Do You Have the “Right Stuff” for a Global Career? (If so, you are in demand.)
Jet set. Work in interesting, maybe even exotic, places around the world. Learn about different cultures. Speak another language. Do any of these sound attractive to you? If you’ve ever wanted to live and work in another country, you are not alone. Analyzing data from Universum Communications survey over 100,000 college graduates globally, my colleagues and I found that “having an international career” is one of this generation’s top professional goals and part of the dream career for many of us.
While the supply-side of people who want international careers is high, the demand-side is even greater. When over 1,000 CEOs in more than 50 countries were polled in PriceWaterhouseCoopers’s 10th Annual Global CEO Survey, “managing diverse cultures” was one of the top concerns they cited for the future. Companies need effective professionals – at all levels -- who can be successful in many cultures around the world. Are you one of them?
Beyond the needs for a passport, plane ticket, and paying job there are other necessary attributes of those whose careers will take them across national borders. From my own research and the research of my colleagues, we know that those who are successful tend to have certain personality characteristics, those relatively fixed aspects of our dispositions that predispose us to behave in certain ways. Our personalities, in other words, are part of how we are hard-wired as humans.
Are you hard-wired for a successful global career? While there are many personal characteristics shared among those with successful global careers, let’s consider the three most important -- emotional stability, openness, and sociability.
- Emotional Stability – If you’ve ever traveled to a foreign country and lost your luggage or your way, you know that being in another country exacerbates the problem. There is natural stress associated with living and working in an ambiguous and unfamiliar environment. Those with greater emotional stability (usually combined with humility and a healthy ability to laugh at oneself) are those most readily able to become comfortable and effective in another culture.
- Openness - Great global professionals possess intuitive perceptual acuity to accurately perceive and interpret behaviors across multiple countries. Individuals with greater openness are likely to engage in new settings with strong level of curiosity and a willingness to assess what is required to adapt to new and novel situations, will have fewer rigid views of right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate, etc. and are more likely to be accepting of diverse cultures. These successful global professional posses few (if any) negative predisposing attitudes that may impair their ability to develop relationships with people from different countries.
- Sociability - The jet setting image may over-exaggerate the cocktail lifestyle of those who work internationally but there will certainly be more demands on your social skills (even if they do not all occur on yachts in the Mediterranean). Working internationally has a social component (e.g., working with colleagues from other countries, supervising employees who are of different nationalities). Extroverts or those who are naturally sociable have a greater ease around others, are more comfortable with social demands, and may be more willing to put forth the effort necessary to interact effectively with people from different countries. It helps to like people – and want to be around them.
If you truly aspire to have a global career, seek it out. Be honest with yourself regarding whether you are hard-wired to work in another country. Opportunities abound and a great experience working internationally can have a positive influence on your life forever.
Where in the world would you like to live and work?