The Reality of Relocating to the United States - Matt Bennett
Over the past few years, the US Learning & Development market has been booming and there has been a huge increase from US-based clients for UK training professionals. The lure of the US is clear, you will be challenging yourself professionally whilst earning a higher salary in a better climate, but despite the incredible appeal, what is the reality of relocating to the US?
We caught up with Matt Bennett, Global Head of Learning & Development at GQR Global Markets who made that very move, relocating from London to Los Angeles. I caught up with him to discuss the realities of relocating to the United States, here is what he had to say:
"Hi Matt, great to catch up, so what prompted you to relocate?"
'I was working in L&D in a role I loved, but having been there for many years I was keen to broaden my horizons so contacted you via LinkedIn. The role I applied for was UK based and having met with you it wasn’t the right fit for me. We then discussed a number of other interesting roles in L&D, a few of which were US based. I hadn’t initially considered an international move. I had worked in the States on occasion before and I was keen to explore this further. After several interviews and presentations, I was offered 2 roles, both through yourself and both in the US and chose to move to Los Angeles. Now I just had to break the news to friends and family!'
"Have you had to adapt your training style/methods?"
'Working in an international business has its challenges. Our teams are truly global, with employees from all over the world in each office. As a trainer, you must be more aware of cultural and language differences. There have been many occasions where my London colloquialisms have fallen on deaf ears with my global colleagues. I soon learned that the phrase “teach your Grandmother how to suck eggs” doesn’t travel well. With my L&D team working across 5 different time zones, I also rely on webinars, FaceTime and extended office hours to ensure I am as accessible as possible to my L&D team. This also extends to our training delivery. As a business, we have relied on face to face training and extensive travel, but we have invested heavily in technology to bring learning to our employees, wherever they are.'
"What are the main differences between UK & US recruiters?"
'Most US firms have a 180-recruitment structure; you are either candidate and recruiting focused, or sales focused. This has both its positives and negatives for L&D. The courses can be much more tailored to the individual’s role as a specialist in sales or recruiting, but collaboration and trust between the teams is the most critical factor, which can be difficult to teach. The firm I work for, GQR, is a British owned business and we replicate the 360 Consultant model of sales and recruitment combined, which is more common in the UK. This allows us to develop a wider range of skills in recruiters and opens up different future career paths for them, such as account management, individual contributor, or team leader.'
"How does the lifestyle differ and how do you choose where to go? (ie New York v Los Angeles)"
'I was fortunate and had the option to relocate to either New York or Los Angeles. I know both cities well and it was a difficult decision to make. New York is more accessible for friends and family to visit, but the city and commuting lifestyle felt very similar to London, just with colder winters and hotter summers. In the end, the attraction of sunshine and beaches won, and we chose Los Angeles. The lifestyle is much more outdoor focused than living and working in the UK. The climate lends itself to getting out and enjoying the natural beauty of LA. In just a short drive you can be on an empty beach or hiking up a mountain to enjoy the views. We also love the food, culture and nightlife here. Don’t be put off by the size of the city and its infamous traffic. It is easy to get around by car and the traffic really isn’t that bad. I love London but being able to walk to work along the beach in the sunshine is a game changer!'
"What would your advice be to any UK based L&D professionals thinking of relocating to the US?"
'My main advice would be to do it! It has been a fantastic experience that has developed me both personally and professionally over the past 9 months. Many US L&D roles are better paid than in the UK and the recruitment market in most sectors is booming. Make sure you get a chance to see the US office and meet the team before accepting. Get a good idea of how much travel is involved if there are multiple locations and be prepared to work hard. I left my last role to get out of my comfort zone and this role has allowed me to do just that. Don’t be put off by the size of the challenge ahead. It is hard but worth it in the long run.'
"What advice would you give around the practicalities of relocating?"
'Negotiate a good relocation package. If your move is as simple as packing a bag and jumping on a plane, then it is relatively straightforward. My move involved relocating my spouse, dog and furniture 5000 miles. Expect it to be harder than you imagine. Leaving friends and family behind was tough, but they’re all looking forward to visiting their LA holiday home. The things you take for granted at home must be learned all over again. We went from being settled in a great apartment in London, to sitting on plastic garden chairs for 3 months, while our furniture sailed its way across the Atlantic. Red tape in America can be slow, your credit score will go back to zero and most spouses must wait 90 days before they can start work after entering the US, which is financially challenging. Get to know the City before accepting any offer and work out your cost of living as rent can be eye-wateringly high. Finally, get a full breakdown of your benefits before you accept. Healthcare is expensive and not every employer offers pension plans (known as 401k). The relocation will be challenging, but the lifestyle benefits far outweigh them.'
"I have to ask, slightly shamelessly, how did you find Cavana Search in the job searching and subsequent relocation process?"
'From our first meeting, you got to know exactly what I was looking for and are clearly an expert in this space. There are very few people in L&D in London that you don't know, and you have some great connections with top recruitment businesses. The roles you put me forward for matched my criteria perfectly and the roles offered were exactly what I was looking for. During the whole process the communication was excellent, and we have remained in regular contact. I’m pleased to say that I’m now one of your clients and are working together to fill our global need for talented L&D professionals in GQR. You have a great understanding of our culture, growth strategy and person fit and has helped me personally in my transition to living and working in California.'