For those who have not worked abroad before, there is a certain mystique that possibly evokes visions of luxury, adventure and an effortless work-life balance. As many people with experience will share, working abroad doesn’t automatically mean an increase in ease or professional wellness (let alone luxury or adventure, but that’s for another article). 

When seeking out an opportunity to work abroad, it’s essential to define your professional expectations in taking a job abroad. One way to get clear on those expectations is to articulate your personal definition of professional wellness. What would working within a world that exemplified your professional wellness look like? What would your day-to-day look like? What would be your measures of success? How would you interact with your colleagues and clients?

It’s not only important to contemplate and establish a standard of professional wellness for yourself, but it’s essential that you utilize that definition as you consider job opportunities abroad. The promise of a lucrative contract, perhaps ample expat benefits, and the rush of a new adventure abroad may be intoxicating, but your ability to withstand a different work culture may dictate how enjoyable and professionally fulfilling the opportunity is for you.

Before you accept a position (and most definitely before you move), it is imperative that you do your due diligence about the professional culture, customs and norms of your new country and city.

You need to know how your industry is affected by these professional practices. Identify anecdotal perspectives on the customary working hours, hierarchical structures, promotion practices, conflict resolution practices, the allowance and attitudes toward workplace bullying and sexual harassment. It is also critical to investigate how gender dynamics, ethnic differences, sexual orientation, family status, religion and language may play a role in your professional experience abroad.

Once you’ve decided to take the leap to work abroad, constructing a system to maintain your professional wellness is key. Seek out support from your company’s human resources department, employ an expat coach with expertise in cultural integration, join professional associations in your new country and maintain professional ties in your home country.

If you are considering working for yourself abroad, the aforementioned tips are still applicable to you and your situation. Especially if you will be working out of a co-working space, seeking professional partnerships and general networking. In fact, working for yourself abroad can be incredibly isolating due to the lack of a built-in work community that an employer abroad often provides.

No matter if you are working for a company abroad or for yourself, be sure to not unwittingly take toxic work habits with you. If you’re experiencing burnout, moving and working elsewhere will not heal you. In fact, it might exacerbate your burnout symptoms as you might not take the necessary care to get to the root cause if you simply believe that a change in scenery will make you ‘feel better’.

By articulating and creating a system that supports your definition of professional wellness you will be able to select a country, city and culture that will not only help you maintain a balanced sense of professional wellness but will also help you thrive professionally and personally.

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