Ron Thomas, Managing Director of Strategy Focused Group
If you are currently working in Human Resources in Asia, it might seem difficult to jumpstart an international career. We talked to Ron Thomas, who shared his insights and tips on how to start working overseas.
Ron’s work involves creating HR process improvements that help companies achieve business objectives such as positively impacting the bottom line or increasing employee engagement.
Before he started working globally, he was based in New York, where he worked for Xerox Consulting Practice.
His career journey around the world started was kickstarted when a headhunter contacted him, offering him an opportunity to work in Saudi Arabia.
“Saudi Arabia at that time was a very restrictive culture a direct opposite from the New York environment where I lived,” said Ron. “Also, my boss would be the CEO, who was a retired Air Force General. This was a command and control culture, while my past work culture was more collaborative. So I had a huge challenge.
“That being said, it was the opportunity of a lifetime and I would never have forgiven myself if I had not pursued it,” he said.
That opportunity opened doors to many others, and Ron worked all over the world, even with major brands such as Bosch, HSBC, OCBC, in the Asia Pacific region.
Ron believes that a big reason for his success is the fact that he had worked on his online presence.
“The headhunter who offered me that job in Saudi Arabia told me that my LinkedIn profile was what caught their eye. So my advice to everyone is to make sure that your profile is always up to date.”
How do you make yourself more eligible to work overseas, though? Ron had two main tips – to build a strong LinkedIn profile and to immerse yourself in the right online networks.
When building your LinkedIn profile, Ron suggested using strong words such as ‘created’, or ‘developed’ instead of words such as ‘administered’ or ‘monitored’, saying that more impactful words help paint a picture of you as a problem solver.
With regards to finding the right networks to join, he recommended joining HR groups on LinkedIn and Facebook from the country that you want to work in.
“Get to know the people there. Contribute. Add value. Lots of jobs are posted in those sites and it is just a matter of getting to know the key leaders in that country and building relationships with them,” he said, cautioning people against asking for a job immediately after making a connection.
Ron highlights that it is also important to have some experience working overseas if possible as that adds value. In addition, Ron works to build his network wherever he goes.
“I have always tried to build my network outside of the normal vertical process. What I mean by that is to build connections outside of past jobs by connecting across countries. In each country I visit, I seek out conversations with relevant people and build relationships.”
He shared how his effort pays off, as he now has close to 15,000 connections on LinkedIn, meaning he has access to a vast array of resources.
It takes time to build connections and relationships. However, as proven by Ron, taking time to build your network and online presence is time well spent, as it will yield many opportunities for you.