Expatriate success depends on personality traits

Published:  21 Mar at 6 PM
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The personal qualities needed to become a successful expat may not be obvious at first, but a recent study stresses the importance of self-evaluation before making the decision to relocate.

Deciding to take an overseas assignment in order to earn more, improve future career prospects or simply to experience living and working in an unfamiliar location isn’t just a matter of finding a suitable job abroad. According to a new study, taking the opportunity seriously involves self-examination as to whether you’ve the right priorities and aptitude to make a go of it.

The aim of the study, undertaken by a prominent recruitment assessment company, was to determine the personal characteristics necessary to ensure relocation is successful, both for the employee and the employer. Living and working overseas can give unparalleled opportunities for the right candidates, but costs employers a great deal of money which will have been wasted should an applicant end the assignment earlier than expected.

According to the results of the survey, certain personal attributes are essential to making a success of an overseas posting, especially if the destination has a very different culture and language. Cross-cultural awareness is a necessity, as is the sensitivity to evaluate unfamiliar situations and respond correctly. Emotional stability is an invaluable asset in the process of adjusting successfully to local cultural norms, as is the ability to embrace and value change.

New business practices can cause confusion if viewed with a ‘home country’ perspective, leading to an inability to adjust to changing situations for fear of failure or embarrassment. In most host country business environments, help with this problem is freely given by co-workers as long as the new expat employee demonstrates flexibility in his own attitudes. Strong interpersonal skills are one of the most important personality traits necessary to cope with the early days of a new assignment.

Respecting diverse views, even although they may be unfamiliar, is another important personality trait in those who make a real success of their expatriate business life, and good levels of autonomy as well as motivation skills give new employers the confidence they’ve chosen the right person for the job. Perhaps most of all, the study found a sense of humour was a key characteristic in settling into a new position in a totally new, challenging environment.
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