International And Cross-Cultural Career Advice

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It’s easy to tell it’s the end of the school year because I’ve had several requests for international career guidance. As it happens, I recently attended my eldest daughters graduation from University and was lucky to be visiting her through the hiring process while she landed her first “real” job.

This reminds me of how starry-eyed life can be when you’re young and how this contrasts with the sometimes harsh world of international business.  But first let me answer the two latest requests for international career advice here.

Cross-Cultural Career

One reader asked me for advice on how to enter into a “cross-cultural career”. To me this seems like a bit of an odd question because cross-cultural skills are essentially strong people skills and can be used in many different careers. I don’t think there is really a “cross-cultural” industry which includes all “cross-cultural careers”.

As many of our country’s demographics change drastically in the next few decades it seems as if most of our working environments will become cross-cultural if they aren’t already so. And we’ll all need strong cross-cultural skills.

Cross-cultural professions therefore usually have dual competency: one traditional core business competency and a cross-cultural competency or what some people refer to as a “soft skill” or a “people skill”. So, cross-cultural coaches should have a core competency related to personal training. And cross-cultural marketers are marketers who apply cross-cultural competency to their trade for stronger marketing.

My advice is to focus on these two aspects in parallel. Learn a profession and build up your cross-cultural competency. This is how you’ll add on the cross-cultural dimension.

International Sales Career

Another reader asked for advice on how to start an international sales career. Well, it really does come down to… looking… and being a good fit to fill the job.

My advice is to jump in and work hard at it.

Start From The Bottom

And I think this leads to the biggest problem for those who want to immediately land a full blown cross-cultural or international career right out of school. There are no short cuts. You have to start wherever you can and this can mean:

  • Taking any job you can get with cross-cultural or international exposure to develop your skills
  • Picking up your bags and finding opportunities elsewhere

It may sound daunting when you are settled in a lifestyle you are familiar with, but you can only truly acquire cross-cultural and international skills by leaving your comfort zones. And for most people, it takes time. You can’t pick up these skills by reading a book or following someone else’s recipe for success.

Learn The Personal Skills

The work you need to do and the time it takes will depend on your own personal makeup and baggage. And it really takes work on a very personal level. You’ll be confronted with processing and digesting things about yourself you can’t begin to imagine because doing business with different cultures raises all sorts of personal questions.

It’s only after you’ve truly learned about yourself that you’ll begin to develop strong cross-cultural and international skills.

Give Yourself Time

Look for the opportunities around you to learn more about different people and get the most out of these opportunities as you can. You may need quite a bit of time to be able to see things from another culture’s perspective.  Everyone is different and we all have our personal baggage that gets in the way of understanding others.

It’s easy to recognize strong cross-cultural skills in others. And you’ll probably find other opportunities open up as you gain more and more cultural competency.

Manage your career in parallel to building your personal skills, and you’ll end up with your dream job before you know it.  Have faith that employers will recognize in you the personal qualities and skills they need to get a job done that requires cross-cultural and international skills.

Now it’s your turn…

  • What actions are you taking to develop your international career?
  • How do you think cross-cultural competency will help your profession?
  • What do you like most about your international career?

What do you think?  Please share your thoughts and comments below.

Photos from Shutterstock.

  Filed under: International Sales


Cindy King



  • http://www.jjude.biz Joseph Jude

    Personal Skills & Giving yourself time are needed in any job and at any level; but essential in a cross-cultural job. As you rightly say, most of our working environments will become cross-cultural. May be this should be in the school curriculum.

    Joseph

    • http://cindyking.biz/ Cindy King

      Hi Joseph! I hope we all have more real cross-cultural exposure/training early on in life.

  • http://twitter.com/donsimko Don Simkovich

    Attend international business conferences, too, and network with government agencies like the U.S. Commercial Services. Assist in putting on conferences. The India Trade Conference was recently held in the LA area.

    I like writing about international business and available resources http://hubpages.com/profile/Don+Simkovich

    • http://cindyking.biz/ Cindy King

      Great tips Don!