Find the Plum Global Jobs

Having overseas experience used to be a way to stand out in the job market. No longer. A stellar panel of career experts reveal which positions really matter — and how to get them.
Rebecca McReynolds |  May 18, 2012
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In this final installment of our series on global career strategies, four experts who spoke at Columbia Business School’s recent Pan-Euro reunion in London divulge which global jobs will really stand out on a resume. The panel, assembled by the school’s Career Management Center, included Helen Bostock, director of Global Head Graduate and Embark Resourcing and Development, Barclays Wealth; Diane Morgan, associate dean, degree programs and career services, London Business School; Lena Triantogiannis, partner, Egon Zehnder International; and Anthony Vardy, managing director, United Kingdom, Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann.

How important is it to have international experience on your resume, and why?

Helen Bostock: I think it’s becoming more important. Employers are looking for people who are geographically and culturally mobile, and international experience demonstrates that you are culturally aware. That’s a big differentiator for us.

Lena Triantogiannis: Today, if you want to be a senior leader in an international company, you have to have it. If you look 20 years forward, as more companies expand globally, those people who have international experience will rise to the top.

Anthony Vardy: Of course, how important it is depends on the stage of your career and the job you want. There are still a lot of jobs out there where it is of relatively limited value, but for more senior positions in the most ambitious product and service companies, having a real understanding of what goes on around the world is more of a prerequisite than an advantage.

Are their any types of international positions and experiences that are particularly sought after by employers?

Bostock: Emerging markets experience is always important. I see the pendulum swinging in certain areas such as African strategy. Some locations in the developing world are hungry to have someone of the caliber we are talking about come into their business for even one or two years. There is great demand in Uzbekistan, but that’s not too high on an MBA’s list.

Vardy: Remember, though, there is a world of difference between people who have had an “international role” in their company, which just means traveling to a place for a day or so, and someone with real in-depth experience of living in a country for any given period of time. That’s how you come to grips with the culture and true nature of the overseas experience.

How can you put yourself in a position to receive a plum international assignment?

Vardy: Languages are always important because that shows real commitment. If there is an area in which you are particularly interested, take extensive visits to those places during your time off or on vacations. And as you get nearer to the opportunity, you need to make sure the company you work with (or want to work with) is very clear that you are geographically flexible.

What can you expect from that assignment, in terms of pay, perks, and length of stay?

Vardy: Some years ago, people felt that having two or three international assignments strung together was a way to get things paid for — schools for your kids, premium pay that you could save. I think those days have gone. Given that more and more people are traveling internationally, what we see now is that those types of packages are nowhere near as generous as they were before. You will get some help with your relocation expenses, but getting paid a premium for the longer term is no longer available.

How can you make the most out of that assignment?

Vardy: Throw yourself into the local culture. We see people in a new location who try to maintain their home lifestyle, sticking with their ex-pat community and sending their children to private international schools. To get the most out an assignment, get into the local culture, absorb it, mix with local community, and learn how it ticks. If you are with an American company and in China for two years, if you come back really understanding how that region works, you are more attractive than someone who just lived in the ex-pat community.

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