Get Ahead by Going Abroad

You probably already know - more companies want to succeed in the increasingly global marketplace. Companies that previously talked about being close to customers worldwide are gearing up to make that commitment real, while those companies with extensive international operations are expanding them. They are searching the world for the best resources at the best prices and selling to consumers around the world. Knowledge and understanding of foreign cultures, regulations, economies, client preferences and work habits are now critical to corporate survival.

Why is this important to you? Because the nature and pace of competition are also changing. Businesses compete at every level in markets around the world. As the global business environment becomes more competitive, companies recognize they can best compete if they have a diverse leadership team with a rich mix of skills, perspectives, and experiences. Multinational companies benefit from a global workforce.

In fact, there’s been a sharp rise in the number of U.S. companies actively seeking Americans with international skills. There aren’t enough professionals with such experience, and so these companies are sending more employees overseas—up 69 percent according to a Society for Human Resource Management study completed last year. Conversely, with the current U.S. dollar devaluation now is a prime time for non-Americans to land that coveted assignment in a U.S. company’s headquarters. As long as visa issues can be overcome—and it can be quite difficult these days—working in the United States is akin to gold on your resume back home.

While companies benefit from international expansion, they are also wise to the benefits for employees. Rightfully, most companies view international assignments as a means by which a professional can grow and advance her career. Huge financial packages are no longer necessary to lure the best candidates, and companies offer fewer expatriate perks than in the past. In fact, due to the cost of transfers, many companies are now sending employees abroad for three- to six-month stints instead of the three-year transfer.

So where are companies sending employees these days? Top destinations include Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The first six continue to be the hottest growing markets in the developing world. Although there is tremendous excitement and entrepreneurial opportunity associated with getting in on the ground floor of booming economies, there is also hardship associated with it. Regulations, business acumen and fully trained staff, to name a few, are not as sophisticated as you might find elsewhere. The United States and UK continue to serve as the training ground for cutting-edge skills and techniques but the experience can be quite daunting and competitive for someone coming from a smaller market. But these two markets always look good on a resume, no matter where you call home.

All of this is good news, especially for women. Getting ahead by going abroad is a trend that will continue and is filled with variety, opportunity, and fun. Companies need professionals with international experience. The best way to get it: Work abroad and make the most of your time professionally and personally.

If you've had an international assignment, how did it affect your career? I'd love to hear your input!

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