Working overseas brings challenges that go beyond the core requirements of the average engineering job. These can range from language barriers and culture clashes to irregular hours and social isolation. Energy giant BP has a global presence that requires sections of its workforce to be somewhat footloose, not to mention thousands of employees working long stretches on its offshore operations. Vicki Hyland, Global head of Talent Attraction at BP, outlines some of the things the company looks for when sizing up potential candidates.
What does BP look for in prospective candidates, both here and overseas?
At BP, we employ 74,000 employees in 70 countries across the world, so having a global perspective is really important. Even in a UK-based role, you will work with colleagues from all over the world, and this helps to build a global mindset.
What are the skills- both technical and personal – required to succeed in overseas roles?
I would stress the importance of personal and communication skills and having an inclusive mindset. What I mean by this is being respectful of other cultures and ideas, and being able to adapt quickly to different ways of working. Employees who make an effort to understand the nuances of business culture in different markets are the ones who will thrive the most.
Of course, it’s also important to have the right technical skills, but if you are a qualified engineer, for example, the technical skills you have are globally transferrable as all BP locations operate under the same high standard of technical expertise.
What are the challenges?
Besides the obvious challenges of adapting to a new culture, office and colleagues, many of the challenges encountered when moving overseas are logistical – such as finding the right housing and schools for your children. The advantage of working for a company like BP is that we provide employees with a lot of support in this area, so they can concentrate on doing the best job they can.
We also provide support through our employee-run networks, called Business Resource Groups (BRGs). For example, our Working Parents and Carers BRG in the UK holds events for expat parents to help them understand the UK schooling system.
What type of people are best suited to working abroad and offshore? Is there anything in particular BP looks for?
The people who do best are those who are proactive and are willing to make the most of the opportunity. That’s true of BP as a whole too – there are a lot of opportunities we are willing to give you, but you only get as much out of it as you put in. If you secure a posting abroad, you’ll gain a lot from the experience and build a great global network, so long as you really seize the opportunity and are willing to get stuck in.