Maintaining both personal and professional ties in the home office while on an overseas assignment, can make all the difference in affecting a smooth reentry into the workplace and home upon repatriation, said “expat expert” Robin Pascoe at a recent meeting of the International Business Assocation (IBA) in Atlanta.
Ms. Pascoe, whose husband joined the Canadian Foreign Service in 1981, is the author of three books on “expat” and “repat” life, including Homeward Bound, which chronicles her struggles to readjust to Canadian culture and the professional arena after more than a decade spent living abroad in China, Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.
An ambitious journalist and mother of two, Ms. Pascoe was often frustrated in her attempts to obtain a work visa in the host country, and could not work on a regular basis in her chosen profession. Returning to North America, however, she was faced with another problem: a gap in her employment history that stymied her efforts to find the right job.
“My solution was to start my own business,” she quips of her three books, speaking tours and Web site, www.expatexpert.com. But it would have been helpful, she added, to have a professional network to return to.
The same is true for managers and executives sent on overseas assignment, who return to the U.S. only to find that the corporate structure within their own company doesn’t know quite what to do with them, she said. Often, for example, skills gleaned in international markets don’t, at face value, have an application at the company’s home base. In such a case, relationships maintained with home-based work colleagues while abroad can aid in a better transition and job placement within the domestic company environment, Ms. Pascoe explained.
Human resources (HR) professionals also have a role to play, she said, though HR departments often do not have the funds to provide the necessary services, be it career counseling or marriage therapy, to repatriating families. The key now, Ms. Pascoe added, is to target CEOs with the information on the difficulties of expatriation and repatriation to ensure backing for support services from the top down.