Is Working Abroad the Best Solution?

A look into the advantages and disadvantages of being an expat.

The world had gotten smaller ever since globalization became the driving force behind the rise of businesses without borders. The Internet has further aided this process in the advent of IT and Communications technologies and, nowadays, working abroad is easier than ever. The question now is not “can we” but “should we” and, as with most things in life, the answer is — it depends. Arguably, it comes down to a simple choice: do you want to specialize or generalize?

First off, we need to consider the following: working in a single geographical area limits your view of the business environment. Yes, we nearly have unlimited access to data, marketing research results, surveys, news, innovations, but it is one thing to read or analyze the end result of a project and another to live and work in a specific country. Knowing the solution to a problem from abroad is completely different from understanding why this problem came to be in the first place and which local factors affect the global partners of the country/company.

Working abroad gives you this perspective — as an expat, you get exposed to a country different from yours. You get to know why and how certain economic aspects affect those of the region where you came from. There are many examples of this, regardless of industry or role.

An Expat in the Philippines

Speaking from personal experience and coming from more mature markets than the Philippines has highlighted why it is less challenging to work in this country’s marketing sphere. In Europe, there are countless factors that have had an effect on the consumer throughout the last several decades, while the Philippines has only recently adopted the Digital Marketing perspective. Classic advertising vehicles such as TV ads and traditional billboards are still big here, whereas fresh digital campaigns have a great impact on the market. In Europe, traditional methods are already outdated and actually putting up billboards could be considered as innovative.

Of course, much more can be said about working in the Philippines and about being an expat in general but, in a nutshell, you get to know that a growing economy can learn a lot from European partners. For the Marketing sphere, this is specifically true for areas such as lead generation, growing conversions, customer loyalty, among others. Finally, it also gives you the opportunity to apply a somewhat more rudimentary set of skills that would otherwise have less of an impact back home. However, this also means you don’t feel the same level of pressure from competition in finding innovative ways to stand out from the flock.

Naturally, the situation is reversed and much more complicated for a Filipino working in Europe — a topic worth a separate article altogether.

The case of working abroad

Herein lies the biggest difference between working abroad and staying in your home country — staying home allows you to get more in-depth knowledge, focus more on work due to stable surroundings, and not be distracted by exotic landscapes. On the other hand, working abroad requires you to have a more general understanding of the area you have chosen. The underlying assumption I consider is that you do not spend more than two to three years working in a certain place before moving to the next one, as this is more closely related to the modern expat worker. Working and living in a country for up to three years gives you just the right time to adapt, settle in, and proceed to begin mastering a skill. The benefit is that, by moving to the next market, you naturally keep in touch with the general trends in your sphere and apply whatever you have learned in your previous role. However, by moving to a different location, you yield the benefits of long-term involvement in a specific market that allow you to progress and grow more comprehensive skills. In this way, you initiate the adaptation-settling-mastering cycle once more.

In summary, one can never tell you with certainty whether it is good or bad to be working abroad — it is a decision that has to be made and evaluated by you alone. For the purpose of staying on point, the topic of being away from family and friends was not covered, along with other common aspects of traveling — this is not to say that such thoughts should be overlooked. While there are many benefits to being an expat, it is also a difficult endeavor that is not for everyone. Likewise, staying within your comfort zone might seem like the easier thing to do, but you may run the risk of not growing. You can argue that it is easier to grow outside of your country simply because you have to. Ultimately, only you can decide whether it is the best solution for you or not.

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About the author:

Anton Bonev — a Bulgarian expatriate — is a marketing professional with a Master’s degree in Marketing Management from one of the top research universities in the Netherlands. Currently working as a Digital Marketing Consultant at John Clements Consultants, he is assisting the company in becoming the leading digital recruitment solutions provider in the Philippines.