The International Career Toolkit

“Everyone has oceans to fly, if they have the heart to do it. Is it reckless? Maybe. But what do dreams know of boundaries?” ~ Amelia Earhart

What follows is a hands-on toolkit that is based on the experiences of the WiSER, in combination with current research. This toolkit is designed to help you secure an international role. It’s worth noting that, if you’re currently employed in an international organization that offers expatriate opportunities, you will generally need to follow the organization’s internal processes and channels. While a portion of the toolkit is geared towards those who are seeking to find a global role on their own, most of it should be beneficial to anyone who is looking for an international job. Perhaps you’re in your late twenties, and you’ve always dreamed of living and working on the other side of the globe. On the other hand, you may be involved in an international assignment in, let’s say, Latin America, and you’re interested in joining an organization in Asia, a part of the world you’ve always wanted to explore. As St. Francis of Assisi once advised, “Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

Let’s begin by listing some common myths that exist around the topic of career management.

  • It’s easy.
  • A career coach can choose the best career for me.
  • I can’t make a living from something that I love to do (aka – a hobby).
  • I should only make a change to a “top career”.
  • Making a lot of money will make me happy.
  • Once I choose a career, I must stick with it.
  • If I change careers, it will be a waste of my skills.
  • Someone I know very well is happy in a particular career, so I will be too.
  • If I can just pick a career, the other things will fall into place.
  • I can’t really learn about a career, unless I am working in it.

Looking for an international job is difficult, a big decision, and fraught with unseen complexities. However, don’t let this stop you from going after one if it is what you desire. Just go about it methodically. Below are various tools to help you on your way.

1. Where to find international positions

Fish where there are fish. You can start looking at, for example:

  • international job sites
  • international recruitment agencies
  • multinational corporations
  • international non-governmental organizations
  • international non-profit organizations
  • diplomatic service
  • universities
  • AIESEC (a platform for youth leadership development, which ‘offers young people the opportunity to be global citizens, to change the world, and to get experience and skills that matter’)

More general steps include the following:

  • Travel abroad
  • Apply for international internships
  • Build international networks (conferences, professional associations)
  • Use existing support infrastructure (websites, guides. relocation agents etc)
  • Do intercultural training/coaching

WiSER, Kelli shared with us her perspective on the specific value of internships.  She indicated that she benefited tremendously from a six-month internship in the south of Russia, where she worked as a market researcher.  “That was a very unique experience because I was the only foreigner living in the whole city that accorded a million people,” she recalled.  “And, of course, as a very young woman, it was very interesting.”  She noted that her isolation from other expatriates led her to immerse herself in the country and its culture.  “It was great experience because I knew it was only six months, but it really gave me a taste of it,” she said.

2. Create your Global Brand

Have faith in yourself, your abilities, your skills, and competencies. Don’t be shy when it comes to marketing yourself. Raise your visibility with the appropriate decision-makers, and always go that extra mile in order to build strong relationships. Leverage your network to promote yourself among professionals that recognize your value, and don’t hesitate to leverage any skill, trait, hobby, or interest that demonstrates you’re internationally oriented and adventurous. In short, do everything you can to create your global brand, because sometimes the reasons for being selected have little to do with your professional life or achievements. “I was approached by a mentor who…was always sort of two levels away from me and said that they thought they had a great opportunity for me in China,” WiSER Carrie recalled. “When I asked why they considered me for the job, the gentlemen who had to come to present this offer said, ‘Well, you always took vacations in rather strange places.’”

By definition, personal branding is the process by which we market ourselves to others. As a brand, we can leverage the same strategies that make celebrities or corporate brands appealing to others, and we can build brand equity in a similar way. We can also have as much presence as most startups and mid-size companies and products. Social media tools have leveled the playing ground and have enabled us to reach incredible heights, with only the cost of your time. What follows is a high-level overview of the personal branding process, so that you can start to think about what face you want to show to the world and how you want to position yourself for success!  

Did you go through the exercises in chapter 6 about self-awareness? If you haven’t, this would be a great starting point. Creating your personal brand has to be built on your own awareness of who you are—your talents, skills, interests, values, and qualities.   

Fabulous you!

  • What are your core values ?
  • How would you describe your personality?
  • How do your peers describe you?
  • What talents or traits are you often praised for?
  • What do you specialize in?
  • Who is your target market?
  • If you’re working now, what are your boss/colleagues currently saying about you?
  • What do you want your target market to know and say about you in the future?

They want you!

Once you believe that you have some awareness of what you want to do and where you may want to do it, continue by answering the following set of questions.

