We present our interview with Karolina Kołosowska, a seasoned HR professional with experience in many countries under her belt. She is the spirit behind HRound The World, a series of interviews (AMA style) with Polish HR specialists from, well, around the world. Our company is a partner of the project and we can’t wait to hear from HR experts from abroad! The guests include employees of the largest corporations like DELL, LinkedIn or Facebook. This means you not only get to hear from experts, but you can ask them questions during live streams, too!
To see the complete schedule of interviews head straight to the website, where you can register for streams! If you want to read more about weird twists of fate, that can result in a good recruiter – read Michał’s piece on his rocky road to Bee Talents! And if remote teams make you a little nervous – download our latest ebook about the dangers of building such teams!
Below you can find a lightly edited conversation, that I had a couple of days ago with Karolina. Enjoy!
[Dawid Bartkowiak] What drove you to start this project?
[Karolina Kołosowska] Two reasons. First, I was lucky enough to meet awesome people on my professional journey. They motivate me to be better and to know better, and I jumped on the chance to do HRound The World. I think it is both a fun project and a great opportunity to hear insights about working abroad from the very best.
- Karolina in her natural habitat – creating an HR specialists community!
Second, I walked a mile in those shoes myself. I was abroad in HR departments and loved every minute of it. Malta was the first destination, where I went for a contract, and later – Indonesia, which was a dream come true for many reasons. My experience gave me an understanding of how bad the information is for those going abroad. I had dozens of questions, but getting answers to them was a struggle. This is why we decided on an “Ask Me Anything” format, where viewers can engage with our guests and share their concerns about taking their careers abroad. So don’t hesitate – ask away!
Two countries, two relocations. Was it any easier going through those as a HR specialist? Does your industry knowledge help, when one day you just land in Indonesia?
A thing to understand – going abroad for a prolonged period of time changes you. It forces you to grow a bit. So whatever know how you have when leaving, it is important to be humble about it. Trying to do things “your way” is a recipe for people disliking you, if they don’t know you before. You need to find a balance between being assertive as an expert and not being a righteous jerk!
I also do not think it is easier for HR people to relocate. From my experience, it is not the work environment which is potentially problematic – it is the human aspect. HR experts miss home and miss their family just as much as anybody else. Therefore I would not say HR experience itself makes you immune to early trouble, but some personality traits can certainly help.
And in terms of relocating others (I relocated a couple of developers to Malta), you learn a ton of empathy and care. You are in a process of overturning that person’s life by 180 degrees, and you cannot put the process above the new team member’s well being. Encourage dozens of questions, as lack of certainty about my place and my role, can be very detrimental to early performance.
So what are those attributes, that help you succeed in a new country?
This is obvious on many levels, but flexibility is huge. The way you absorb new information and adapt to it. The way you handle things, that would be surprising back home. I could also call it being fearless a bit.
How we manage social interactions is important as well. Whether we want it or not, sometimes we will get a “foreigner” or a “polish girl” label. Labels exist and they are not always glowing and positive. You should make sure not to be boxed in the stereotype, and become yourself, an individual. Other issues may seem like obstacles, but they often are overblown. Polish young specialists, for example, seem to undervalue their English proficiency – but less than perfect is most often enough!
Side note – sometimes it is the family that stays behind which may have a harder time than you! For me, when I was going to Indonesia my family was not amazed by my choice. It took some preparation from me and them to ensure my safety and their satisfaction. In a way, remember to on-board people close to you and prepare them well for what is coming.
Are there any HR-specific labels for Polish employees?
No, I have not noticed such labels. However, our IT specialists are well-thought-of. We are perceived as hard-working as a nation, and this is possibly the label I would advise to try to adhere to 🙂
How to find an HR job abroad?
I would start very much locally! The single easiest way is through the grapevine – word-to-mouth! Having a great personal brand and reputation as an HR expert is a good starting block to jump abroad. Be active in the community, do your job like a madman, and opportunities may find you. That is how I would go around if asked to recommend someone – and we often are put in such a position.
But if you have the first part covered, it is not the job itself that usually will be the problematic part. What you want is what you will find – but there are simply more factors to take into consideration than for a local job. Are you looking for a higher salary? For personal and professional development? Lastly, maybe you simply want to work somewhere else, and do tourism in every free second? That was me – and I think there should be ZERO shame in being honest with yourself that you want to meet a new world. Part of my enthusiasm for the contract in Indonesia was being close to Bali, which was for a long time a dream of mine. I was not disappointed!
Is HR already global? Are there processes, procedures, or maybe ways of communicating that surprised you abroad?
Pretty much global. I have not found large differences, even though I worked with diverse cultural environments. There were little new things, but nothing weird. For example, knowing what I know about relocating, I volunteered to help two programmers find a suitable place to live in Malta, which entailed browsing some apartments for them! So no, no surprises, but be open to doing new stuff.
But I have noticed one thing – business in Poland is still a bit rigid, hierarchical. The structure of the company matters more. On the other hand, from my experience, we work long hours and we work really hard in Poland. Developers from Spain or other countries are much more chill and they are not in such a hurry to race to the end of the project finish line.
What about those without a dream to work abroad – will they learn much from HRound The World interviews?
Certainly! Much of what we will discuss is candidate experience, and more broadly, customer experience. I will ask our guests about their daily practices and procedures, which are the lifeblood of their companies. I think there will be a ton of insights to chew on and implement later on in our organizations. At worst you get to hear how the best corporations in the world do business at the individual level – worth hearing every time.
And finally – you went abroad and returned. Many of HRound The World guests do not have such a plan. Was it easy to come back?
If you left so much behind as I did – yes, it is easy! But the benefits are considerable. Not only personal growth, new friends, the accomplishment of work abroad. I do not think it is controversial, that faced with two absolutely identical CVs I would gravitate towards one with some international experience. Not many things challenge you the way uprooting your life and planting yourself thousands of kilometers away does. What else to say – try for yourself.
For the schedule of upcoming live streams head to this website 🙂