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February 28, 2008

Tips for Working Abroad

Marianna Macri
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During last Friday’s 2008 CWIB Conference, Andrea Bryan, managing director of Standard & Poor’s, Vera Chota, director of university recruiting for IBM, and Luanne Zurlo ’93, executive director of Worldfund, offered the following advice to those pursuing international business opportunities in a panel discussion titled “The Realities of Working Abroad.”

See the big picture.
Even if you haven’t been specifically trained to do so, it’s important to hone your macroeconomic skills. “Most businesses are very micro-oriented,” Zurlo said. “But it is crucial to have a solid grasp of trade theory and an understanding of loose currencies.”

In addition, Bryan said, teach yourself about politics. You don’t have to do this within a formal academic setting, but it’s important to learn the general history of the countries you’re visiting and how borders have changed.

Go with the flow.
Different time schedules and unpredictable work arrangements automatically force you to relinquish a degree of control, making the overseas work experience more stressful than usual. “The people I’ve seen who are the most successful are those who keep learning and who are flexible enough to use a different management style based on the situation,” Chota said.

Don’t lose touch with the domestic office.
“ Before going abroad, prepare for your return home, because things change significantly over time,” Bryan said. She emphasized the importance of keeping abreast of corporate developments so that reintegration can be seamless, especially if your job isn’t the same as when you left. Because jobs and company goals often change, you need to find out what new skills are required and adapt accordingly.

Don’t be afraid to act like an American.
If you are in a senior management position, you shouldn’t hide your American assertiveness. Many international businesses expect — and often even rely on — this to get the job done.

Looking to be sent abroad? Volunteering first may help.
With international work experience becoming increasingly instrumental in career advancement, it is also becoming harder to secure. Pursuing volunteer opportunities outside your job scope can demonstrate your enthusiasm and aptitude for an overseas assignment.

“Find ways to participate even while you’re here [in New York],” Zurlo said. “A lot of [international work] is self-initiated. You have to prove that you want it.”

Comments

by Emmanuel Franjul | February 28, 2008 at 10:51 AM

Excellent summary for those of us who did not have a chance to attend the conference. Thanks.

by Mark | March 03, 2008 at 11:25 PM

The comment on "Don't be afraid to act like an American" would backfire in quite a large number of countries. I think it was foolish of the speaker not to properly caveat her remarks .

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