Sharpen Your International IQ

Posted by Michelle Boyde on June 19, 2011
Sharpen Your International IQ

Working and living abroad sounds glamorous and exciting. But securing an international position takes hard work and some crafty job hunting. And the transition is only as smooth as you make it. Check out some of our tips to get your international IQ into shape.

Don't Wait Too Late
Start to develop international skills before you graduate through study and work abroad programs, international internships, and foreign language classes. Even socializing with foreign students is a legitimate method. "The biggest mistake students make is they leave it too late to start preparing for international work," says Jean-Marc Hachey, author of The BIG Guide to Living and Working Overseas. "International employers want evidence of international understanding."

It's Who You Know, Not What You Know

"Do you know anyone who lives abroad?" asks Scott Boyd, of "This can be a major advantage when making contacts, finding accommodations, and looking for work." Securing work abroad is harder than on your home turf-use your worldly contacts to the fullest.

Identify a Skills Deficit
One clever way to uncover opportunities abroad is to research where your skills are in high demand. "Look into the skills gaps in various destinations," says Boyd. "Then see if your particular skills can fit into those gaps." Also, many countries are more likely to offer work visas if you can show your skills are in scarce supply.

Build International Credentials

There are lots of portable skills that will show employers you can hack it on foreign land: patience, intellect, cross-cultural communication, cross-cultural adaption, and stress coping are just some. But Hachey says that one skill stands out: "Enjoys change." It shows your ready for anything.

Internationalize Your Resume

Make it available in all languages relevant to your target location. Also, don't expect that your education and qualifications mean anything to somebody from another country. Many countries offer a service to evaluate your qualifications and provide a local equivalent. This makes it easier for employers to compare you to local candidates.

Start Local

Don't think that you should just pick a destination like you're going on vacation-and then start looking for companies. Hachey suggests that you should go through companies and organizations in your home country and see what their international opportunities are. Once you've established yourself, you can ask to be transferred. This is how many professionals working abroad got there.

Travel Sickness

If you do move abroad to work, it's good to know the symptoms of culture shock. "Understand the phases from tourist high to culture shock to adaptation and participation," says Hachey. This is why the experience of living abroad through student exchange programs or summer work is important. Familiarize yourself with how culture shock feels before you dive right in. Hachey also warns: "When you return, that's when you experience 're-entry shock'."

Decide What 'International' Means To You

Having an international career does not always entail moving abroad: "Think about what kind of international work you want," says Hachey. "Some positions are posted abroad, some are based at home but deal only with international colleagues and clients, some positions rotate abroad." Relocating to another country offers many experiences, but simply working with an international crowd can broaden your horizons.

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