The World: Why migrating means looking forward, not back

Moving overseas once heralded the twilight of a career, but it has been the making of these industry leaders.

No longer a prelude to retirement, the global transfer of talent is an increasingly essential way of working your way up the slippery advertising pole. While no statistics exist on the numbers that do navigate their way around the world, globalisation means that it's a trend that's here to stay. In theory, all jobs are transferable across borders. But, in practice, the most successful transplants tend to be in creative and planning. "The theory being that creative ideas and the planning process are universal," Gary Stolkin, the global chairman and chief executive of The Talent Business, says.

Countries that do export more talent than others, such as Australia and Argentina, tend to be relatively small with a strong creative heritage. Culture plays a part too.

"You can't ignore the culture," Rachel Farley, a senior consultant at the recruitment company Janou Pakter, says. "Australians have always travelled. It's something that is not specific to advertising. Plus, it helps to have a first-class resume and several foreign languages. You have to have senior level skills before a recruiter calls you."

Stolkin suggests working on business that involves developing a strategy, or working on creative work that runs across borders. And if you're a Brit, get online experience. "Most overseas markets are more integrated and digital than the UK and if you're not fluent in digital, you'll struggle to get a job," he says.

Certain holding companies move more people than others, especially WPP and Interpublic. "WPP is the only holding company that has a well-developed, centralised HR management function," Stolkin contends. "Certain networks are more fluid and have a more defined or homogenous culture, which makes it easier to move people. JWT, Ogilvy, Saatchi & Saatchi, McCann Erickson and TBWA all move people."

If you are planning to work abroad, the most dynamic markets are Latin America and Asia, Stolkin says. For Latin America, you need Spanish or Portuguese, while Asia is a better prospect for English speakers.

"People used to be quite snobby about working in Asia, but now some of the best talent across all disciplines is in the region," he says.

"The key driver is the dynamic growth in Asia and the shortage of locally grown management. Around half of the senior appointments we make in Asia come from outside the region."

Will New York always be a key destination? Probably. "Because most Americans working in US agencies don't get the chance to drive international business, there continues to be a steady drip of roles handling global clients out of there," Stolkin says.

- Dave Droga founder, Droga5

I'm a big believer in travel. We Australians by nature are gypsies. I had some success in Australia and wanted to test myself overseas. Everyone said: "You have to go to the US, or the UK." But Asia at the time -1996/97 - hadn't really peaked. It had a reputation as the place you go to retire. I thought I'll go to the other end of the spectrum and go there as a young, feisty guy. So I was the regional creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi for a couple of years.

Each pit-stop I've made has added value. I wouldn't have had the confidence to open my own agency had I not had the journeys. Australia, where I cut my teeth, taught me the value and fun of advertising. I understood that this could be a brilliant career for me.

Asia taught me about the work ethic. London taught me the craft and power of advertising. London is such a creative place and it has a certain respect for consumers. New York taught me the business of advertising and showed me the nuanced differences in the market.

An idea is an idea is an idea. Obviously, there are geographic, cultural and religious nuances, but the principles are the same, which is why so many people move around and why it's important. It's very easy to become myopic about the industry. A country doesn't make a career move. Moving to Singapore wasn't a career move, it was a job. And there's been one in every market. Singapore/Asia gave me a canvas where I could road test myself in a market that was important. The network gambled on a twentysomething. Because of what I did there, they let me run London. Travel's a great thing. Our New York office is like the United Nations. I don't see a downside at all.

- Brett Gosper World Group president EMEA, McCann Erickson

Advertising is the study of human behaviour because it interacts with creative forms of persuasion. Practising that craft in various cultural arenas adds a degree of difficulty that can only make the transplanted executive a more complete advertising professional.

Encouraged to "go global", one could now argue that global has come to everyone. It has come through the screen from Hollywood, and through gaming culture and the immediate sharing of not just information through the net, but emotion through social networks.

Paradoxically, technology now enables the aspiring globalist to remain very local.

E-mails, messaging, texting, iChat, Slingboxes etc all mean you can now be in another country without ever feeling the deprivation of your own culture and the eye-opening reliance on another that comes with it.

The Air Miles-gathering ad person should never be confused with the multi-transplanted colleague who has lived, slept, breathed and been bullied in a foreign context. There are few experiences more character-building.

The executive with multi-domestic experience often stands out. They seem to operate with a broader awareness, a kind of sixth sense that enables that person to detect and navigate new social codes and new business contexts without panicking and without the timid uncertainty or naive certainty of inexperience.

The global transfer of talent is really the ultimate ad school. It tests how good you can be without knowing things you've always taken for granted. It forces you to extract the best from what you do know and it teaches you to re-learn what you thought you knew. Most of all, it teaches you humility, that rare commodity admired throughout the globe.

- David Jones, global chief executive, Euro RSCG

I've now lived in France, Germany, the UK, Australia and the US and, at every stop, have picked up fantastic experiences, both professional and personal, and made great friends. It also was without a doubt the catalyst to me being named the global chief executive of one of the world's largest advertising networks at the tender age of 38.

I think the experience teaches you a lot about yourself as a person and about your culture. It makes you more objective and open and able to see issues from other people's points of view. And it gives you a much better understanding and ability to work on global and international business.

Mono-cultural thinking rarely provides the best answer to problems and I think it helps you to think in a much more multicultural way. It also helps you see the flaws of your own country and thinking. I don't think people should be allowed to work on global business until they have lived outside of their own country.

It led to me meeting my beautiful French wife. My kids all have between three and four passports opening the world up to them and giving them a fantastic perspective on life at a very young age. And it's been a great career accelerator.

Are there any cons? Only one: people who move around tend to end up in global or international jobs and that leads to too much travel and time away from the family.

- Richard Pinder chief operating officer, Publicis Worldwide

If it is said that recession is when someone else loses their job and depression is when you do, then, by the same token, globalisation is when others need to think multiculturally and living abroad is when you do.

I believe that it is only by moving countries - by living and working internationally - that you can truly contribute to building winning brands and businesses worldwide. Visit a supermarket, not for a store-check, but for the weekly shop, and your view of a country and your understanding of a culture change dramatically.

In a world where the chief executive of Vodafone is Italian, the chief executive of Nestle is Belgian and the chairman of L'Oreal is British, the only surprising thing about the career question of "should I go abroad?" is the question itself.

I have lived in six different countries (currently France). I draw upon all these experiences daily with clients and colleagues alike, since one thing is certain: the Latin, Asian and Anglo-Saxon views of the world are remarkably different.

I will never forget the priceless scene of a client complaining at the Hong Kong offices and the account team laughing in response. To a Westerner, this was unbelievable. But to the Chinese, laughter was the team showing enormous embarrassment at the agency's failure.

I didn't go travelling because I wanted a sun tan, nor because my career had hit the buffers in London. At 32, I was the managing director of a large UK agency and three years later, in 1999, I wanted to do something broader. I have spent the past decade looking forward, not back.