Moving as Part of a Big Corporation v. a Small Corporation

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A phrase from a conversation I had many years ago has stuck with me: “tunnel vision.”

Today, you might have heard it as “wired in.” I have a spotty memory of #abatechshow 2010 as I was “wired in” to getting Small Firm Innovation launched. There was much to do before the launch date, the start of the conference, and I was going to get it done. And I did, much to the surprise of a few.

Immigration became my new tunnel, and it wasn’t until Chicago’s first TechWeek showcase in June that I took a moment to breath. It was then that I started to learn the difference of moving around as part of a large corporation v. moving around as part of a small corporation. The differences are significant, but not insurmountable. And, I’m finding, how it works has a lot to do with one’s personality.

The biggest difference is the amount of resources at your disposal. Large corporations, skilled at moving people around the globe, have considerable resources for their employees. There is an entire department whose sole responsibility is moving employees around the world. I didn’t quite appreciate the complexity of that task until this year. Obtaining a visa is merely Step 1, and oddly enough, perhaps the easiest.

So. Large corporations gather all the information from their employees, and most of the time this information is already on file as most of it is required for employment. Name. Birth date. Social security number. Address. Information you need for a US passport. And for large corporations, the visa process is simpler because it is usually an intra-company transfer. You, the employee, will still be working for the same company, doing the same thing, just in a different country. The rules and regulations for such a move are decidedly less complicated. Everybody wins in that scenario.

Once the visa is approved, the next step is moving you, the employee. One thing I’ve noticed we take for granted in the US is how downright easy it is to move from one state to the next. Of course, selling a house and uprooting yourself from close friends and family is hard, but the currency stays the same, banking stays the same, taxes, federal taxes anyway, stays the same. And you can keep your cell plan and, as the DirecTV commercials like to tell you, keep your cable provider, too. What changes are the surroundings, and the people.

Moving countries presents a completely new set of a challenges. Nothing, from the banking and tax system to media outlets and cable providers, to customs, people and surroundings, is the same. And things we think will be the same regardless, like Netflix and iTunes, are not. In fact, you have to establish new accounts! So my US Netflix account, yeah, no good. I have to cancel it and open a new, Canadian, Netflix account. #fail

Anyway. Back to the point. The large corporation has a checklist for you of whom to see about setting up a bank account, whom to see in regards to taxes in the new country and how to handle US taxes as well. A large corporation puts you in touch with a Realtor to show you places, and sets you up in temporary housing, or corporate housing, for a month or two while you and the Realtor work to find a place. The large corporation already knows what it will pay to ship your furniture and other household goods.

In the end, the large corporation is doing its best to make the transition smooth, and help you, the employee. adjust to the new surroundings. The large corporation has learned that a well-adjusted employee is a happy employee, and a happy employee is a productive employee.

In other words: the large corporation does it for you. Granted, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For many people, having that well oiled machine behind you is a good thing. But it can kind of suck the fun out of the whole experience, too.

For me, the fun part is getting my hands dirty. I like to know how things work, and often, I find a way to make the system run more smoothly. Immigration is a tough nut to crack on that since I have no sway over either government’s immigration department, but I can give you the benefit of my experience.

So, moving as part of a small corporation is a challenge. And while small corporations know, too, that a well-adjusted employee is a happy employee, and a happy employee is a productive employee, you’re going to have to get your hands dirty. The responsibility of getting documents in order, writing job descriptions, meeting the demands/requirements of the visa application and communicating where the various balls are in the air rests with you. That’s a fair amount of responsibility to shoulder, but it’s new to both you and the small corporation so they’ll have to get their hands a little dirty, too.

Be prepared for a lot of *facepalm* moments. Remember: this process is new to both you and the small corporation, so there will be a fair amount of information, methods and what not that will be discovered after the fact because no one knew, at the time, to ask first or think of it. And it’s possible you did think of it, but pushed it aside for any number of reasons. You’re undergoing a gigantic physical and mental shift, and mind and body can only take so much at a time.

Do not panic or fret over what you don’t know but, in hindsight, should’ve found out. A move like this, there is no way to know everything. That’s a hard concept to grasp, I know, but you will drive yourself crazy and lose track of what your doing if you fret over what you don’t, or didn’t, know.

If you don’t have a way to manage stress and the inevitable seemingly forever lag time, start working on methods now. For me, it was running. Those last couple of months were really hard, so to shift my focus, I trained for a 5K. I ran almost every day, alternating short and long runs, had running class once a week and paid super close attention to my diet and sleep patterns. My find was focused on something else, and it brought some much needed relief.

Be prepared for a number of conference calls, perhaps across time zones, depending on where all parties are located. I’m mentally accustomed now to thinking in terms of Eastern, Central and Pacific time zones, so setting up the calls wasn’t a challenge in that respect. Google Calendar is quite handy with its multiple time zone feature, too.

Skype is your friend. Don’t use your US cell phone unless you’re calling an 800 number. For all the conference calls, and one-on-one calls, I used Skype. This sounds obvious, but be sure to schedule calls during quiet times. We had a big storm sweep through over the summer, which brought out all manner of repair and construction crews. Hard to have a good conversation with industrial saws in the background. Also make sure you have a good headset and that the audio jack of whatever computer you’re using also works. Having a reliable Internet connection is also a necessity, but not quite the challenge it used to be.

And be prepared for an inordinate amount of lag time. Large corporations have people employed to manage the time frame and keep everything on schedule. That’s part of being a well oiled machine. Small corporations don’t have that kind of man power so, basically, if you don’t check in you’ll be forgotten. And keep everyone, the corporation, the immigration lawyer, family, friends, everyone, in the loop. There are numerous moving parts for the visa alone, and it is incredibly easy to forget something.

Looking over this post, perhaps I should’ve titled it “Be Prepared.” Kind of a misnomer, though, as you can’t be fully prepared for this kind of move. There will remain some unknowns. You just have to be comfortable with that.

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