Many people have written to me noting going global is a big risk, and they want to know: How do I know if I can do it? How can I determine if I’ll be successful working internationally before I pick up and move? To help you begin to answer that question, here is a thought exercise based on my research with thousands of successful internationalists.
It’s true that living and working in another country is not for everyone. 95% of the 200 professionals I surveyed prior to writing my first book, Get Ahead By Going Abroad, agreed that not everyone can successfully live and work abroad. Only you can tell whether or not you have the curiosity, openness and interest in the world to succeed in an international career. You may enjoy international experiences, but never have been tested in a global work environment. You may have travelled, but not had to cope with deadlines, organizational hierarchies or real work pressure overseas. Maybe your study abroad experience was terrific – but also cocooned you against the toughest challenges of your host culture. And there’s a big difference in the way local people view you: a resident working, or a student learning or a traveler exploring? And so it’s different and you must ask yourself: Is a global assignment right for me?
To help you begin to answer that question, here is a thought exercise based on my research on successful internationalists.
Begin by thinking about a time in your life – preferably recently – when you felt stretched or challenged. It could be the first day on the job or campus, the presentation of your thesis, your first client meeting or presentation to the boss. Remember the stresses and disappointments of that experience as well as its triumphs and rewards. Now imagine that event further complicated by language, cultural differences, exotic food or anything else that makes you nervous about international exchange. Take time to fully imagine yourself in that situation. How well would you have been able to deal with it? Be honest here; you’re fooling no one but yourself if you aren’t.
Now it’s time to rate yourself as honestly as you can, on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high) as to how much you agree with each of the following statements:
- I thrive on challenges – the more the better.
- I enjoy meeting and getting to know new people.
- I love new places, new foods, and new cultures.
- I can get along with many different personalities, including people others find difficult.
- I thrive on change, and am happy to be surrounded by it 24/7.
- I enjoy taking calculated risks.
- I don’t get bothered by things that seem different or strange.
- I don’t mind being alone.
- I go the extra mile – time and again – without being asked.
- I thrive when asked to go outside my comfort zone.
- I am curious about what makes the world go round.
- I am adaptable.
- I am a good listener and communicator.
- I like working in teams.
- I can handle failure and learn from it.
Add up your score. Give yourself five points for having read this blog (or bought my eBook Go Global!) That by itself shows a curiosity that can be built on. If your total “score” was 120 or above, you may have a bright global future ahead of you. But remember, the best cross-cultural workers never stop honing their global thinking skills. If you scored 90-119, you have the makings of a good internationalist, and a guide to areas where you need to brush up. If you scored 51-89, think seriously before you apply for international jobs, and consider how much you can evolve. If you scored 50 or below, you probably aren’t well suited for an international career at this time. If so, it’s better to know that BEFORE you invest too much time and effort in trying to build one. But keep in mind that people’s scores on these and other assessments tend to change over time, especially as your pathway through life becomes molded by real-life experience.