Interesting piece in FM World today about taking the leap and working abroad. In my view there are two very important factors - one which is mentioned in the article, and one which is not.
The first point is about the increasing requirement for fluency (or at least competency) in other languages. It's no good having a highly evolved and well respected FM sector if it can translate to other locations and economies due to the language barrier.
Brits are one of the worst developed countries in respect of the average's person's ability to hold a conversation or read a newspaper in a language other than English (although we tend to manage to order a beer!)
FM is probably below the average in this respect (and Larch will be undertaking some research into this). Our reluctance to embrace other languages may cost us dearly in the global economy, where we are seeing an increasing trend for integration of migrant workers (not just in the UK but all over the world).
The second point, which isn't really covered in the article, is about translation of the UK experience into other FM markets. Granted we may be at the forefront of the profession, and that many skills and experiences are transferable.
But most FMs in the UK are supported and surrounded by a great net of capability and competence. If you are Contract Manager for a service provider, for example, you have a whole hinterland of procedures, methods, documents, processes and precedents available at your fingertips. Equally if you are a client FM, you are part of an expert peer group and are supported by an organisation that knows and understands the value of FM.
Once you go abroad to run your own show, very often you will be the only FM person in your organisation. If you are in a new building/complex (which these posts so often are) you have no precedents to work from, and quite possibly a service provider economy that is very different to that of the UK. Add in the language and cultural hurdles and it can be a difficult mix. You will need to make decisions which are expensive and risky, without being able to work off what's been done before.
So what could you do to prepare yourself for a post abroad?
- Learn a language (yes, I'm always saying this, I know).
- Make your research into a role less about the package and tax, more about the culture and business environment.
- Use your peer group - BIFM and RICS, for example, have members all over the world. Ask them stuff. Listen to what they say.
- Be a reflective practitioner - try to learn as you go along. Ask yourself how something might be done differently in a less developed market. Ask yourself how you would sort out this problem if you didn't have a world leading service provider beside you.
- Find a mentor - someone who has travelled this road before and knows the territory. People generally like to share their experience.
Learning a language is easy. Start right now - you could download an app and learn to say hello in Arabic by the end of your lunch hour.
At some stage in their career, most FMs will consider at least the prospect of working abroad. FM’s status as an immature profession in various territories makes it attractive to UK FMs conscious of this country’s perceived pre-eminence in the field.