made the terrible mistake of transferring a client’s money to his UK account when he had asked me to. Jose Luis was quick to tell me that money had to stay in the bank for as long as possible and that no one would ever give me any trouble over leaving a transfer requested lying in my drawer for a couple of months. Even if you don’t like the ways of working you see in other countries you can still learn from them, even if it means making sure that you ensure that you never design a process which can be abused in this way.
Shake Off the Old Ennui
If there is a word I could use to describe what I felt about my working life before going to Spain it is ennui. No matter how much you like your job and your life there can come a time when you just feel that it is time for a change. I was bored of going to the same sort of office and working with the same sort of people. Going to live and work in a country where everything was different and I had to work with a foreign language certainly shook me out of my slumber. I think that project managers can benefit from this sort of change more than a lot of other people. This is because we are generally restless and inquisitive sorts of people and we love to take on new challenges. Quite a few of the project managers I have worked with have also worked abroad and they tell me that they loved it too. If you are looking for a way to put the spark back into your career then this can be a very good way of doing it. Even if you only stay away for a couple of years like I did you can still learn lessons which come in handy for the rest of your career.