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I have been working overseas for a large portion of my professional career (in Japan) but have always planned to return home (to the US) at some point in the future.

There are huge differences between working overseas vs. in your home country. Language, culture, work environment, working hours, etc. are all quite different. It takes years to adapt to a new culture, and many of the people I know who went back say that it took longer than they expected to adjust back again.

Assumptions:

  • The new job will not require knowledge of that culture/language (this is not a question about whether my skill set is beneficial)
  • I am up against another candidate with the same skills but no overseas experience (and there's only one slot, so only one of us will get the job)
  • I am already in the US in the area of the job (there are no logistical implications of me having to move overseas before starting the position, etc.)

Question:

Will the fact that I lived/worked overseas extensively be seen as a positive or a negative? It would also help if whoever answers can include information on the thought process behind their answer (from a hiring perspective) it would be helpful as well.

closed as not constructive by jcmeloni, Jim G., Rhys, gnat, CincinnatiProgrammer Mar 11 '13 at 12:40

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  • ... it depends, but generally positive. – enderland Mar 8 '13 at 0:42
  • Yes, the "it depends" is a given as everyone is different, but what is the thought process that it depends on? What are the criteria? The obvious ones (skills, logistics) being set aside, what are the pros/cons that go through a hiring professional's head during the process? – jmac Mar 8 '13 at 0:47
  • Depends on if they are liberal or conservative :). A conservative might think you lack patriotism, whereas a liberal might think you've been exposed to ideas from other cultures that might tangentially be helpful. – Amy Blankenship Mar 8 '13 at 3:14
  • It looks like it comes down to, "Depends on the company and interviewer" which is a fair answer I suppose. – jmac Mar 8 '13 at 3:43
  • It depends on what it is that you do exactly. If you're a programmer and you speak native English then this question is largely moot; people won't care that your experience was in Japan. If you are in a management position, then the questions of culture and processes will be a big deal. – MrFox Mar 8 '13 at 15:05
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I had been an expatriate myself (I am a retiree now). Some of my coworkers were expatriates. My answer is based on these experiences.

Cons

  • You'll have trouble with getting references/recommendations. Your potential employer would wonder what you were doing in the past years. How do they verify your past?
  • You sure will bring the diversity into the company you'll work for. Would the employer really want this diversity? Not necessarily everybody likes to have it.
  • If you're looking for security/defense related jobs, your foreign connection could be a minus unless your former employer sent you to the foreign country in the first place.

Pros

  • You bring in the diversity into the company. Big companies always would like to have diversity.
  • You do have extra skills - understanding of other cultures.
  • We are global economy. Who knows your foreign connection will never be used?
  • Above all, you'll have different perspectives when you deal with problems. (I can already tell by your previous answers to other questions on this board.) Demonstrate this to your potential employers. Some may not appreciate it. Those who do will hire you.
  • Thanks for the comments. Could you clarify why you think it will be hard to get references/recommendations, or really to verify which companies I've worked in? I'm not herding yaks in the Himalayas after all (nor would most expats coming back to apply for an office job). – jmac Mar 8 '13 at 3:45
  • @jmac If you list experience in NY in your resume, people usually will believe it - they know they can verify it anytime. People would have question about your experience in Tokyo, how do they know it's true? Even if you provide a well English speaking Japanese reference, how do they know that reference is for real? No one wants to fly to Tokyo to meet him in person to verify his identity(not yours). The end result, put your resume aside. If you already have a good reference, keep in touch. You never know when you need him. – scaaahu Mar 8 '13 at 4:06
  • I always assumed that if a references was questionable, they would just hire an agency that does background checks and/or checks up on references. And I assumed they existed in Japan as much as in NY. Do people really fly out to meet references? (I suppose if it were a very senior position it'd be a possibility, but for your general non C?? position as well?) – jmac Mar 8 '13 at 4:12
  • @jmac Expense is the key. How much would it cost to hire an agency to check a reference in Tokyo? Most agencies have offices in the whole US. How many have office in Tokyo? You know the answer better than me. You've been there. – scaaahu Mar 8 '13 at 4:20
  • It is an especially big plus if you are applying to a copmany that also has foreign offices (or outsoruces to foreign companies). They tend to really like foreign work experience as it shows you can adapt to other cultural norms. – HLGEM Mar 8 '13 at 15:57

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