Working Abroad in Paris for a Year as a Fresh Graduate

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Leaving Singapore to Work Abroad in France

Last November, I encountered one of the boldest career decisions of my life. I crossed the borders of my home country and travelled 10,000 kilometres across the globe to work abroad in Paris, France where I joined the Global Human Resources team at Schneider Electric as an Executive Reward Specialist.

Bertrand Wong Schneider Electric working abroad in Paris

I was stoked when I received the offer to work abroad when I joined Schneider Electric back in June 2018 as part of the Energy Generation Program – X offered in Singapore. While I was ecstatic about the amazing opportunity I was presented with, I was daunted by the thought of living alone in a foreign country, where I’d be immersed in a different culture and language.

With the encouragement of my family, friends and co-workers, I took a leap of faith and embarked on one of the most enriching experiences of my life. It has been 11 months since I started working in Paris, and the journey has been nothing short of extraordinary. To encourage other recent graduates like myself to seize opportunities to work abroad, I hope to share my perspective and the lessons I learnt from my experience.

Taking Things One Step at a Time

Being parachuted into a new environment was overwhelming at the beginning, especially in the face of uncertainty, language barriers and cultural differences. I soon realized that the key to settling down well is not in dealing with everything at once and expecting all to turn out fine. Instead, what aided me in my transition was focusing on one aspect at a time. That included settling my relocation matters, finding a daily routine that fits my work and lifestyle, learning basic French phrases, and establishing professional connections.

By not rushing into every matter and staying organized, I gradually got a grip of things and became more comfortable in navigating the workplace culture and my new surroundings. I relied heavily on the support of my manager, reward team and our counterparts from International Mobility (IMC), whom I am truly grateful for in making me feel welcomed and providing the help I needed along the way. It took me close to three months to get well-adjusted to my new environment working abroad.


Expatriates working abroadBeing Proactive Accelerated My Development

With the recent launch of the Open Talent Market at Schneider Electric, I had the opportunity to explore projects outside of my daily job scope as a way to further develop my career. I took on a couple of projects and had the privilege to work with diverse individuals from various business units located in my office a.k.a The Hive.

In addition to applying new ways of working and experimenting with new ideas, I gained fresh insights into how people live and work on this side of the world. Despite some of the differences I noticed through our interaction, I discovered that everyone here shared one thing in common – being connected by our company’s ambition and Core Values that guide the way we work and act, regardless of our country of origin.

One of the most impactful takeaways I learnt from one of the OTM project managers was the importance of establishing psychological safety within the team. During our first meeting, we were encouraged to be inclusive, voice our opinions, think bold, and not be afraid of making mistakes. This was crucial in enabling us to contribute effectively on an individual level without the fear of being judged.

Expanding My International Network

Meeting new people working abroad

Working in another country has its advantages in terms of the opportunity to meet and build connections with people from very different cultures and beliefs. Moreover, there is a significant proportion of internationals based in The Hive and it was nice to attend some of the expat (expatriate) community events and monthly lunches organized locally. Kudos to the organizers for their wonderful initiatives!

Additionally, I connected with many of the interns and apprentices. It is always interesting to learn more about their career aspirations and their view of the job market in France and Europe. I even had the chance to tap on the expertise of one of them (he gave me a crash course on using Tableau), which I truly appreciated.

Learning to Adapt, But Staying Authentic

Knowing how to adapt to the culture and norms of the people around me is important at times, especially when it comes to behaviours and ways of working. It took me a while to become accustomed and adapt comfortably to the local habits.

During the process, I remembered not to lose sight of my own identity and tried to provide my own unique viewpoints and suggestions so as to contribute meaningfully to my team’s work. In fact, I’d say it is advisable to express our ideas more freely since it brings about diversity and fresh perspectives to the people we work with.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, working abroad has added perspective and depth to my world view. As I approach the end of my 1-year assignment in France, I am thankful for this incredible opportunity to broaden my horizons, build deeper cultural awareness and be more independent and self-confident. Despite the initial struggles of navigating uncharted waters while working abroad, I believe that staying positive and having an open mind contributed significantly to my overall learning experience.

As I prepare for my return back to Singapore, I will continue to embody the spirit of #LearnEveryDay and #EmbraceDifferent and uplift others in my journey forward. To more adventures ahead!

Are you interested in an international career at Schneider Electric? Check out our website for more information and for available positions.

About the Author

Bertrand Wong

Bertrand is an Executive Reward Specialist under the Reward Solutions team in Global HR. His primary focus is to design and propose compensation and benefits solutions for our top executives globally. He is also involved in executive compensation governance topics and our Worldwide Employee Share Ownership Plan (WESOP).

Aside from his work in Schneider Electric, he enjoys engaging in endurance sports, reading and writing about self-improvement, and helping job-seekers maximize their career potential through his social enterprise in Singapore.

Connect with Bertrand on LinkedIn

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