What do people who thrive overseas have in common?

My father says you remember the smell of your country no matter where you are but only recognize it when you’re far away.

Aglaja Veteranyi, Warum das Kind in der Polenta kocht

I am putting this book in my to-read list because my dad often quotes a similar phrase in Bengali.

Homesickness has ruined several overseas experiences. If you have friends or family who live away from home, you must have seen their social media posts describing their homesickness. Different people deal with homesickness and unfamiliarity quite differently. Over the last few months I have been making notes about a few habits that help people thrive overseas despite their homesickness and circumstances.

Firstly I observed that you don’t need to be an extrovert in order to thrive overseas. So this post is applicable for both extroverts and introverts.

A determination to thrive

People who thrive seem to relentlessly pursue the best life they can have irrespective of where they live. People leave home for so many reasons – the adventure of trying something new, to be with family, for work, to answer a calling. The people we spoke to and read about, described times of overwhelming challenges or incidents of extreme homesickness but their determination to thrive carried them through.

They practice contentment

They are able and willing to maintain a positive attitude when dealing with the uncertain and the unfamiliar. They view the unfamiliar as fun instead of as intimidating. Fear is replaced by excitement. They also embrace their limitations, whether it’s their personality, illness, slow learning, they remain patient.

Read related: My struggles with depression while living overseas

They enjoy new food options

It’s not so hard to try new food options but when that new food becomes the regular option, it not always easy to thrive. Numerous struggles stem from the inability to adapt to new food habits. Finding food options that are close to comfort food have helped many adjust to the new tastes and textures quicker.

An open mind and desire to learn

Learn new cultures, language, lifestyle and habits without passing judgement all the time. A desire to learn and eagerness for exposure to new things is pretty vital to embracing the new experiences that life throws our way. An intentional appreciation for the new community and culture and not being a loner makes them thrive.

Read related: Tips for Overseas Living – Be a Learner

Not losing sight of the purpose for moving

Those who thrive overseas stay motivated by not losing sight of the purpose for moving. They avoid getting distracted with random incidents and emotions, episodes of homesickness, complicated relationships or small setbacks.

The more I think about these the more I realize that some of these habits are good to practice no matter where you live but they come in a lot more handy when you’re away from home.


Author: The Overseas Magazine Editor




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Entrepreneurial Employees

Entrepreneurial employees – the one consistent wish on every manager’s list. Not everyone with an entrepreneurial mindset end up starting their own companies – some of them work for other companies and are probably part of your team now. 

Habits of employees with an entrepreneurial mindset:traits-of-entrepreneurs

  • They don’t hesitate to take initiative and display strong leadership skills
  • They are constant learners and use opportunities to grow
  • They are driven by outcomes and impatient to succeed
  • They can work independently without supervision
  • They will leave your company sooner than later unless you give them a purposeful reason to stay. 

A manager’s leadership style can influence how entrepreneurial an employee will be. There are certainly some employees who will always just show up at work and do the bare minimum in exchange for a paycheck. But even in that situation, managers can encourage an attitude of entrepreneurship. On the other hand, employees who have an entrepreneurial mindset will also stop investing in the company if the leader fails to manage them well.

Managers who destroy entrepreneurship share some common traits:

  • They micromanage their employees because they believe that any amount of autonomy granted to employees will be exploited. Managers who believe this find it difficult to trust their employees with the simplest of projects.
A new manager was assigned to a team and the manager began to believe that the team did not have enough work. To remedy that, she began managing them so closely that the team decided to let her do all the work and simply do what they were told. Despite creating verbal action plans during meetings, her team would not deliver on projects. Whenever she confronted them, the same excuse was shared, “I didn’t know that I was supposed to do that.” The manager was frustrated with her team and decided that the best course of action was to start managing them even more closely. Since her team lacked initiative in leading projects, she decided to send them detailed notes at the end of each meeting to dictate every task that she had assigned to them so that they would no longer be able to use their usual excuse.

There are three main problems with this approach. Firstly, the manager will end up wasting a lot more time each day writing out those detailed emails to them. Secondly, if she does miss including something in her email, she will end up with the same ‘lack of initiative’ complain towards the team because the task will go unfinished. Additionally, her approach will crush any possibility of coaching her team to take ownership of their projects.

