Q&A: Is Working Overseas the Answer?
Q: I was born, bred and educated in the Midwest. Since graduation three years ago, I have been working as a program director at a local not for profit. My particular program has been quite successful. However, the organization is in jeopardy because of the loss of a major grant. Recently, there has been downsizing, and there have been many budget adjustments. We are all fearful our jobs may be on the line.
A friend tells me I need to think about being employed oversees because the demand for professionals in other markets has been growing. But, frankly, I have not had much exposure to other cultures, I only speak English, and I have never lived abroad. What is your advice? How strongly should I consider my friend’s advice?
A: There are any number of sources to confirm the expansion of overseas markets and their increased hiring. The Economist, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have chronicled the economic upturn in certain parts of South East Asia. Parts of Africa, Latin America and Europe are also experiencing new demands for junior, mid-level and senior professionals with a range of technology, management and resource generation skills. It is clear certain markets overseas are expanding and hiring.
With regard to your ability to speak another language, English has been the language of business for quite some time, and multinational organizations often conduct their core work in English. So, in some markets, you may not need to acquire other languages.
You may, however, need to build your cultural competence. That is, you may have to explore how to embrace cultural and other forms of diversity in the workplace. There are a number of ways to do this. For instance, you may want to explore multicultural organizations in your region. Some of them will offer programs and events of interest to you. You may also want to enroll in courses dealing with different aspects of cultural tolerance. The National Multicultural Institute offers many programs tailored for career-minded leaders and aspiring leaders. Other organizations also offer programs, workshops and seminars, live and online, to address the issues you are likely to confront.
Keep an open mind as you explore your options, and be confident that your prior experiences will give you the resilience to take on new challenges in an increasingly multicultural world. ExecSearches offers tailored coaching along these lines.