It’s Women Wednesday or WomenWOW: Q&A
In honor of National Women Wednesday (the first Wednesday after Thanksgiving), I’m sharing my story as a woman small business owner who is dedicated to helping women launch international careers. I launched my second career more than 12 years ago with the publication of the award-winning, Get Ahead By Going Abroad: A Woman’s Guide to Fast-track Career Success (HarperCollins 2007), with subsequent editions in paperback, e-book, audio and translated into several languages. It’s been a wild ride since then so I decided to start culling through all the content that I wrote since then and I have found some really good stuff! So every now and then I plan to release some of it, updated as appropriate. This blog shares the Q&A from an interview I did with “Great Authors”.
Q: One of the basic motifs in your book is fast tracking a career by going abroad. Can you explain to our members how that works?
A: Working in a foreign market can accelerate a career because it broadens professional capabilities and stimulates personal growth. First, going global creates differentiation because you are often given enhanced, challenging or simply different responsibilities and sooner, which leads to greater recognition by supervisors in country and leadership back home, which generally translates into increased pay and faster promotions. Second, going abroad offers many opportunities not always available in your home market, including access to high-level business contacts and ability to take on line and management responsibility earlier in a career, especially if working in a smaller and/or developing market. Conversely, if moving to a more advanced market, sophisticated projects, cutting-edge technical know-how and soaking up knowledge while working on world-class teams create a highly desirable resume. Third, the personal growth that takes place while working and living in a foreign environment equals the professional: Immersing oneself in a new culture, learning new skills, unlearning old ones and delivering results on the job boost self-confidence and usually translate into enhanced leadership and management skills earned earlier in a career. One more important point: It takes work to make the most of an international job, and so it’s critical that professionals assume this responsibility going in to make the most of it ongoing–the focus of half of the book.
Q: Your book is aimed at women. Is this a way through the Glass Ceiling, for women? Why?
A: In our research with more than 200 professional women with international experience, 83 percent agreed their time abroad was key to their rapid advancement, and 53 percent agreed going global is a way to break through the glass ceiling. The reasons cited above work for both men and women, but the real differentiator–and a big “a-ha!” for us–was learning the reason behind significant success in cross-cultural situations is a women’s innate feminine style. Her skills such as adaptability, flexibility, communications ability, the way in which she build relationships and teams, and her patience and persistence–or grace under pressure – are critical to ongoing success in cross-cultural situations. Women have, on average, a 94 percent success rate in international assignments.
Q: How can entry level professionals plan an international career, while keeping an eye on the fast track opportunities?
A: Going global works well at any level, it depends on what’s right for the professional–and what she makes of it. For example, going global right out of college provides an exciting first job and gets an international career off to a fast start. But since technical skills and know-how are minimal, we recommend staying only 3-4 years unless working for a large multinational in its HQs. Going abroad as a junior executive with a few years experience allows one to build on a budding skill set, as well as provide a network to serve as a link back home once abroad. A mentor ranks top of the list for both of these junior professionals.
Q: Is the international option a good possible career reviver for people who are stuck on the shelf in their present positions?
A: Yes. For those who want to jump-start a stalled career, work on more exciting projects and/or simply want to break from the competitive pack, going global could be the ticket needed to catapult levels past peers. For professionals in middle management, with 7-10 years of experience, we’ve seen the most dramatic strides. Just when they’re ready for more, opportunities are limited at home, and so going abroad to enhanced opportunities and greater responsibilities creates an environment for fast-learning and fast-tracking. In addition, for those going through layoffs and redundancies, searching for jobs–or requesting a transfer to a booming market–could be a great way to not only keep a job with a growing company, but add tremendous value to a resume.
Q: How do people learn to find their way around the global job market?
A: It’s a new space, and so we devoted two chapters to this topic in our book, Get Ahead By Going Abroad. The most important aspects are first, determining if it’s right for you; second, devising a strategy to land the assignment; and three, network with internationalists.
Q: Does the international approach mean much job hopping, or can you work things according to your preferences?
A: If “job hopping” is defined as switching employers, no, many professionals can successful work for one company, in one industry in many countries around the world. However, the jobs are usually different simply by definition of being operated in a different country. Difference is good and through it growth takes place. The vast majority of people we interviewed agree that these new skills create opportunities, which sometimes leads to career changes.
Q: When applying for international jobs, what sort of research is involved, and what should people make sure they know? The right research will prove critical to landing the best international assignment for you. The questions people should ask themselves as they begin include Why do I want an international assignment–is my objective money, career advancement, travel? What market offers me best opportunities? If I work for a multinational company, where can I put my skills to use? Where do they need someone like me? What is it about my background that makes me the best candidate for a specific opportunity? Next, professionals should do research on countries of interest and learn about culture, language, economies, religion–the answers that would help one know if that culture is right or not.
Q: What should be avoided? Are there any big Don’ts in an international career?
A: To be successful in the international marketplace, you have to know yourself. Going global takes a certain amount of risk and tremendous level of comfort operating outside one’s comfort zone. Trust your instincts: If you have serious reservations, for instance, about the job, the country, the culture–don’t go.
Q: The international CV is an often-argued point in the employment market. Some employers get a bit confused looking at what is to them a foreign CV. What’s the best way to manage CV style, and tailor it for an employer?
A: It all depends on your target and so it’s best to start with a global framework–one that contains all information pertinent yet strongly reflects your global experience. Then do your research about the various styles acceptable in the country you’re targeting and tailor for multiple CVs. Use your international network to help you determine best approach to company and country.
Q: What’s the most dramatic success you’ve seen in the fast track overseas career field?
A: The thousands of women who have catapulted their way to the top across industries, nationalities and countries. These women have then turned this success into maximum gain as defined by them–that’s success. For some, it’s the c-suite and continued executive management. For others, it’s early retirement, resting on their laurels at an early age (most in mid-40s to early 50s). Still there are others who have turned this success into a new career or an entrepreneurial adventure by doing something completely different. This is what I have done and I owe my second career as successful writer, speaker and consultant to my international experience.