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10 Things Expats Should Know Before Returning Home

10 Things Expats Should Know Before Returning Home

The idea of relocating abroad is nothing new, although this is something that is becoming increasingly popular among British citizens in the modern age. An estimated 323,000 citizens emigrated during 2015, which represented the highest number on record since the height of the great recession in 2008.

10 Things that Expats need to know before returning home

An estimated 43% of these emigrants were British, many of whom had reached retirement age and wished to see out their idle years in the warmer climes of Spain and Portugal. Some emigrants are younger and may relocate for work or other reasons, however, and this demographic is more likely to return to the UK at some point in the future. As expats they will need to be prepared for a period of transition when returning to their country of birth, while also keeping the following points in mind: –

1. Returning Expats must manage their return in increments

One of the main issues with returning home is reintegrating into local customs, as this can often be as overwhelming as moving abroad in the first place. You should therefore consider your return home as another form of international relocation, as you look to manage your move in increments and gradually rediscover your sense of home.

According to Singapore based medical professional Gwen Sawchuk, the best method is to buy a property back home while still living abroad, planning regular visits and holiday’s to build familiarity and relationships within the local community.

2. Returning expats may face jealousy from friends and loved ones

When you return home, you are likely to have a myriad of tales to share with friends and loved ones. These individuals may be a little jealous of your adventures, however, especially if their lives have remained largely unchanged or uninspiring during this time. By overwhelming them with information about where you have been and the things that you have experienced, you may alienate loved ones or build feelings of resentment.

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Instead, find natural conversational openings to share your stories, doling out information slowly and respecting the feelings of those around you.

3. Returning Expats will need to manage their expectations

Occasionally, expats may return home for reasons outside of their control or due to an unexpected career development. This is the situation that faced young soccer starlet Jack Harper, after the Scottish youth player fulfilled a boyhood dream by joining Real Madrid and moving to Spain at the age of 13. Having decided that this career path was not bearing fruit, he returned to the UK and currently plies his trade in the south of England with Brighton.

The proactive nature of this decision and willingness to embrace even unwanted career developments is a lesson to all expats, who must manage their expectations when returning home. Not only will their surroundings change dramatically, but their career and work-life balance may also suffer for a transitional period of time.

4. Returning expats may need to adjust in a Transient Community

With cultural and career shifts in mind, there will be a pronounced period of adjustment when returning home as an expat. This may influence the type of region and neighborhood that you look to move into, and attempting to return to your previous home or move into a close-knit community that is resistant to new-comes may prove challenging.

Instead, consider relocating to an area that has a more transient population, where there is a higher turnover of newcomers and a more open sense of community. This will ease your transition and help you to adjust quickly to your new surroundings.

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5. Returning Expats should prepare for the fact that old friends may have moved

When planning your return, it may be of some comfort to note that you are returning to the bosom of friends, family and loved ones. Even if you do choose to relocate to your home town and previous abode, however, you will need to prepare for the fact that things may have changed considerably in your absence. Some friends may have relocated themselves, while others may have changed in terms of their personal and outlook.

This means that while some relationships cannot be restored others will need to be rebuilt, so keep this in mind when returning. As engineer and expat Don Merritt has confirmed, we must strive hard to ignore the notions that everything will stay the same back home in our absence.

6. Returning Expats must prepare for cultural and political Transitions

When we first relocate abroad, there is an innate sense of excitement and wonder. This means that we treat even irritating or uncomfortable experiences as cultural anomalies, which in turn helps us to learn and maintain a sense of balance. Such an outlook is reversed when we return home, however, as we no longer have the illusion of cultural or political differences. This means that we must prepare for cultural and political transitions, while also adjusting our outlook in order to remain positive.

Serial-expat Elliott Chen believes that this issue is even more pronounced when returning to the East from the West, thanks primarily to the huge cultural differences that exist and the stifling regulations that are placed on personal liberties in the west.

7. Returning Expats may struggle with slang and everyday communication

It may seem strange to think of communication as an issue for expats, especially as they are returning home and to the land of their native tongue. Despite this, senior content manager Matt Schiavenza struggled to understand the common slang words and phrases that entered the lexicon while he was away and found everyday conversations a struggle.

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In this respect, maintaining regular content with folks back home prior to your move may help you to familiarize yourself with new and popular slang words. You may also want to check out the Urban Dictionary online, as this will help you to identify that latest phrases to have entered the mainstream.

8. Returning Expats should have their career plans in place before moving

We have already touched on the importance of treating your return home like the process of international relocation, so it is crucial that you have the next stage of your career development mapped out before you make your move. If you fail to do this, you may find it difficult to source work or realign your business venture while also adjusting to a new environment. This is even more important if you own your own business, as you and you alone are responsible for making such a commercial transition work.

According to the-travel-franchise.com, the UK’s franchise industry alone has seen 20% over the last five years. This is creating a higher number of entrepreneurs and encouraging more people to move regularly between countries, but we must never lose sight of the importance of proactive planning and making preparations ahead of time.

9. Returning Expats should be prepared for a new kind of home sickness

Home is a malleable and fluid concept, and one that changes as we progress through life. It essentially refers to a place where we seek refuge from the pressures of work, raise our families and share intimate moments with the ones that we love. So while we miss our place of birth and homeland when we first relocate abroad, we our outlook changes as we live overseas and make a brand new home in our new surroundings.

This means that when we return as expats, we tend to develop a new kind of home-sickness where we miss the place and country that we have just left. This may manifest itself in several ways, as you seek out new friends of a specific nationality and try to integrate associated customs where possible. According to content manager Schiavenza, the best remedy is to break this spell and plan a holiday to your second home prior to your return.

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10. Returning Expats should be proactive when attending to financial matters

Returning to your homeland is an emotionally challenging experience, but it is also one that requires numerous practical steps. You may have been classed as a non-resident for taxation purposes during your absence, for example, so it is crucial that you re-register with the relevant bodies when repatriating.

This type of attention to detail is crucial, especially when it comes to financial matters. It is also important to calculate any changes that may have altered the cost of living in your home nation, along with increases in property, fuel and vehicle prices. This will help you to budget and make viable plans that make your return more manageable.

Featured photo credit: Outpost Magazine via outpostmagazine.com

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Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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