How to Launch an International Career

Consider trying to learn a foreign language.

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Heather R. Huhman
The workplace has changed dramatically in the past five years or so. New technology has resulted in increased transparency, a multitude of new startups, and amplified globalization of organizations.

“Employers understand that globalization is here to stay,” says Stacie Nevadomski Berdan, author of Go Global! Launching an International Career Here or Abroad. “They want and need globally-minded employees and executives. In our ever-shrinking world, global experience will continue to move from ‘nice’ to ‘must-have’ as a driver for career success."

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In fact, according to a recent survey from the National Association for Study Abroad (NASA), in which a broad cross-section of Americans were polled:

•    57 percent said international education is essential to the educational experience.

•    65 percent agreed that if young people do not learn foreign languages, they will be at a competitive disadvantage in their careers.

•    73 percent believe that higher education institutions must do a better job of teaching students about the world if they are to be prepared to compete in the global economy.

“The ability to work globally and cross-culturally may make the difference between a satisfying career of progressive success, and an ongoing struggle,” says Berdan. And this trend doesn’t only affect business students, but almost all students looking for an entry-level job, she says.

“Budding scientists may end up in a new research lab just hatched in India,” says Berdan. “Communications majors might do social media strategy for consumer products in China. Educators may receive grants to research foreign language development in European children. The possibilities are endless.”

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So how can you prepare for this trend as a job seeker? Berdan suggests doing the following:

Build your international qualifications

The U.S. has fallen behind in foreign language training compared to other countries, and many students earn degrees with no foreign language training. In order to stand out among other job candidates, make choices to educate yourself in global affairs by studying foreign languages, spending time abroad, and delving into global coursework. You can also consider joining language clubs, enlisting private tutoring, using language-learning software, and participating in immersion programs.

Develop a winning job-search toolkit

You need to have a skills-based resume, great cover letter, and clear, concise elevator pitch. Don’t simply tweak your existing job search materials for international positions—you must package your personal and professional skills and showcase your cross-cultural competence in order to define your global brand.

Additionally, she provides the following top tips for dealing with a global world:

•    Learn to think globally and cross-culturally.

•    Acquire international/multicultural experience in college, if not before. 

•    Master at least one foreign language, starting as early as you can.

•    Cultivate listening skills and other personal traits that enhance cross-cultural interaction.

•    Do your research, and never stop learning.

•    Network. Network. Network.

•    Find good mentors, and learn when to listen to them, and when to break away.

•    Monitor global business trends, especially in your chosen field.

•    Minimize school debt to allow for greater flexibility upon graduation.

•    Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks.

•    Know that global jobs sometimes begin on home turf.

•    Be prepared for the ups and downs of going global. 

•    Emphasize your international skills to the same degree that you do your experience. 

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“’Go west, young man’ was popular advice for young adults 150 years ago as America’s west offered land, minerals and burgeoning trade,” she said. “’Go global’ is today’s best advice for the current generation of talented and ambitious opportunity seekers.”

How has the globalization of the workplace affected your career and/or job search?

Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing consultancy for organizations with products that target job seekers and employers. She is also the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle.