Critical Component to International Careers: Building Relationships
A few weeks ago, I spoke at GWU, keynoting the 6th Women in Global Careers Roundtable event, sponsored by CIBER (Center for International Business Education and Research). I look forward to this event every year! Why? Because it wraps up everything I have come to love about my job: Working with a great team of professionals at the GWU School of Business, planning and executing an event designed by women for women interested in global careers; making a difference in the lives of women starting out in the careers; and bringing together a handful of fantastic, global women–Global Mentors–who always turn out to be the most interesting people I know.
Some of the Global Mentors have been friends or colleagues for decades. Others are relatively new to my global network. But for all, I get to know them a little better, they get to know each other, and new relationships have begun. We are walking the talk because relationships are a critical component to international careers.
Here are 5 reasons:
The more people you know, the more likely it is that one of them will be able to recommend you for or tell you about an international position. The vast majority of women I’ve interviewed landed their international because they raised their hands for assignments…sought out other people within the organization who could help them… and could count on colleagues to vouch for both their technical abilities and their soft skills.
#2 CROSS-CULTURAL SKILLS
When you work in a different country, within a different culture, perhaps through an interpreter or in your second language, a lot goes on that you will not understand—you may not even know it’s happening! Being the kind of professional who can build teams and relationships with all kinds of people remains one of the most important skills to have in any type of international career. You must be able to work well with others… inspire people to work with you… and ask for help when you need it.
#3 YOUR BRAND AND REPUTATION
People want a sense of who a person is in order to recommend them for a global role, a new business opportunity, an award, or a position in an office or site outside the US. Yes, it’s great if you’re that person who can crunch numbers quickly… make the trains run on time…or create an awesome tag line. But each of us is much our resume. We must build relationships to show our human side.
#4 GROWING THE BUSINESS
Getting to know your customers, clients, coworkers and other influencers and stakeholders will enhance your bottom line. It will increase the likelihood of contracts being renewed…your distribution channels expanding. Building relationships with your team members will help motivate them to get the work done well and on time—maybe even exceed expectations. Because people like to work with people. They like to know their consultant, supervisor or co-worker isn’t a jerk just out for themselves, but a person they wouldn’t mind having a coffee or beer with. Of all the countries I’ve worked in—more than 50—the US is the most transactional and the least relationship driven. This makes it harder for Americans to exceed beyond our borders. But if you are the type of person who is proven to develop relationships well, knows how to lead and work on teams, and is able to see the bigger picture beyond yourself and your assignment, you will be noticed.
#5 PERSONAL FULFILLMENT & FRIENDSHIPS
The global life can be exciting and thrilling, jetting around the world working in Paris one week and Hong Kong the next….except when it’s lonely, tiring and extremely stressful. When your bags are lost somewhere over the Atlantic and you can’t fall asleep in yet another strange hotel. Deepening relationships with clients and coworkers bring more joy into the time we spend working. Having global friends who understand what you’re going through will make a world of difference toward your creating much-needed balance in your global life.
You might also consider the global aspect of another type of relationship: Your life partner. It is very important to recognize that if you want a global career, your partner should share your passion, or at the very least support you if they don’t have global aspirations of their own. And that “global” means the same thing to both of you: If you’re thinking Singapore but they’re thinking Vancouver…you’ll run into problems.
While high GPAs and a long list of activities, assignments, jobs and internships will enhance your career prospects……and speaking another language or two, studying or interning abroad and developing a global mindset will move you closer to an international career……developing relationships with all kinds of people across all kinds of industries and fields will open up your mind and expand your network which will, in turn, make landing an international assignment that much more likely.