Are You Ready for a Global Career?

Originally published on the Huffington Post on Oct. 21, 2011.

With recorded unemployment at almost 10 percent — and unrecorded estimated at 20 percent — maybe looking for a job abroad is a good idea.

But HOW do you know if you’ll do ok? Living and working globally can be fabulous, fun, exciting and can fast-track your career. But it can also be lonely, frustrating, difficult and possibly the most challenging thing you’ll ever do.

95 percent 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. Be honest with yourself, take a few self-evaluations, and talk to people who both know you and understand global careers.

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 or real work pressure overseas. Maybe your study abroad experience was terrific — but also cocooned you against the toughest challenges of your host culture. No matter where you rate your own global mindset or how many of the five traits of successful globetrotters you have, before considering an international job search, 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 that I include in the very being of my recent book, GO GLOBAL! Launching an International Career Here or Abroad.
Begin by thinking about a time in your life — preferably recently — when you felt stretched or challenged. It could be an athletic competition, the first day on the job or campus, the presentation of your thesis or your first client meeting. 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 taking the quiz! 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.

If you’re considering a global career, know that it does not have to mean working or living abroad — but it does mean you need cross-cultural skills and a second or third language would be extremely beneficial. Find our more about it; work with your campus career counselor to best prepare you to Go Global!