If you’ve ever considered changing careers you’ll know the feeling: a heady mix of excitement and trepidation as you weigh the risks against the opportunities. The notion of making it an international career change is easy to dismiss as one risk too many. What do you really get from crossing borders except more hassle?
All business is global
Well, for one thing you are making your career relevant to the current business climate. Very few companies today can ignore the global dimension of their business. The internet means that everyone is playing on the world stage, whether they meant to or not. The irony is that you can’t address the global dimension simply by sitting at home and surfing the net. It’s only by crossing borders yourself that you see how business culture and consumer behaviour vary from one country to the next. So if you want to be an international player, you need international experience. If this sounds like a Catch 22 situation, then think again. There are lots of ways you can prepare for an international career change, reducing the barriers in your own mind and increasing your chances of getting hired across borders.
Get yourself posted
First of all, look at the possibilities in your current situation. Does your company have offices abroad where you could spend a few weeks working on a particular project? Are there conference trips abroad that could be stretched to include visits to your organisation’s partners?
Grab these opportunities, because they are the first steps to your international career change. Not only do they give you direct experience of working abroad, but trips like this start to put the hurdles into perspective. Yes, things are done differently in foreign countries, but there are strategies for getting through them. And by meeting your colleagues and contacts abroad, you start to see how your own life might be in a new environment.
Build a network
A further advantage of going abroad is that you start to build a global network, contacts who can smooth the way to a future career move or give you a head start once you move. That might be through informal advice – a friendly person to bounce ideas off – or as a serious business contact. You can also work on this side of your career plan at home, so never let a chance to make an international contact pass you by. Take visitors out for coffee, show them the town and lay the foundations for a return trip.
Take a break for your career
Another way to prepare for an international career change is to take a break to live in another country. Even a few weeks following a summer school are worthwhile, but a few months or a year are even better. An obvious step is to take a language course abroad, either brushing up previous knowledge or starting something new. This will enhance your CV and address one of the hurdles that is probably in your mind when it comes to crossing borders: You can get a long way in international business with English, but for water cooler chat and life outside work it helps to know some of the local language.
Studying abroad can also be a great way to understand the nuances of the local business culture. Look out for the different ways business is done, and think how you would build a business in the same setting. Crossing borders is about broadening your mind, which in turn will broaden you career horizons.