  • The other trait in managers that destroys an entrepreneurial spirit is criticizing new ideas and shooting down new solutions to problems. 
A friend of mine shared this about her manager. The manager encouraged new ideas only in theory. The manager would criticize the team for not thinking creatively but no matter how great an idea was, it would get rejected before it had even been fully discussed. And some of those ideas had potential. Needless to say, as time passed the team was less inclined to share ideas because everything was “shelved” for the future.

When faced with a problem, such managers then make it their responsibility to solve everything without including any inputs from the team. Even when inputs are encouraged, they steer the solution to what they had planned to do right from the start.

  • These managers end up delegating only mindless tasks that are aimed to keep employees busy without adding any value to the employee’s role. Some managers fail to learn the art of delegating.
A few months ago, I was discussing delegation skills with someone in a leadership role. The person was talking about their reasons for not delegating projects. They said that delegating often requires more effort to explain than to simply do the work themselves. The manager failed to understand that delegating projects in addition to coaching employees would be an easy way to develop the next line of leaders.

The other reason why this leader did not delegate was because they would wait too late to start the project and would run out of time to train someone else on the project. Needless to say, the manager was struggling to retain employees.

  • They believe that they need to stop employees with entrepreneurial mindsets from using company resources to build their own companies. Employees with an entrepreneurial mindset almost always have side businesses and it is this characteristic that makes them work smarter to make their employer succeed as well. 
 I was recently reading an entrepreneur’s success story. The entrepreneur admitted that he had spent hours building his own company while still employed at a full-time job. Instead of wasting down time at his job, he would use it all to work on his own company. After almost a year of working this way, he quit his full-time job and launched his own children’s book company.

During his role at his full-time job, he had succeeded in making a greater impact in the company than most of his other colleagues who were planning to work there for several more years.

If you want your team to continue developing an entrepreneurial attitude and exhibit a greater responsibility towards your company’s success, there are a few things that you can do.

Action Description
Be thoughtful in your leadership Managing employees with an entrepreneurial spirit requires  more transparent and approachable leadership instead of simply distributing tasks.
Allow your team to work independently Entrepreneurs work best when there aren’t suffocating and unnecessary rules. The successes that entrepreneurs create far outweigh the challenges of working with them.
Encourage and accept fresh ideas and solutions If the ideas that they offer are not useful, coach them to think critically and relevantly.
Delegate projects based on expertise Make your team grow by challenging them to work on projects that require critical thinking.
Be generous with time offs and adjusted schedules Employees who are granted more flexibility in choosing their work hours tend to use their time at work wisely and end up being more productive. (Important question for managers – do you want your employees to fake busyness or be genuinely productive?)
Hold them accountable Entrepreneurs thrive on outcomes. Let them be responsible for their successes and failures and guide them to think of effective solutions when they fail.

The right mix of leadership will help employees succeed and that, in turn, will result in greater success for the company. Those who don’t fit in will leave, and those who stay will excel. You will maximize resources, get more accomplished and overall have less managing to do. 

It’s true that there will still be those who will not turn entrepreneurial and will not take ownership of projects despite getting every opportunity to grow. They need to be managed differently.

If you have a great team, encourage them to be entrepreneurs. When you have a new hire, the work culture that you set with them will determine how engaged they are with the company’s success. Young professionals are often easier to mold than seasoned employees. Train them, coach them and let them work independently if you truly want to foster entrepreneurs and result in greater success.


The Overseas Magazine Editor

Maximize the first few weeks on your new job

Your first few weeks on the job can dictate your performance and reputation for possibly the rest of your time at the new company so be proactive about the reputation you build.

I really enjoy leading onboarding for new hires. Getting someone who is new to the company plugged in with ‘why we do what we do’ stories is quite a refreshing responsibility. But for the new hire, onboarding and orientation basically means an overwhelming amount of training schedules and introductions to new people and terms.

As a new hire, you have the opportunity to start afresh and prove your value to the company right from the start.

Prove that you’re smart:

First the obvious – pay attention during training. Don’t let your mind wander even when the information begins to go off in tangents. Instead soak in all the information that is passed on to you. That includes information from trainers, team mates, and informal chats. This should not be hard considering that all you have to do is listen and maybe take notes.

Nothing screams “incompetent” louder than when an employee does not have answers to the most basic questions despite being on the job for weeks. Show initiative and prove your competence.

Prove that you’re serious about performance:

Start thinking about how you can excel over the next few months. Find out the measurable for success at the company and for your manager. Once you have a concrete idea about what success looks like at your company, plot your guidelines to help you achieve.

