From ex-pat to re-pat

A quarter of people quit their jobs within a year of returning from abroad.

A quarter of people quit their jobs within a year of returning from abroad.

There comes a time when it all has to end. You've been in Asia for three years, set up your headquarters, implemented the global intranet, and sales are looking good. Now it's time to go back to the fold and rejoin your main office, older, wiser - and more sucessful.

Except it doesn't really happen like that. When you originally accepted the posting, you were given a hike in salary and a brand-new job title - CTO Asia-Pacific emblazoned across your business card was a real ego-boost - but now you have to go back home you find yourself assigned to Special Projects, which makes you suspect there isn't a proper job for you any more. Well, perhaps they'll find you something after a month or two of skulking around the water cooler.

In addition, the tax rates across Asia have been kinder to you than you ever imagined, and your real disposable income has grown considerably. It's hard to imagine losing 40% of your hard-earned cash again.

And how about the other benefits - the company flat, the maid to look after your kids? You never really considered them when you accepted the offer, but now they're part of your life, a habit.

For many, leaving Asia comes as a bit of a surprise, and they view their homecoming with trepidation. When they do get back, the social re-integration is hard enough - getting used to people cramming into lifts and hawking in your ear at 8am - but re-integrating into the corporate culture is altogether harder.

I forget where I read it, but apparently around a quarter of people quit their job within a year of coming back from a tour of duty abroad. This is a terrible waste of talent for companies. At a time when globalisation is becoming more and more attainable, it seems crazy to lose the only people in your organisation who actually have pertinent experience.

However, assuming that companies won't learn this until too late, I have a couple of suggestions for you when that irresistible overseas posting is put in front of you. First, consider all I've said above, and weigh the pros and cons carefully.

Still want to go? Good. Now sit down with your boss and talk about what happens when you get back. What will your job title be? How will your salary be maintained? And, please, no 'special projects'.

Once you've got it all in writing, you have no cause for complaint and there will be no surprises on either side. Plus, it gives the impression that you intend to stay with the company in the long term. This is never a bad impression to give, even if you do eventually end up quitting, and opening a cafe on the beach in Bali.

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