Want to See the World

Want to See the World?
Ways to Snag a Transfer
By Sarah E. Needleman
For many U.S. employees, the best ticket to living and working abroad often is securing a job transfer to an
overseas office of a current employer.
Opportunities for global moves are on the rise. Nearly 40% of more than 200 multinational firms report an
increase in employee transfers from their headquarters to international locations between 2003 and 2005,
according to a survey from Mercer Human Resource Consulting.
Here are seven strategies for winning an overseas transfer.
1. Excel in your job.
Companies typically offer transfers to employees with a track record of success, not average performers, says
Scott Pharr, a senior manager at Accenture Ltd., a consulting firm based in Hamilton, Bermuda. "You need to
bloom where you are planted for a while," says Mr. Pharr, who recruits internal candidates for jobs in the
Middle East. "I'd be hesitant to send anyone to a foreign location who hasn't earned my trust."
2. Identify a need.
In January, Joanne Fensome, then a senior vice president at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide in New York,
set her sights on working in Hong Kong. Ms. Fensome, a native of England, wanted to expand her global job
portfolio, and her boyfriend had landed a banking job there. She pointed out the growing presence of
pharmaceutical companies in Asia and persuaded executives in Hong Kong to create a position for her as
regional director of Ogilvy's Asia-Pacific health-care practice. "My strategy was to do some research into why
this position was needed and why I was the person able to do that job," says Ms. Fensome, who is 34.
3. Network with colleagues overseas.
To land his job in London, Jason Cowell, a business-development manager for Cisco Systems Inc., says he
volunteered to collaborate on global projects whenever possible. "I took the lead on working with my
European and Asian colleagues to build up my reputation," he explains. "It wasn't part of my job description."
As a result, he frequently traveled overseas and participated in videoconference calls with foreign colleagues
when home, he says.
In 2005, a colleague in London left the company and recommended him as her replacement, he says. Though
the hiring manager was new to the company, Mr. Cowell, an American, says he landed the job largely due to
the reputation he'd developed with his London counterparts. "It came down, in my case, to really networking
up, down and across," the 33-year-old says.
4. Pursue the job, not the location.
When making a case for a transfer, focus on the job and not your dream to see the world, says Rajesh
Subramaniam, president of Federal Express Canada, a unit of FedEx Corp. "The desire has to be much broader
than it being a cool place," he says. "At the end of day, the decision to work in a foreign country has got to be
based on a solid business reason. You have to be excited about the reason you're going."
Mr. Subramaniam, who now works in Toronto, landed his first overseas role in the 1990s. Then a manager of
international business planning in Memphis, he'd been helping the company launch operations in Asia. He says
he showed a keen interest in seeing the project through by relocating to FedEx's Asian-Pacific headquarters in
Hong Kong. "It was one thing to see my work on paper and another to experience what it actually meant in the
marketplace," he says.
5. Show productivity gains.
Margaretta Noonan, an executive vice president at staffing firm Hudson Highland Group Inc., says she once
was impressed by an employee who offered reasons why she'd perform better in overseas office. These
included greater access to decision-makers, clients and resources. "Some of this is about doing old-fashioned
research, and some is talking to people in your network," she says. Ms. Noonan, who works in New York,
frequently interviews internal candidates for jobs at the firm's 20 locations word-wide. "You've got to be
tenacious and think creatively," she says.
6. Make a case for your employer to invest in you.
Show you have a commitment to your firm, advises François de Wazieres, vice president of corporate strategic
recruiting at L'Oreal USA Inc., a unit of L'Oreal SA. "Convince your company that you are a part of its future,"
he says. For example, discuss ideas for long-term projects and your desire to see them through, he says. Then
explain how a job transfer would help you better perform the assignments and others. "You are going to think
more globally and be a stronger global manager," says Mr. de Wazieres, who is French and works in New
7. Flaunt your fluency.
Even if you don't know the tongue of the country where you want work, be sure to mention any language skills
you may have, says Mr. de Wazieres. Many employers may assume that you'll be at ease learning another, he
-- Ms. Needleman is associate editor of CareerJournal.com.
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