As many of you will know, I moved to Barcelona a few years ago to work as an assistant and marketing manager for Gallus Events. I must say, looking back, I was pretty brave. Moving to a new country where I didn’t know the language or many people. At the time I had a great job in London, I lived in an amazing part of town, had a fun social life and, well, everything was pretty settled! Saying all that I have never regretted moving here, taking those initial steps have led to so many wonderful opportunities.
I have always advocated that assistants take a step out of their comfort zone, whatever it happens to be! So many PAs I’ve met who have decided to do something they find either slightly uncomfortable or terrifying (hello, public speaking!) have never regretted their choice because it can lead to so much. Moving abroad may not be for everyone, but there are certainly benefits of working abroad for Assistants. When I decided to take the plunge these were just a few of my career considerations:
Working abroad will mean lots of new experiences
When I decided to move to Barcelona and start working for a small and young events company I thought the new stuff I would learn and the experiences I would have would look great on my CV. I had always worked for large organisations in a very traditional role. This ‘Marketing Maverick’ role certainly was not traditional! I thought to myself, whatever happens, I will have a great story to tell in my interviews if I have to move back to London and get another traditional EA role. I also thought, this experience would help if I wanted to get a different job outside of the PA industry because I had lots of new skills. I think organisations like to have assistants who have experience of life and working abroad does give you that!
What characteristics do you need to work abroad?
The two most obvious competencies need to work abroad are adapting to change and being open to new challenges. I couldn’t stress these more! From trying to rent an apartment in a new language to working on events for months that eventually didn’t happen, I had to be totally open to the difficulties that come with working for a start up and setting up a new life in Barcelona. Actually, a lot of the PA skills I picked up working in London really helped. I’ve always been good at thinking on my feet and, trust me, that came in really handy the first year here.
Extending your network and working with global suppliers
Within the first month of moving to Barcelona I travelled to and from London a number of times, Amsterdam for an event we organised and to Frankfurt for a networking event. Within that month I had new contacts in a whole load of new countries. I still am in regular contact with these guys and have used them for the Practically Perfect PA events. Moving abroad has made me a much more open person because I’ve had to get to know new people and make new contacts in this new city. This new found openness has really helped me networking for business. Being thrown in the deep end will do that to you!
Learning a new language
I’m not going to lie, my Spanish is, shall we say, a work in progress! It kinda goes without saying that having a second language in business is a really great skill to have and really sort after in the UK. So, if you do get a chance to work abroad, I wholeheartedly suggest you throw yourself into learning the language too. You will not get a better opportunity to learn while you are living in that country and immersing yourself in the language and culture. If nothing else, it looks brilliant on your CV!
The pace of your life
This was a big one for me, but not something I realised until I came back to London. The pace of life in Barcelona is much more relaxed than in London. I actually work more hours and I work harder, but I don’t feel as stressed because the atmosphere here is calmer. It makes a big difference to me. I’m much more measured now, I take longer to decide on things, usually over a coffee. In London I was racing from one thing to another and I never felt like I had enough time for anything. I don’t know if there is something in the air here, but ‘Barcelona pace’ just helps me slow down, slow my life down and think things through more.
Putting this into practice
So, how can you put these ideas into practice? Well, I guess, this post is me trying to tell you that working abroad has loads of benefits. It’s not for everything, but if you do get the opportunity to work abroad or even travel with your Executive, grab it with both hands. You will learn so much that can help you with your career in the future.