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Finance Executives: Should you take an overseas posting?

An article today in WSJ’s CFO Journal by Kimberly S. Johnson (Career Booster for CFOs: a Stint Abroad) discusses the opportunities that exist for finance executives in taking an overseas posting on their way to the CFO chair. The article is well written and researched, and has many positive points to consider for finance executives on the rise.

You may remember playing snakes and ladders as a youngster. The article makes it seem like an overseas posting is a ladder to get you to the top. I have seen instances that it has been such a ladder for up and coming finance executives.

But beware. What very well looks like a ladder could be a snake that gets you to slide down and out.CFO Snakes and Ladders

In my experience as executive search consultant, I have spoken with a number of disillusioned finance executives locked out of the most senior roles in an organization because they took an overseas role thousands of miles from head office.

From my perspective, one of two things happened. These finance executives either lost the opportunity to move up by being so far away from decision making, or they were pushed there because senior management did not consider the executive the “A” player they thought they were.

Opportunity or Kiss of Death? Ladder or Snake?

Here are some pointers.

Have the conversation – know what is expected of your time overseas. Listen and ask questions, especially for what comes after the posting. Only hearing vague promises of great things after your stint is not enough. You need to understand what is expected of you during your tour of duty, and what the plan is after. Also, have the conversation as to what knowledge, skills and experiences you should obtain during your expatriate experience, and how they are needed to “complete you” for your next tasks ahead. Oh, and get it in writing – who you speak with about the plan to leave and return may no longer be with the company when it is time to come back.

Stay close – Relationships are so important to your success with your employer. Your Relationship Map will be a key tool to ensuring that you continue to manage the important relationships needed for your success overseas. Being in the corporate loop is difficult enough when everyone you need to speak with is down the hallway. Being an multiple times zones away makes staying close that much harder, and critically more important.

Impact your success – Use this as an opportunity for to impact your three critical career success factors. Plan how this new posting will impact your Brand. Network inside and outside your company is more important than ever, and maintaining your visibility takes a lot planning and effort.

If you are offered an overseas move, don’t just jump at the offer. Make sure the move will land you on a ladder, not a snake.


Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

In an increasingly global business environment, my opinion is that overseas posting should be encouraged or overseas experience should be valued (more than it is now).

Having to prove my worth the second time (here in the US) and having to go up the proverbial corporate ladder again, I have first hand experience. I can say that it was a fulfilling (being able to succeed) and at the same time frustrating (it was unneccessary) experience.

I do NOT see a DOWNSIDE to the experience. There are a lot of other explanations for overseas posting that are NOT negative so I disagree that there are only two One major explanation is for the opportunity to prove one's worth and use the foreign division/posting as a training ground.

You are right that most of the time, the foreign posting is VIEWED as a negative. But the paradigm is changing and the market will slowly shift it's view and need.

Topic Expert
Samuel Dergel
Title: Director - Executive Search
Company: Stanton Chase International
LinkedIn Profile
(Director - Executive Search, Stanton Chase International) |

Emerson. The experience itself can be very positive and have an impact on the executive and the employee.

I would like people to be more aware of the risks in addition to the opportunities, as well as having a plan to make the experience a success, both during and after the overseas posting.

Thanks as always,

Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

This issue tends to go back and forth. In the mid-80's, it was highly recommended to go abroad. That seemed to fade away. The issue is not too different than the plight of a telecommuter. You must make an effort to stay connected and relevant to headquarters, as much as possible. Avoid - "Out of sight, Out of mind."

Topic Expert
Samuel Dergel
Title: Director - Executive Search
Company: Stanton Chase International
LinkedIn Profile
(Director - Executive Search, Stanton Chase International) |


Yes, the effort needs to be made, before as well as during, so that the after is successful as well.

I appreciate your input. Hope you are well,

Kurt Kipfer
Title: Retired
Company: Retired
(Retired, Retired) |

An overseas posting / assignment, if approached with the proper attitude and the required cultural sensitivities, is an opportunity that can be invaluable. It will change most for the better with a broader view of life. A chance to view/learn how "business" operates in different cultures, environments with different regulations, rules, etc...

The work experience gained will likely not be duplicated anywhere else. The life experience gained, approached with the proper attitude, will be invaluable / life-changing.

Your sandbox of ideas and contacts will be increased immeasurably!

... speaking from experience on this topic. two years in financial role overseas in the Netherlands within global insurance sector. invaluable.