  • Why do you want to work for that particular organization in that particular location?
  • Why are you interested in working abroad?
  • Why should an organization select you over another expatriate or local candidate
  • What do you offer that your competition does not?
  • What competencies (skills, abilities, knowledge) make you different or unique?
  • What value do you offer that others don’t?
  • What are, in your view, the most important changes that you will have to deal with, if accepted for the job?
  • What does it take to deal well with all these changes and do you have what it takes?
  • What is your “story”, how did you get to this place in your life?

You are a worldly woman

When you set out to tell your story, reflect on some of the following questions in order to “brand” yourself for a global role.

  • Do you closely follow international news and affairs?
  • Did you study any foreign languages in high school or at the university?
  • Which particular countries do you find yourself drawn to, and why?
  • Describe some of the places you’ve traveled, for business or pleasure?
  • What kinds of activities did you engage in while you were there?  
  • Have you worked with diverse teams in the context of work, volunteer activities, or education?   If so, describe the kinds of contrasts and commonalities you encountered. 
  • Have you changed companies or better yet, gone through a merger?  How did deal with varying company cultures, structures, procedures.
  • Do you have a multi-cultural network of colleagues, friends, neighbors at home?

Let the branding begin

Branding can seem abstract, that is, until we see it in action.  For example, think of a brand of jeans.  Studies show that when this request is made, most people think of Levis.  Now, think of a brand of soft drink.  Studies show that when this request is made, the majority of people think of Coca-Cola.  Why?  What is it about their brand that stays with us?  If you know yourself and your brand reflects it, you will have that “staying power” as well.  It will stay with you because it will convey a clear message about why you are unique, credible, qualified, interesting—and hopefully, it will leave your target audience with a positive feeling and a desire to speak with you further.

All of the “basics” should reflect your brand.  Do your résumé, cover letter, references, business card, email address, phone voice mail, phone access, instant messaging name, Skype photograph and name, and social media photographs and profiles reflect your personal brand?  

  • Brand yourself on your business card and consider sharing it through mobile technology, which is appealing to a global audience. Here are some links to popular mobile business card sites. mydropcard.com, rmbrme.com, BusinessCard2.com
  • Brand yourself via your resume—the most common representation of who you are and the most typical way of entering the door. Keep in mind that many employers have online recruiting systems that scan for key words and don’t appreciate any bells or whistles. However, also bear in mind that you may be leveraging social media not to submit an application, but in order to get in through the backdoor or to move up in an organization that you’re already with. In which case, you can add some bells and whistles. Perhaps you want to create a video résumé and post it on YouTube.  
  • You may consider developing a simple blog that reflects your brand and your experience and displays your credentials.
  • Develop a thirty-second infomercial—you’re between floors in an elevator with a person who is positioned to hire you. What would you tell him/her before he/she gets off, in thirty seconds or less?

The options are numerous, depending on how creative you are. Bear in mind that anything on the Web can be viewed by a large audience, so ensure that video and photographs reflect your personality in a professional manner. If you were to run into someone that saw your LinkedIn or Facebook photo and profile, would they know it was you? The power of social media cannot be underestimated. If Facebook was a country, it would be the third largest in the world! After creating your personal global brand, familiarize yourself with social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, and then leverage social networking to promote yourself and your brand.

  • 89 percent of organizations will recruit in social networks in 2012
  • 55 percent will spend more on social recruiting
  • 64 percent use two or more networks for recruiting
  • 78 percent expect increased competition for hires

(source: http://recruiting.jobvite.com/resources/social-recruiting-survey.php)

If you combine these statistics with the ease of access to organizations and positions across the globe, it becomes crystal clear that social networking should be combined with traditional networking to help you on your journey of securing an international role.

Increase the connections in your traditional network, and nurture the relationships you currently have to help you promote your brand.

3. Market yourself

So, now just sit back and wait, right?  The recruiters should be calling any minute.  Your YouTube video résumé has already gone viral.  If you’re like most of us, none of this will be true.  Indeed, it’s now time for the hard work.  “It’s not always easy to find assignments because, in the beginning, you assume that they are there and that somebody will find you,” WiSER Jolanda noted.  “But, in reality, that’s just not the way it works.  You’re better off actively looking for it, yourself.”  This is the stage at which you will begin to employ some of the tools mentioned above.  More than likely, you have already started to assemble this toolkit.  It’s now essential that you take control of your own career in order to maintain and enhance your employability.  Building a strong network to promote employability is a good practice, regardless of your level, your country, or how long you’ve been with an organization.

It’s a wrap!

Position yourself to be the chosen one.  An ambitious women pursuing an international career, you must fish where there are fish—and make sure you have the necessary skills and competencies to effectively promote yourself.

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From Worldly Women