Blogs / 04 JAN 2023
“The Explorer’s Factor”: It’s Who We Are!
Click here for a list of attributes that indicate a successful assignee and make up the DNA of what I came to call the Explorer’s Factor.
As I am writing to you from a plane high in the clouds, I hope you will find useful the information I am about to share regarding a topic very dear to me: being an expat and a global corporate citizen.
I still remember the first time I lived abroad. The year was 2012, I was a 22-year-old exchange student in Dublin, Ireland, and had recently graduated from college in my hometown of São Paulo, Brazil. Even though I had wished and hoped and worked hard for that moment, today I realize I was not entirely prepared for the challenges posed by intercultural differences and all the skills I would need to learn and master to succeed. During that time, I met both students who ended up moving permanently to Dublin and others who gave up on the exchange and moved back to their home-countries before the third-month mark.
Jumping seven years ahead in time to 2019 I had one of the greatest and most sought-after opportunities in the corporate world: I was transferred overseas for work. I cannot tell you how fast my younger self came into play to remind me that this time I was to be more prepared and well-equipped with the necessary tools to succeed, now that I was moving to Dallas, U.S.
This time around I had the opportunity to meet lots more expats and foreigners in a corporate setting. Many were thriving in their personal lives and excelling at their jobs, while others shared difficulties around making friends with locals, missing the food from home, not engaging in meetings, having difficulties meeting their goals, or communicating effectively with their teams.
International assignments are strategically critical and financially significant investments, so when they fail, for whatever reason, it can prove to be costly for companies.
Having had these international living experiences, and seeing how some people thrive while others face more challenges, and even fail, I started to ask myself the following questions: what makes someone a successful expat? Are we able to identify the traits of successful expats and build a framework around them as one way to better predict whether a person will be successful abroad before sending them on assignment?
After discussing it with friends and colleagues who have gone through similar experiences, we humorously called this framework, “The Explorer’s Factor”, as a way for people to gain inspiration from earlier world explorers embarking on journeys overseas to respectfully research and learn within different cultures, taking in their local flora and fauna, architecture, politics, etc.
“The Explorer’s Factor” Explained
The Explorer’s Factor is my collection of a mix of character traits and learnable skills that may help an assignee thrive when going on assignment. These traits are broken into five areas:
Social and Cultural Savviness
Of course, the presence of these traits alone cannot guarantee assignment success, but they can be a great indicator of its likelihood. Ultimately, it is the diligent application of these five areas, on top of the natural growth an assignee will go through with more time and experience, that will be key.