/ Published 7:00 AM EST / Tamara George

Working the world: 5 tips for international success

In an increasingly global marketplace, exploring job opportunities abroad can be a great way to build a successful career. It can also be an incredible chance to discover other cultures, learn different ways of working, open yourself up to new ideas and tackle challenges you’d never encounter at home.

Alvin Khoo

Alvin Khoo at Manulife’s head office in Toronto

But a successful move requires more than just a plane ticket and a sense of adventure. As part of our “Working the World” global opportunities series, we talked to Manulife employee Alvin Khoo about his recent relocation from Kuala Lumpur to Toronto.

Alvin came to Canada in 2014, after working with Manulife Malaysia for almost four years, and is currently working as a Senior Actuarial Associate at our head office. His move has taught him a lot about the benefits (and challenges) of international relocation, and he was happy to share his tips for a successful experience:

1. Risk it
Alvin has always wanted to work in a Western country. In fact, that desire was a major factor in his decision to work for Manulife. So when an opportunity came up to apply for the competitive Toronto Actuarial Development Program, he decided to take a chance, even though he wasn’t sure he would get in.

“I wasn’t expecting much,” he admitted. “But then I was invited to interview, which went well, and things were set in motion.”

2. Leverage learning opportunities
There’s no better way to experience different ways of thinking and doing things than working in another country. Alvin, whose background is in the valuation of insurance products, has had the chance to learn a lot about investment reporting and analysis. He has learned how investments are aligned with insurance products, and has gained an excellent understanding of the bigger picture.

Recently, he was involved in an investment strategy review for a business unit, and came away with a new level of understanding about quantifying and analyzing financial impacts for reasonability. He learned how investment strategies are reviewed and how they can be aligned with risk appetite and goals.

“Being in Toronto and working with the Global Asset Liability Management department has taught me so much about investments,” he says. “My professional knowledge has grown, and I have gained skills that I can apply in my practical work. The whole experience has made me a better person and a stronger professional, which means I can now contribute even more to the overall success of Manulife.

3. Embrace whatever support is available to you
Global companies like Manulife offer a lot of help to employees relocating internationally. They help with both physical relocation and cultural transition, and with the inevitable emotional impact of leaving a familiar world behind.“Manulife offered lots of things to help me feel at home,” says Alvin. “They have settling-in services, an orientation tour of Toronto, a website that helps with integration, and they set me up with a real estate agent to find a place to live downtown.”

But Alvin has also found support beyond Manulife’s official relocation help. Colleagues, new friends and even people on the street have been warm and helpful.

“I was told Canadians are really nice and polite,” he says. “And I have to say, they live up to their reputation. My colleagues have been very accommodating and offered helpful advice. And even strangers I bump into on the street have been willing to help if I look lost.”

4. Find pieces of home — wherever you are
Moving to another country is exciting, but no matter how driven you are, living in a place that’s completely new can be overwhelming. In addition to spending time with colleagues, who have helped ease the transition, Alvin focuses on finding elements of home in his new setting.

“Canada is so culturally diverse,” he says. “You can get any kind of food, and with all the different neighbourhoods, you can always find something familiar if you’re looking for it.”

5. Keep reminding yourself why you moved
“You should always keep the purpose of your move in mind,” he says. “Think about why you were willing to leave your family and friends. Remind yourself often of the goals you want to achieve, and keep a strong mindset.”

Whether you’re making the move on your own or with the support of your employer, being open, interested and focused will ensure your experience is a life-changing one — both personally and professionally.

Work the world with Manulife
As a global operation with locations in Canada, the U.S. and Asia, Manulife offers diverse global opportunities to qualified candidates who are up for the challenge. Search our current openings by location to see roles that can take your career to a whole new place.