SpringBoard: A Career Redesign Workshop

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A career redesign workshop for executives who value purpose over promotions.

This October, CapitaPartners will be hosting SpringBoard, a two and a half day experiential program where executives fashion a professional career that is driven by purpose. Guided by internationally recognized executive coaches, participants link their strengths and values to professional satisfaction.
Reconnect with your passion. Build a legacy. Make fresh contributions.
Join us October 15 -17, 2015 in Santa Barbara, California.
Learn more and register here. And consider sharing this with a friend or colleague.

Careers: The End of Expats?

Over the course of my career, I’ve packed my bags and moved countries eleven times. Along the way, I also held several short-term assignments lasting about a year for which I chose to live in hotels and serviced apartments instead. For most of those moves, I had my company’s commitment that as long as I performed, opportunities would await me when it was time to return home.

Back then, it was common for repatriation to be the underlying goal of both organizations and the executives they sent overseas. That has fundamentally changed, with high-potential talent managing their careers on their own terms while the best companies are investing more in developing local talent. As a result, the traditional three-to-five-year expatriate assignment is truly a thing of the past.

At the same time, while multinationals have cut back on expatriate packages, expats are more willing to give up those privileges in order to stay where the action is. Many voluntarily bail out of their expat status, recognizing it as a symbol of an outdated colonial mindset, and a costly burden for their employer. Others proactively look for opportunities to stay in Asia and apply their new expertise as “local” hires in new organizations once their initial expat assignment is over.

In fact, few self-respecting, globally minded executives would describe themselves first and foremost as “expats” today. The best recognize that to make a meaningful contribution, they need to blend into the international melting pot. They also value gaining experience over receiving immediate financial rewards— these executives are in it for the journey, not just “the job.”

Bonnie, an American citizen, has shuttled between the U.S., Singapore, and Australia for most of her work life, always as an assignee from headquarters. Now a regional executive in Asia with a top-tier U.S.-based company, she was almost speechless when I asked her if she has any plans to return “home.” “Why would I do that? The opportunities are in Asia.”

Another American, a top regional executive with a U.S. multinational who has been in Singapore less than a year, is coming to terms with the realization that he is happier in Asia than in headquarters, just as his assignment there is coming to an end. “It’s emotionally tough to consider the possibility of leaving after spending my entire life with this company. But I’ve got to look to where the opportunities are, here or on the outside. And this is where the action is.”

For organizations, building a pipeline of mature and agile local leaders is a strategic and cost-effective move for the long-term that will take time to achieve. While more and more programs like Capita Partners’ AsiaNext platform are being offered to prepare high-potential local talent for global roles, for the foreseeable future, most companies still need expatriate mentors to help groom them.

Getting and maintaining an appropriate balance between expat and local executives will remain the challenge for HR teams, especially in fast-evolving markets, where “un-expats” with the right experience and attitude are presented with new opportunities all the time, regardless of a their current employer’s repatriation plan. Their future is determined by the cut and thrust of the market for talent, not by some executive sponsor in headquarters. Recruiters call every day, and they know they have choices.

Smart organizations will win their loyalty not with a binding expat deal of “three to five years,” but by ensuring that they provide immediate and tangible career benefits that outweigh tempting opportunities at other companies. It is time to let these expats “go local,” recognizing that all career paths do not lead back to headquarters. They lead to where the action is.

For those expats whose time has come to return home, a strategy for repatriation will help them make a smoother, more successful transition. Capita Partners offers game-changing workshops and one-on-one intensive coaching as part of its Xroads Career Engagement offerings. Contact info@capitapartners.com for more information.

CapitaPartners is a leader in global mindset and careers. The firm consults to multinational organizations on global leadership, expatriate assessment and selection, and repatriation

Five Steps to Making a Career Change

A leap into the deep end.

A leap into the deep end.

Over the years, I have witnessed hundreds of executives make job changes, mostly involving a bigger title, more money, or greater responsibilities. Relatively few of these executives quit to move into entirely new careers. When we see a true career shift, we tend to marvel at the executive’s courage. In fact, most executives who make the move are not thinking in terms of courage. They are making a rational decision to get more out of their lives and careers, albeit with more risk. The key is having the self-awareness to know what you want and taking the bold steps to get it.

Daniel, once a successful banker and now an award-wining film composer, is a case study in how to do it right. After meeting Daniel over lunch in Los Angeles, I thought that others might like to hear his practical insights on how to deal with the challenges of making the big change.

When Daniel took his career leap he was 35, married, had an MBA from UCLA and was already a successful investment banker on Wall Street. He knew something was missing and his gut told him to do something that was meaningful and enjoyable. He made the leap. Daniel left the prestige and trappings of investment banking to start a new career in music, his first love.

He explains his life change this way. “It wasn’t as big a step, or as courageous a step, as you might think. I had always loved playing music. I had a bachelor’s degree in composition from UC Berkeley. Obviously I also knew the business world. So I decided to put the two together.”

Here is his advice:

  1. Listen to your passions but be honest with yourself. Daniel made the practical connection between his love for music and his business experience. He took a leap but beneath him there was no dark and mysterious abyss. He was honest about what he knew and what he needed to learn. He calculated the leap.
  2. Prepare a financial cushion. How much is up to you and depends on what you value. Daniel felt motivated to live a more authentic and simpler life, to live his values. Daniel wanted to be freed of trappings and his costs were low. He had enough to live through the transition. Beyond that, he put trust in his capabilities.
  3. Write a business plan. Daniel’s first action after leaving the bank was to write a business plan. “I didn’t know the business like I know it today, but I knew I first needed to write down my goals.” This, he says, creates intent. When the plan gets on paper, it gets done.
  4. Re-tool. The next thing Daniel did was to learn the new business. He enrolled in UCLA to study composing for film. He took as many courses as he could find, including movie-making and screen-writing. According to Daniel, “if I was going to write for movies, I wanted to understand storytelling–how to convey the emotional side of a story through music.”
  5. Build a network. It was also through the courses at UCLA that he began to develop a network. Looking back, Daniel found that building his new network–in the days before LinkedIn–was slow and time-consuming. “I made cold calls and asked for endless introductions. I was shameless in asking for help and made lots of mistakes. I assumed that because I had a pedigree in banking studio executives would see me. These were totally different worlds, different cultures. I needed to adjust.” It was through this active engagement process that Daniel came to understand and adjust his style.
  6. Look up, look often. Daniel sought feedback at every step along the way. He measured his successes against his plan and make course corrections as needed.

After Daniel walked me through these learnings, I asked him what the hard part was. He says he underestimated the work involved and the impact on his identity. “Hard or painful, I don’t know the right word. The secret for me has been to act with intent–to know what I want more of and what I want less of. The hard part for me was to bore down into the fundamental questions of what I want and then to act on it. I had to do a lot of work on myself.”

I also asked him what he meant about identity. “After making the change, I slowly woke up to the fact that I needed to revise my identity. I wasn’t a successful banker any more. When I sat in the chair talking to a potential customer, I wasn’t a success. The other guy didn’t care about my past. He only wanted to know if and how I could help him now.”

Daniel summed it up his journey this way. “Even after I made my career change, I defined my success in terms of others. I wanted to be accepted by my industry, to win awards. Now I define success according to three things that matter most to me: doing good work, making enough money to live, and feeling personally happy and whole. I’m glad I didn’t wait until later in my career to make the change. This business is my life’s work.” Daniel turned his calling into his career.

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