When and where did you work abroad? What was your position?
I worked as Assistant Manager for Sir Harry’s Restaurant & Lounge in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2014 and 2015.
What made you want to work abroad?
I have been traveling, studying, volunteering and interning abroad for a decade. Working professionally abroad was the next step for me. I was looking for a challenge and a life-changing experience. I had an opportunity to make the move to Central Africa, so I took it.
How long did it take you to find a job and what job-search strategies did you use? Did you work in your field of interest?
It took me a couple of months to get the job, officially. Having contacts is very useful when you’re looking for a job overseas. I completed my B.B.A with a specialization in Hospitality; and working in the restaurant industry was definitely my field of interest. I followed that professional interest abroad.
Describe the application, interview, and selection process. What made you successful?
Because of the time zone difference, my interview took place at 6am via Skype. Being open and flexible for your potential employer is important. Having French as a first language was definitely one of the skills that helped me get hired in the Congo.
What was the biggest surprise about your work experience abroad?
No surprises, just be open-minded and ready to learn!
Did you participate in extra-curricular or social activities through your work abroad? If so, how did they differ from social activities in your home culture?
I was working for Indians, so the main social activity was playing cricket!
What made your work experience abroad a success?
I arrived prepared to work hard, learn new skills and new ways of working. I implemented social media marketing strategies and increased sales for the company. I guess my best advice is to adapt yourself to your new environment, but also try to use your personal and professional background to benefit and improve the company you’re working for.
How did you finance your trip abroad and did you find any creative solutions to stay on budget?
Luckily, there was no need to pre-finance my trip; and interesting perks were included in the job offer. After spending lots of time abroad already, I know how to creatively cut my expenses. A panini griller and 12 types of lotion are not necessary, look after your real needs.
Do you have a story from your workplace that gave you particular insight into your host culture?
Having contacts is everything in the DCR! If you want anything done, or to move forward, it’s extremely important to know people. Networking is the best tip there is for success.
What was the biggest challenge in adapting to your international work environment?
Social inequality was fierce and challenging. I focused on my job, and then before leaving, I donated.
How did you deal with the cultural divide in the workplace?
I kept a strong sense of humor. Seriously, even as a French speaker, I couldn’t understand all the local expressions. Just being patient, accepting my host culture, and laughing about the challenges.
What was the most important thing you learned about communicating in a foreign culture while you were working abroad?
I tend to speak quite quickly, so I learned to slow down. As a manager, you have to make sure your employees understand your directives, so learning to modify my communication was important.
What did you miss most about home?
Obviously, my family and friends. I also missed my freedom and independence. In Kinshasa, safety was also a major concern. Walking somewhere was almost impossible for me. That was an adjustment.
What is your number one tip for anyone hoping to follow in your footsteps by working abroad?
Just do it. You will enhance your career and learn a lot!
What are your future plans for going abroad and for your career?
I am currently working as a Hospitality Consultant in India. In July, I will start my MBA in Bangkok, Thailand. Global challenge accepted!
Paméla is clearly a natural born globe trotter! She has chosen a career that’s brimming with travel potential, and understands that the more international experience she develops, the richer her personal and professional lives will become. We want to commend and congratulate Paméla for accepting “the global challenge”!
We’d recommend that she continue on her current path towards earning an MBA in Thailand, and that she also make an effort to build her professional networks while studying. Adding language skills or teaching skills to her portfolio would also add to her future career potential. Perhaps Paméla could consider using part of her school holidays to engage in new or different activities in her current host country – for instance, volunteering or interning with a different type of organization, rather than sticking with those in the hospitality industry. Keep in mind: Sometimes stepping out of your professional comfort zone for a few days, weeks or months can also add a fresh new dynamic to your chosen career path! We wish you continued success on your international adventures!
• Check out our advice on the importance of networking: The Importance of Networking
• While you are on your international adventures, make sure to keep your online profiles updated: Your Online Presence
• Here’s our overview for job hunters in Asia: Asia Pacific for the Mobile Adventurer