What working internationally taught me about business
Ever wondered what it's like to work internationally? Our Chief Operating Officer Heidi Gray is originally from Australia. Here she reveals the lessons in business and in life that she's learned from living and working abroad in Singapore, Hong Kong and London.
Words by: Heidi Gray
Chief Operating Officer
What working in a new country taught me about business:
- Culture often influences business practice. Be open to different ways of thinking and take the time to understand people and their point of view.
- Resilience is key. Where there is a will there is always a way - you just have to work it out.
- Social and cultural nuances are things that can’t be taught. You have to learn by going through it yourself.
Working in Asia versus working in Europe:
- Agency life in the UK is intense but agency life in Asia is something else. Store visits at 11pm and meetings at 1am weren’t uncommon. And forget leaving the office before your boss does.
- I’m naturally very driven but working in Asia laid the foundations for an even stronger work ethic. When I moved to the UK I was appreciative of the small things that make working life more comfortable and that many people take for granted.
How to get the most out of your experience in a new country:
- Cultivate a curiosity mindset. Always be open to new opportunities - say YES and think later.
- Integrate yourself into the culture. The best way to do this is to make friends with local people. If you stick to expat communities and hangouts you could be anywhere in the world.
- Understand that you need to earn respect. Take time to get to know people and to understand their way of life and experiences.
The best things about living and working in Singapore:
- A fantastic base to explore the whole of Asia. I spent my weekends travelling to different places as easily as getting a train to London.
- Everything is open 24/7. You can pretty much do whatever you want, whenever you want.
- Amazing public transport. Everything is immaculate and air conditioned. - it puts the tube to shame.
The unglamorous side of working abroad:
- It can get lonely. It’s hard to find your place in a different culture and country but when you do it’s one of the most rewarding things you can do.
- Facing adversity. Being a woman and more generally an expat in Asia was challenging. It took a while to earn respect and build strong relationships that would have come more naturally in the UK.
Securing work abroad is not easy but it’s definitely possible. If you’re looking for a change, here are some places to start:
- Get a job at a company with a global network. Utilise the internal network to scope out international opportunities.
- Don’t underestimate the power of human connection. Look through your network and reach out to people that may be able to help - LinkedIn is a good place to start.
- Work out where you want to go and why. Be crystal clear on how to sell what you can bring to the table and why they should hire you.
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