Job Swap: How to Excel During Your Time Abroad

passport an binoculars on suitcase

Job swap programs are not a new thing; large companies have been utilising them for years. For many businesses job swap means a transfer of employees between departments, but companies who also have a presence in other countries often swap employees to cover needs abroad and/or transfer knowledge between sister companies.

As far as the company is concerned, there are many benefits to be gained from implementing job swap programs. They give employees the opportunity to learn more about the company’s operation and thus make better-informed decisions, and they also allow workers to come up with new ideas that could also benefit the company.

But, these programs are not always quite that simple for the employee in question. Having to relocate for work can be a terrifying experience that could cost them their job if they don’t manage to perform as well as they are expected abroad. Not knowing what’s ahead of you and not being able to ensure that you’ll have a future in the company after you return from abroad are all valid concerns, but the truth is that an opportunity to relocate for professional reasons could help you gain valuable skills and grow professionally.

All you need to do is to ensure that you are focused on your goals and implement strategies that will allow you to achieve your professional goals when you are working abroad as well as after you return home.  

Before You Leave

It’s only natural to be anxious about relocating for a job even if you have a secured position and salary. Moving abroad can be scary, and it can be even more so if you are moving to an environment where you’ll need to prove yourself all over again. Another concern most people have is that this move might be detrimental to their career advancement. Can they really be guaranteed that they’ll be something to wait for them when they get back home? Will the experience they’ve gained count for something? These are all things that you can get out of the way by simply having a sit down with your boss and HR. Here are a few issues you need to consider before agreeing to this relocation.

Ensure that You Possess These Three Main Traits

The Global Mindset Institute has identified three traits that anyone considering a job swap program should have.

  • A deep understanding of international business and an ability to adjust quickly
  • Ability to adapt to new cultures and be open-minded about different customs
  • Ability to embrace diversity in the workplace


The first thing you need to ensure is that you’ll be trained sufficiently before being tasked with your new responsibilities. Most companies offer training schemes these days, but you need to ensure that there will be someone to support you.

Apart from training for your job, you might also want to consider a language course. If you are relocating a non-English speaking country, you should consider enrolling in a course as it will facilitate bonding with your new colleagues.

Understand the Goals of This Job Swap

Our work should be meaningful, and this means that you need to fully comprehend why you being are asked to relocate. You need to understand your boss’s goals and what they hope to achieve from this transfer. By addressing different aspects of your job exchange program, you’ll be able to define your own goals as well.

Learn Everything You Can About Your New Position

You should never change position without knowing everything there is to know about it. So, it’s a good idea to start by learning about your new role and about the workplace as well. From day to day work responsibilities, to the names of the people you’ll be working with to the attitude of your new manager, this is all information that will allow you to navigate the new workplace more effectively.

Get a Point of Contact

Perhaps the most practical suggestion is to get a point of contact in your destination country. Someone from your new workplace would be ideal as they’ll be able to help you with insight information. And not only will you be able to ask this person for assistance about their country and how to get around during your first couple of months there, but you’ll also have a friendly face in the workplace which will make making friends with other people easier as well.

Have a Written Agreement With Your Boss

Generally speaking, job swap programs are usually short-term and specific in the sense that you are relocated to help with a particular task and once that task is completed you get to return home. But, to ensure that you’ll still have a future after you return you need to have an agreement with your boss. Make sure that you have in writing how long you are expected to stay there, what position you are expected to fill, that you’ll have a job when you return and you should even negotiate a promotion as you’ll have gained valuable insight during this time.

After You Move

Although preparing before you move will go a long way in making your transition smoother, it does not mean that you should kick back after you move. Rather, to create more career opportunities for yourself, you should strive to continuously improve. Keep in mind that the more you grow professionally abroad, the better your chances of advancing your career back home.

#1 Bring Fresh Ideas

It’s essential that you become the embodiment of innovation in your new position. As you are someone who’s coming from abroad, you’ll be expected to have something of value to add to the company, and nothing adds more value that fresh ideas. So don’t be afraid to suggest new ideas and if there’s anything that your department does differently back home and it works you should try to implement it as it could potentially make the team much more efficient.

#2 Network

If you are an introvert this might seem a bit tricky, but you need to make connections with professionals abroad, especially if your time spent here is a stepping stone to achieving career advancement back home. So, make sure that you meet everyone in the company and that you form close links with management as their feedback will go a long way in helping you achieve your goals.

#3 Set Your Own Goals

For your work to be meaningful, you should ensure that you incentive yourself and to do that you need to set your own goals. Think about what you want to achieve for the duration of your stay abroad and what skills you hope to gain before you go back home. By listing all of your goals, you’ll be more focused which will go a long way in helping you achieve your goals.

#4 Look for Opportunities to Develop Skills

Of course, it’s not sufficient to set goals and hope that opportunities to fulfil them will come along; you should look for opportunities to enhance your expertise and develop your skills. Keep in mind that because you were sent there, there’s a good chance that you’ll be viewed favourably which means that you could easily surpass the competition.

#5 Monitor Your Own Performance

If you’ve signed an agreement with your boss then you probably know how long you’ll be abroad. Job swap programs are generally short-term, but depending on the type of work you’ll be doing you might need to relocate for a year or longer. Whatever the case it’s important to make your time count and to do that you need to ensure that you monitor your performance. You should set your milestones and make sure that you evaluate yourself every so often to know if you are close to achieving those milestones or not.

#6 Keep Contact with Your Boss   

If you are worried that your boss might forget all about you during your time away you really shouldn’t. You were probably sent abroad because your boss trusts you to get the job done and is counting on your skills. With emails and Skype there’s no reason to worry that you’ll be forgotten about as you can get in touch with your boss on a weekly basis. You can exchange emails about your progress or ask their advice about different problems you are facing, whatever it is. There will always be a reason to talk to your boss back home so make sure that you embrace this newly found close relationship with them.


A job swap will only be stressful if you allow it to be. Believe in your skills and abilities and see your relocation as an opportunity to expand on them. They key is to grow professionally during your time abroad and learn new skills which you can use to advance your career when you return home.

Do you have any other questions about job swapping programs? If you do, please let us know in the comment section below and we’ll be happy to answer.

See Also: How Working Abroad Can Boost Your Career