Working in retail abroad is a sure-fire way of getting ahead back in the UK.

Building your CV is all about setting yourself apart from the crowd. Employers are faced with hundreds of applications every year – many of which will be virtually indistinguishable. One thing guaranteed to help your CV stand out in the pile is experience of working overseas.

With the globalisation of the retail sector there are now plenty of opportunities to be had. For the employee, whether they work on the shopfloor or in head office, working abroad can be the perfect career boost.

“It’s a huge advantage for anybody to have international experience,” says Robin Lewis, former New Look HR director and now group HR director of retail financial services provider CMC Markets. “In retail there is a shortage of professionals with this experience at executive level and operational store level.”

Launching a retail business in a new country brings a whole set of operational challenges. Recruiting those who have proved their ability to manage these challenges in a different culture is crucial.

So what are the key skills that international experience provides? One is that compared with the UK, people are likely to gain a breadth of experience in each role. The number of retail opportunities in parts of the Middle East, for instance, has grown rapidly until recently and expats have taken advantage in their thousands. The retail scene in many parts of the Middle East may no longer be booming, but as Lewis says: “A store manager in Dubai will have the opportunity to take a broader management remit quicker.”

Around 90 per cent of the population of Dubai is expats, and many British retailers working there now have a few years’ experience under their belts. Many believe this has equipped them with a more diverse range of skills than those who chose to pursue careers in the UK.

And with developing markets being more immature than the UK, career progression is much quicker, owing to the lack of competition for roles. Lewis says that this in turn means there are greater opportunities to land more senior management roles. Robin Turner, director of HR consultancy First Friday, agrees. “The UK is saturated. It’s a really good way of moving up the ladder quickly and it’s good for when you come back to the UK,” he says.

With fierce competition for the few UK job opportunities going, anything that sets you apart from the crowd is welcome. Applicants who have proved their worth abroad could well be among the strongest candidates on the market.


“Working abroad is a really good idea and can only enhance a CV,” says First Friday director Robin Turner.

So what can international experience do for a CV?

  • Staff gain more experience because they perform a wider variety of roles

  • Career progression can be quicker because there is less competition, especially in emerging markets

  • Staff with international experience are in the minority
    and will therefore stand out in a pool of applicants when they return to the UK