An International Career: The Biggest Adventure of Your Life?

Are you interested in an international career, perhaps like the one I have had, working abroad for such companies as Procter & Gamble, IBM, and Microsoft, and now as an international coach and consultant? If that is your dream, here are some tips, extracted from a workshop I recently held in Peru.

Let’s start with the basics. Following are the three most common types of international careers:

  1. Work in another country with local, regional, or global responsibilities.
  2. Work from your country with clients or responsibilities from another country.
  3. Perform work that requires constant trips abroad.

An international career is a life choice. To achieve this goal and be successful, consider the following five steps:

  1. Develop a plan to meet your international career goal:
    1. Set the goal within your long-term career aspirations, and ensure it is compatible with your personal goals.
    2. Develop an action plan and create a tracking system to monitor your progress.
    3. Be 100 percent accountable for your plan.
  2. Crystallize what you want in an international career. Are you looking for professional growth? Improved compensation? Or to learn about other cultures?
  3. Know how to position yourself as an international candidate:
    1. Find a job or occupation that allows you to work in a global labor market.
    2. Build an international network leveraging LinkedIn, targeting the geographies, industries, and companies you’re interested in.
  4. Develop a unique value proposition. Why should an international company hire you instead of a local candidate? Pinpoint the capabilities, experiences, and personal traits that will make you stand out.
  5. Become a “professional student,” and never stop learning. Here are some areas in which you can increase your knowledge:
    1. Research the courses, best practices, industry trends, and leading companies in your target field.
    2. Learn foreign languages and cultures, especially those related to your target countries.
    3. Study information technology in your target field, and make sure you are up to date with the latest in personal communication as well.

One half of my life has been spent in the international arena, and the trend is likely to continue. What has worked for me? Seeing the glass half-full and not half-empty, learning English as a second language, adapting to the countries I have lived in, being open to change, and, last but not least, ensuring my wife and three kids were happy wherever we went.

If I had to do it all over again, I would probably follow the same international path. It has been the biggest adventure in my life.

Percy M. Cannon
www.cannon.consulting

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