Ask questions during your first few weeks. You will be excused for almost every silly question that you ask while you’re still considered new to the team. Full forms of abbreviations, significance of processes, names of team members – find out everything. Be empowered.

Prove that you’re a team player:

Be social and pleasant. Some of your new team mates will be more interested in leading introductions  than others, which means that you have to take the initiative to introduce yourself. Don’t miss your opportunities to say hello and ask people about their stories.  Most people love sharing their work stories.

Understand your manager and your team – observe and learn their personalities, work styles, and treat them with respect. These early relationships that you establish can impact the rest of your time at the company.

All the best for those first few weeks. You got this!


Managing Conflicts like Fireworks

In a team of competent people with strong personalities, conflicts are common. But even if the team was laid back and lazy, conflicts would still be quite common. As long as we continue working with humans, conflicts will be part of work. Maybe someday we will have the privilege of witnessing the types of conflicts that robots can cause.

Conflict is defined by any disagreement that is perceived as a threat by either or both parties. It’s more common among peers but it is also seen among team leaders and team members. You might discover new characteristics in a person by the way they handle conflicts. I have noticed the following types:

  • Those who enjoy “clearing the air” even when there is no air to clear;
  • Those who act “awkward” throughout the conflict but do nothing about it;
  • Those who act awkward throughout the conflict, do nothing about it but make sure that everyone knows about how they are being victimized;
  • Those who depend on someone else to resolve it and pretend that everything is alright till that happens;
  • Those who manage it effectively.

If you have a conflict with someone:

For most people, conflicts are never enjoyable and we try our best to avoid them. But if you find yourself in a conflict with someone, it’s better to resolve it than to dwell in it and watch it ruin performance and productivity. Before any resolution strategies let your emotions stabilize. We say and reveal a lot more than necessary when our emotions take charge of our conversations. Think about the situation objectively.

Are you perceiving the conflict correctly or imagining it? Do you need to get feedback on the situation from someone trusted before you do something about? Why is the resolution important to you? How will you handle the different reactions from the other person so that you keep the situation controlled even if the resolution does not go as planned? What changes are necessary so that you can continue working with the person even if the awkwardness remains? What compromises are necessary for the well being of the project and the relationship? 

Preparing ahead for difficult conversations is a good idea because it could prevent any damage to an already delicate situation and steer you away from an effective resolution.

If the other person initiates a reconciliation, fight the urge to resist the conversation despite the awkwardness and irritation. Be sincerely polite throughout the conversation – someone’s trying to make things right and you are wise if you help them. You style of resolving the conflict will impact the person’s perception of you. They are getting a glimpse into your character just as you are getting a glimpse into theirs. Of course as a professional, your ability to resolve conflicts should also impact your performance evaluation.

When mediating a conflict between others:

When mediating a conflict, the first step for you is to believe that resolving the conflict is not your responsibility. Mediation should be necessary only if individuals have attempted to first resolve the conflict themselves. Even if you are the team leader who is desperate to get your conflict packed team to work, it is not your problem to solve their problem. If you fail to understand this, you are preparing your team for failure by crippling them during learning situations.

Get both sides of the story separately. During this information gathering stage, avoid taking sides even if it is clear that someone is in the right and the other one is messed up. Maintain confidentiality of the details from both parties and other team members. But it is good for both parties to know that you are mediating. It will ensure accuracy in details and it will save you uncomfortable awkwardness. If accounts seem different, lead with clarifying questions without revealing that the other person had provided a different account of the incident or problem.

Once you have gathered the information you need, prepare action steps before meeting them together. Choose a neutral location that is also sound proof and allow them to resolve the conflict on their own. Guide the conversation when needed if they steer away from respectful resolution or compromise attempts. You are fortunate if they can keep their emotions in check. Based on how successful that conversation is, direct action steps for them in case the incident is repeated and hold them accountable.

Don’t expect your team to put it all behind them and move on as though the conflict had never occurred. It’s not impossible for that to happen but it is unlikely. However, help them understand that resolving workplace conflict is a professional necessity and reflected in their performance.

As a manager, encourage disagreements, not necessarily conflicts. But at the same time, don’t be afraid of conflicts. Some of them are called healthy conflicts for a reason. They are like fireworks and can be used to cause damage or light up the sky with better ideas.