While in the U.K., I made some interesting observations with the help of the brilliant Lieven Lambrecht, a European HR veteran at First Data Corporation:
European workers are jealous of American workers because the U.S. has so many more job opportunities, and they are attainable if people have the right skills and interview well. What may appear to be a dead-end job can actually lead somewhere. American workers don’t have to fork over half their income in taxes, and employers actually care about developing their people.
European HR professionals are jealous of American HR professionals because we have to deal with so much less legal red tape, and our jobs are more scalable. Recruiting someone from Texas to work in New York is nowhere near the headache of recruiting someone from Hungary to work in Sweden. American HR professionals can afford to specialize because companies are so large that the HR function is as well.
I compare these sentiments with how we Americans feel about work conditions and the HR function in Europe. American workers bemoan the state of the U.S. job market and think moving overseas would make things a heck of a lot easier. We envy the opportunities Europeans have to travel and experience different cultures during their work lives. We love the fact that they can actually have personal lives because they aren’t working 70 hours a week. Their benefits are such that they don’t have to worry about going broke from healthcare costs and are guaranteed a safety net at retirement age.
On the HR side of things, American professionals think that it’s far simpler for European companies to recruit and retain diverse talent – a problem that sticks in the craw of most U.S. and global organizations. And they are jealous of the sexiness of the jobs European companies can provide to restless Millennials who want to go everywhere and see everything before they’re 30.
All of this makes me think, once again, that human beings aren’t very good at appreciating what we have. It’s in our nature to believe that our neighbor has it better than us – whether “it” is geographic location, career, or way of life. For example, even as my friends threatened to move to Europe during the U.S. political upheaval of the early 2000s, Europeans still emigrated to the U.S. in large numbers.
The truth is, there are advantages and disadvantages to being anywhere. If you want to be satisfied in your job and in your life, you have to accept the pros with the cons and move on. Remember that as long as your basic physical needs are met and you have someone to love and something to do, your existence will be pretty pleasant. And, as those of us who have moved around a fair amount will tell you, you take yourself with you. You can change your job or change your country, but you will always have your attitude, so make sure that it’s a positive and appreciative one.