For example, I consulted to a top financial officer at a second tier consumer brands company who was given the opportunity for his next role to move to China and run a manufacturing and distribution site as general manager. Originally he turned it down seeing it as a side-track to his quest to achieve top management status. After we discussed his career goals, he reconsidered this option as a way forward within his company.
Years ago the international assignment was a given for a rising management star or top performer. It was getting your “ticket punched” on the journey to the top echelons of the executive suite. A global career is far beyond those simple goals today as it is now a career path.
Being willing to work worldwide can ensure career survival, longevity, and resiliency as well as advancement. Here are five reasons why you should consider working outside of your native or naturalized country.
Everything is Global
This is not a cliché but a given. A little over ten years ago in Silicon Valley, venture capitalists were asking startups to write into their business plans a component for outsourcing parts of the business, preferably off-shore. This was a term-sheet requirement for A and B rounds of funding. What they were asking for then is now SOP (standard operating procedures) for all companies. Not just large corporations and startups, but all companies are seeking markets and manufacturing sources worldwide.
The major providers of specific products, services, and commodities are not located in one country anymore. Corn, once an indigenous crop from Latin America, is not being grown in Pakistan. Advances in genetically altered crops have enabled agri-business to expand production across climatic zones. In emerging markets, the ongoing quest for energy resources and raw materials has fueled economic growth in Africa and South America.
The value to manufacturing products closer to local markets is a driving necessity with the rising costs of fuel and transportation and shrinking margins on consumer goods. All of this adds up to all business being done beyond borders. It is exceeds the capacity of any country to generate all the executive expertise and niche talent for multinational corporations locally. And there is an advantage to companies to develop their management teams’ ability to work with a distributed employment pool.
Compensation packages for management are being localized without the ex-pat benefits that made relocating executives to other countries often unfeasibly expensive. With rising salaries in emerging market a leveling out of equity pay is making global work not just feasible but expected by companies.
The World is Homogenized
Language and culture used to be barriers to entry for an executive moving into emerging markets from the USA and even the EU. This is no longer the case as access to global media creates global trends in fashion, entertainment and sports, specifically football. If you are reading this article online, then Google Translator can do a reasonable job of translating into your native tongue.
The tools we use to communicate in business are online, ubiquitous and viral in nature. The adoption rate of social sites such as Facebook and Linkedin testify to that fact. There is no equivalent social site duplicating Linkedin in Australia or India because there is no need at this point.
Given the homogeneity of products across borders, expertise in manufacturing, marketing and sales is product-driven more than culture-driven, especially in fast moving consumer goods, pharmaceutical and personal care products, as well as food and beverages. Today a stroll down a street in Istanbul or Mexico City or Taiwan would show business people dressed in what is euphemistically called “western” garb.
Further, being bilingual or trilingual is very commonplace today with English commonly spoken by all business professionals. It is the USA that is now the oddity in the global business world by its generating mono-lingual professionals. That will be the challenge to the upcoming generation of US executives to compete with executives from other countries.
We are all becoming more alike in the business world in terms of communications and cultural style. Be it called modernity or globalism, the economic bonds that tie us into a whole also enable a worldwide workforce and career opportunities.
Growth Opportunities are not Local
The climb to the top is faster and easier in emerging markets. I have had clients who made fortunes at after the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of modern Russia. They took advantage of the economy and company-building opportunities by offering up their expertise in management, and deal making.
Glass ceilings due to gender and class hierarchies do not exist everywhere. Often a young, ambitious female executive will have more and better opportunities working outside of India where the so-called glass ceiling is higher. Companies held privately by wealthy families in many emerging markets limit the upward mobility and financial rewards of young non-family executives working in them.
Seeking work in multinational or global companies from the EU and USA often enables these young executives to rise farther than they would have otherwise in a country-based privately held company.
Countries in distress such as Spain, Portugal, and Greece are witnessing a quiet exit of executives seeking opportunities. These executives are looking towards South American and elsewhere in the EMEA depending on their country of origin and language fluency.
Going where the jobs are is now a cross-border proposition. Given the average executive tenure at a company continues to shrink in time to just a few years, working in geographic location is not a life sentence anymore.
A Backup Plan for Career Advancement
When a local market dries up for a product or service, an executive that has multi-country business experience can more easily return to other regions and start over even in a new sector or domain. They have a backup plan built-into their career by having had previous experience elsewhere.
In fact, any global experience is perceived as foundational, and it doesn’t have to be geographically specific but, more likely, domain specific. For example, textile, furniture, steel, and technology manufacturing have moved from the USA to Asia. Following the product off shore enables continued employment at the management level.
Hiring managers and search firms do seek a candidate whose has had prior experience in a sector but geographical experience is counted as well.
The Consulting Option
When an executive reaches a certain point in life, a desire to dial-back from the daily high pressure and demand of work provides incentive for them to seek more flexible options. Consulting allows them to stay active in their field while working independently and autonomously. Moreover, the successful senior executive moving into consulting also becomes highly desirable for board level positions.
The ability to consult globally certainly expands access to the marketplace as well as builds reputation locally that acts as a strategic business advantage. Thought leadership for a consultant is a given. Corporations want to hire an expert. Being perceived as a global expert enhances a consultant’s differentiation.
The above reasons are not hypothetical rather they are real scenarios from my clients’ experiences and the challenges they have faced. Their responses have been to go global, stay global and expand their horizons further.
For information on how I work with professionals and executives globally to advance their careers, go to my website.
When you schedule a free, no-obligation consult with me and mention the Careerzine, you will receive a complimentary copy of my new ebook, The Digital Resume.