4 ways to fast track your career with international experience

by Oct 2, 20143Plus, Career



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Fast track your career with international experience

International experience can fast-track your career. Key factors driving demand for professionals with global business experience include the accelerated pace of globalization, combined with the need for global minded leaders.

[Tweet “International know-how is becoming a career imperative for tomorrow’s executives. “]

Many multinational businesses now require high-potential employees to gain international experience before being considered for leadership positions. In a recent Robert Half survey, nearly one-in-five U.S. executives surveyed for the Global Financial Employment Monitor cited an understanding of international markets as one of the most sought-after attributes for financial executives. As per Mercer, international experience is no longer a nice to have but increasingly a must have. In addition to long-term assignments and expatriation, there is a trend toward short-term assignments, which means that more employees may have the option of gaining international experience without a permanent relocation. Global organizations and in many cases, their clients, want diversity of thought, perspective and leadership values to drive results, and there is no better way to acquire this ‘global mindedness’ than through working in various geographic regions.

How international experience can fast-track your career

The benefits of international experience start straight after graduation. A recently released report of the European Commission indicates that students who have studied abroad, are more likely to find a job and have 23% less risk of being unemployed, compared to students who do not have this experience. It also found that employers will give employees with international experience more professional responsibilities. The Center for Creative Leadership has found global assignments to be the most powerful development tool there is, and international experience has been shown to shave off time from traditional career tracks in profit, non-profit and government sectors. Specializing in the field of global women’s talent development, we have come across women who experienced the benefits of an international assignment early in their career. As one of them, Andrea, explained: “If I had remained in my native Brazil, I would have needed to work at many different companies to accumulate the variety of experiences that I gained through one international assignment.” If you know how to position this experience well, working abroad can help you gain faster promotions or improve your ability to find a new role with your current employer or with another company. Effectively positioning your international experience can fast track your career.


How to get on the fast track

If the fast track is for you, here are 4 ways to secure such a position.

[Tweet ” 1. Fish where there are fish”]

One of the easiest paths to finding an international resume is to work for an international organization. For example, NGO’s are well-known for offering international opportunities, as are companies in the transportation & logistics business, education or consulting services. Such organizations most likely have worldwide offices and mechanisms in place to support both international work and benefit from individuals with such experience. It is key to express your interest clearly, in different mediums (e.g. personal development plans, performance reviews, succession planning forms). Build a global network, in and outside your organization, and inform your contacts about your desire to work abroad.

[Tweet ” 2. Create your Global Brand”]

Have faith in yourself, your abilities, your skills, and competencies. Don’t be shy when it comes to marketing yourself. Raise your visibility with the appropriate decision-makers, and always go that extra mile in order to build strong relationships. Leverage your network to promote yourself among professionals that recognize your value, and don’t hesitate to leverage any skill, trait, hobby, or interest that demonstrates you are internationally oriented and adventurous. In short, do everything you can to create your global brand, because sometimes the reasons for being selected have little to do with your professional life or achievements. Another women we worked with, Carrie, shared: “I was approached by a mentor who…was always sort of two levels away from me and said that they thought they had a great opportunity for me in China. When I asked why they considered me for the job, the gentlemen who had to come to present this offer said, ‘Well, you always took vacations in rather strange places.’”

[Tweet ” 3. Self-initiate your move”]

If you intend to find a job in another country on your own, the self-initiated expatriation, it is important to understand what requirements are associated with that job. Are you expected to absorb relocation costs, transportation costs, etc.? Who takes care of visas, insurance, and possibly cross-cultural and language training? Such research will allow you to prepare adequately to accept a role when available.

Fiona, knows all about the merit of thorough preparation. She gave up everything to follow her dream to live and work abroad. She sold her house, quit her job and moved to Australia. “I thought that would be an easy place to…get this kickstart again,” she recalled. Upon her arrival, however, she discovered there were certain formalities she had overlooked.  “When I got there, the very kind officials at Sydney airport told me that I couldn’t just arrive in a country and decide that I was going to live there,” she explained.  “I actually had to immigrate, and I had not bothered to actually think that through. They said I could stay on a visitor’s visa, but I couldn’t work—and of course, at this time, I had given up my career in Canada.”  As luck had it, she found a job, through a friend, in Papua New Guinea and she has worked abroad for many years after that. So if you are self-initiating your move, do your homework and research visa, travel and career information in the country that interests you. There are also numerous websites such as HSBC, Robert Half, and our own, Leveragehr.com, that offer different tips and tools.

[Tweet “4. Team up with specialized recruiters”]

It is always good to have a fundamental understanding of what job markets can support and how they evolve. One of the easiest way to do this and at the same time keeping abreast of international roles is to build and maintain a relationship with a specialized recruiter. They often have knowledge of both permanent and interim assignments and can help you with their vast network of employers that operate internationally. Even if you’re not currently looking for a new position, being in their database keeps you in the loop for international opportunities that might interest you.

Global mind-set

International experience can fast track your career. It is the ultimate way to cultivate the highly coveted ‘global mindset’. If moving your career ahead more quickly sounds interesting to you, there are multiple ways to gain international work experience, e.g. by studying abroad, taking an international internship, or seeking a self-initiated or organizational induced foreign assignment. If you have such experience, positioning it effectively will give you a competitive advantage.



Caroline Kersten Contributor
Caroline Kersten is a founding partner of Leverage HR, where they specialize in transitioning talented women to the top and help organizations build diverse leadership teams.
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