10 Steps to a Successful International Assignment
On the road to an international assignment?
Are you excited about living in a new country, visiting new places and meeting new people?
I am sure you are but hold on before you get carried away.
There are many things to do to prepare well for an international contract.
You wish you have secretaries or executive assistants to do all the preparation. Chances are you have to book your flight, look for your accommodation, prepare your place for your absence, and pack what you need.
You may think it only takes one call and presto everything is booked. You wish.
There are things you need to consider for an international assignment before you book your business travel and accommodation. And more to follow as you start the process.
To help you, look at these steps:
1. Have a signed contract, work order, or terms of reference for the job
You need to have a legal paper in your possession, stating clearly the work to be done, the resources provided, and the remuneration for the work, including allowances and other privileges.
Maybe you are very trusting. But imagine yourself spending thousands of dollars to go to this assignment and find out when you arrive there that you don’t have it. And because there is no contract, they are not legally bound to pay your expenses. So you are out of a job and out of pocket as well.
2. Know all you can about the assignment
Have a clear idea of the terms of reference for the particular job, so you understand better the expectations from you and what support you need to ensure the work's success. Maybe, some points in the job description are not clear to you, or you may not have the skills for it. It is better to be upfront about this so they can get support for you early on.
You may also have specific requests such as transportation, communication allowance, or education for your kids. When the assignment demands travel to various places, find out about travel allowances.
You also need to know the reporting mechanism of the job. You want to know who you are going to report, the times you need to do so, and the format for such reports.
3. Ascertain the fees, air travel, accommodation, and other allowances and benefits
You can negotiate anything. Please make sure you feel good about your pay. You have to be realistic, but don't sell yourself cheaply. You can find out from those who have been in the business long. If the assignment is willing to pay only for an economy ticket, then find out your options at this level. It is good to know how much living allowance you are entitled to before you book a hotel or rent a place.
4. Find out the exact location of where you will work
What could be more irritating than driving amid traffic for two hours, morning and afternoon, to reach your place of meeting or work?
Such hassle gets more severe if you have already signed a lease on the place you have decided to stay. Unless, of course, when everything else other than work is in your chosen area of residence. Then, you can make some compromises.
Groceries, restaurants, schools, parks, safety, and critical amenities are essential, considering your requirements. Even if you have a car, choosing a place closer to work reduces the stress of every day. It is better to first stay at a hotel and look for a more appropriate accommodation once you arrive in the place.
5. Confirm the validity of all your documents
This validation includes, at least, 6 months' validity of your passport. Get business visas when needed. Often, in countries where you don't need a visa to travel, you may need a permit to work.
If you are close to an embassy of the country you are going to, it is better to get a visa right there. While airport visas facilitate the complexity of going to embassies when you don't live close to one, they can be a hassle upon arrival as most passengers are also lining up to get one. If you have to, prepare the required documentation such as pictures and the right amount for payment.
Sometimes, they may ask for a letter from your employer stating your assignment in the country and your address when you are in the country.
6. Get contact information
Make sure you have your hotel address or your office address. Better still, telephone numbers. Many things can happen. The car picking you up may not be there at the airport. Or your plane gets delayed. Or you did not count right the time zone difference when you gave them the date.
7. Prepare a list of information you need from the country or city you are going into
This list could include finding out if credit cards are accepted. If they are, do they charge fees? Are there ATMs in the place where you can use your bank cards to get cash? If there are none, what are the options? Make sure you can access money from ATMs through your credit cards. The more options you have, the better. Ascertain the limit you can take from your bank cards each day. The fees for ATM transactions can be high.
The infrastructure in many countries has yet to catch up, so there are times when your bank cards may not work, or your credit card will not. At times, it is just a poor connection.
8. Go over your insurance policy
Understand what they will cover in your country of assignment. Get the contact information for the clinics and offices of the insurance company. Ensure you have your membership card and write your number securely in another place just in case you lose the card.
9. Photocopy important information and papers and leave a set with someone you trust at home
Include the front pages of your passports and telephone numbers in your office and hotel. When you lose any of your documents, it is easy to get replacements when you have photocopies to show.
10. Talk to people who have lived or done business in the area
Learn from the local customs and protocol. Ask if goods that are important to you, such as medicines, are available there to supply yourself accordingly. Some items that you continuously use may be too expensive or not available in other places, and others may be too cheap that it is not worth your time packing some.
Indeed, before you can book your flight or hotel, there are many things to consider. Some people, though, go and do whatever is needed once you are in the place. This approach is alright if the assignment is sudden, but when you have a chance to do some planning, it is always better to get these done before you leave. You can then concentrate on the work immediately after you arrive.
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