Working Overseas? Why Not!


Working outside of Indonesia seems to be intimidating to many Indonesians. Some even criticize the choice to work abroad, arguing that one should contribute to their own country from within. However, Indonesia Mengglobal Columnist Steffen Hadi is questioning that notion. Here, he shares his experience working as a lawyer focusing on Indonesia in Singapore and Japan.


There is an old Indonesian proverb, “belajarlah sampai ke negeri Cina” (study until you reach China). But there is no proverb about where we should work, isn’t it?

I believe that we could use our talent anywhere in the world. I believe that studying overseas is great, but to have the opportunity to work at different corners of the world is something else entirely . Here, I would like to encourage people to move a bit from their comfort zone, look around, and start seeking for a new challenge, in this case, working overseas.

What I did

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to work overseas in a few occasions. The first was in Singapore, then secondly in Tokyo. I was lucky because in my profession as a lawyer, people rarely get the opportunity to work overseas due to the limitation on the practice jurisdiction. Generally, lawyers in country A would not be able to practice in country B. A very rare exception applies to foreign lawyers who are needed to work out of their jurisdiction to provide assistance for their clients who are investing in their country.

I was lucky enough to get such exception. As an Indonesian lawyer, I worked in Singapore and Tokyo a to assist Singaporean and Japanese investors before executing their plan to invest in Indonesia.

Why overseas?

A friend poked me with a question before. He asked, if by working in Indonesia he could get as much as what he would get overseas, be near with his family, and contribute to his country, why would he want to work overseas? It was a good question indeed. To which, I could only reply “to expand your perspective”.

Oftentimes, perspective is truly essential in one’s life. By having multiple perspectives, people can see in different angles and act wisely. As you expand your perspective, you would be humbled by the overwhelming fact that you are just one little dot in this global society. At a personal level, this would improve your sense of humility, tolerance, and empathy.

Working overseas does not mean that you would not be able to contribute to your country. You could contribute at a different level, namely experience. There are so much to learn if you work overseas, especially in a more developed country. Such learning outcome would unconsciously be internalized into your skill and behavior, and once you return to your home country, you could share that skill and behavior to inspire others.

How then?

Interested? Great! To get the opportunity to work overseas is a tricky game. For some people it is easy, for others extremely difficult. In my case, such two occasions working overseas were unexpected treats. I did not ask for them. Generally, it was just that the firm needed me to go to Tokyo and Singapore and serve the clients there.

English skill is undoubtedly essential if you want to work overseas, but having the skill required by the specific industry is also important. Let say that you are an architect, then you just need to look for a country that has a great demand for architects, say Singapore. However, having a skill with few demands overseas should not stop you to look for it. Some people changed the course of their career drastically and succeeded overseas.

What I got

In short, it has been a series of unforgettable experiences. I never fail to enjoy my experiences working overseas. Meeting new friends, learning new culture, astonished by local wonders, those really expand my perspective, transforming me into a more mature person.

So guys, get out from your comfort zone, start looking for a brand new experience and enjoy it!

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Steffen Hadi studied LL.M. in University of Pennsylvania Law School and Wharton Business and Law Certificate of the Wharton School at the same university. He was the Class President of Penn Law LL.M. Class 2016, Penn Law Students Representative in University of Pennsylvania’s council, and international associate editor in Penn Law Journal of International Law. Steffen also interned at a prominent international law firm in Philadelphia. Aside from LL.M. Steffen also holds a Sarjana Hukum (LL.B. equivalent) from Parahyangan Catholic University. Steffen has been practicing law as a corporate lawyer in Jakarta and Singapore. Presently, he is a senior associate in a prominent law firm in Indonesia and independently assisting few legal issues for start-ups. In his spare time, Steffen is a movie freak, loyal runner, and outdoor trekker.


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