Is Working Overseas The Ultimate Move For Your Career Anymore?
Earlier this year, I delivered a talk to about 50 professionals on, How To Pursue An International Career And Capture Good Job Opportunities In The United States. During my talk, I shared a different perspective than what I believe most were expecting to hear. It’s one that’s worth thinking about.
I told them that from my point of view as a long-time, recruitment and talent industry professional, I don’t think that pursuing a job overseas, like in the U.S. is the best move for most people anymore. In fact, I can think of many better employment situations here in China that are much more attainable, beneficial, and less costly than working in overseas. And that will also allow you to compete more successfully as a global-caliber professional in the future.
Yes, that’s right! Working overseas is no longer provides a clear advantage compared to what many opportunities here in China can offer you. Here are my three main reasons for saying this:
Much smaller gaps and advantages than before – For instance, not long ago, the U.S. was far, far ahead of China in every area of business, technology, and management. The U.S. was a developed economy. China was not. So in the past, most of the things that China needed to learn came from abroad.
But the same cannot be said today. The gap between the U.S. and China market and business environments has closed considerably. Today, the professional level of more and more companies here is increasingly international-caliber. There are even areas where China’s innovation is leading the world. Some of this country’s technology infrastructure and business channels are amazing! And far ahead of what exists in the U.S. and other countries in many instances. You can look at WeChat, Alipay, and Mobike as great examples, to name just a few. Many would say that it’s just the tip of the iceberg with regards to areas that China is on its way to leading the world.
More attractive opportunities here now - A fundamental truth I always tell people about career success is, “If your platform has limitations, then these will be your limitations too for achieving the success you seek.” Again, as an example, U.S. economy is mature. It’s much slower growth and more conservative than China’s economy. I mean, what industries in the U.S. can you say are “booming,” let alone growing steadily? Can you readily think of any?
Now, how about in China? Well, the internet, health & fitness, sports & leisure, travel, entertainment, dining & food services, education & talent development, wealth management, and business services are just a few major industries that immediately come to my mind. And they’re not just growing. They are booming. China’s aggressive shift from a manufacturing to a consumer and services-driven economy is creating a fantastic time of growth and opportunity in many huge sectors.
It’s often said that one year working in the internet industry is the equivalent of 2-3 years working in traditional industries. The internet industry is much faster growth and just so much more dynamic than other industries. So you experience much more and grow much faster too.
You can say the exact same thing about China and the U.S. One year working in China is the equivalent of 2-3 years working in much more mature, slower growth economies, like the U.S. So for your career development, you experience much more and grow much faster over the same amount of time here.
Everything about you is more fully valued here! – On top of a much better market of growth and opportunities, which market can more fully leverage your capabilities and develop your potential? If you were to work in the U.S., you don’t know the market and user habits like people who grew up there. And your English skills create limitations for you. For the most part, employers there will only consider you for technical, analytical, and operations roles. That’s fine if that’s all you want to do. But it’s very difficult if you want to be considered for management and leadership, business development, or strategic roles.
But here, there are a growing number of situations that will fully value what you are, and what you can do. It’s not only the many multinationals that will recognize and give you chances to utilize both your Chinese background and international training, but more and more Chinese companies as well. Led by Alibaba and Tencent, these companies aspire to become global players. And they will!
Times have changed
Yes, I understand the many personal reasons that many people here want to work and live abroad. I’m not going to get into these. I’m just speaking from a career development and career success perspective. I’m just trying to make the point that while pursuing work experience and opportunities abroad used to be highly desired, the benefits and advantages of doing this today are not nearly as clear.
I’m not saying that gaining overseas work experience is not worthwhile. If you can get a good opportunity to work abroad, then then do it. Of course, this will benefit your career. I’m only saying that working overseas is not the ultimate career development move that it used to be. And it’s no longer a key success factor for achieving outstanding success or for becoming a global-caliber professional.
As a talent industry professional, I see many people in this market that are more proactive, self-driven, bold, and capable than many people from other developed countries and mature economies. It’s because they work in a market that’s more innovative and fast-changing, as well as increasingly professional and international-caliber. The more challenging situations they face every day forces them to grow and learn to compete. Believe me, I’ve met enough impressive people here who have never worked abroad. And they’re not just impressive as a local talent. But also compared to other impressive global talents from around the world. So don’t overlook this historical, amazing time of growth and opportunities in your own backyard. More and more so, it’s a fantastic place to be for your career development and future success.
Do you think the investment in time, effort, and money to work overseas is still worth it?