- Understand how to prepare for a career in international business.
No matter where your career takes you, you won’t be able to avoid the reality and reach of international business. We’re all involved in it. Some readers may want to venture more seriously into this exciting arena. The career opportunities are exciting and challenging, but taking the best advantage of them requires some early planning. Here are some hints.
Plan Your Undergraduate Education
Many colleges and universities offer strong majors in international business, and this course of study can be good preparation for a global career. In planning your education, remember the following:
- Develop real expertise in one of the basic areas of business. Most companies will hire you as much for your skill and knowledge in accounting, finance, information systems, marketing, or management as for your background in the study of international business. Take courses in both areas.
- Develop your knowledge of international politics, economics, and culture. Take liberal arts courses that focus on parts of the world that especially interest you. Courses in history, government, and the social sciences offer a wealth of knowledge about other nations and cultures that’s relevant to success in international business.
- Develop foreign-language skills. If you studied a language in high school, keep up with it. Improve your reading or conversational skills. Or start a new language in college. Recall that your competition in the global marketplace is not just other Americans, but also individuals from countries, such as Belgium, where everyone’s fluent in at least two (and usually three) languages. Lack of foreign-language skills often proves to be a disadvantage for many Americans in international business.
Get Some Direct Experience
Take advantage of study-abroad opportunities, whether offered on your campus or by another college. There are literally hundreds of such opportunities, and your interest in international business will be received much more seriously if you’ve spent some time abroad. (As a bonus, you’ll probably find it an enjoyable, horizon-expanding experience, as well.)
Interact with People from Other Cultures
Finally, whenever you can, learn about the habits and traits of other cultures, and practice interacting with the people to whom they belong. Go to the trouble to meet international students on your campus and get to know them. Learn about their cultures and values, and tell them about yours. You may initially be uncomfortable or confused in such intercultural exchanges, but you’ll find them great learning experiences. By picking up on the details, you’ll avoid embarrassing mistakes later and even earn the approval of acquaintances from abroad.
Whether you’re committed to a career in global business, curious about the international scene, or simply a consumer of worldwide products and services, you can’t avoid the effects of globalization. Granted, the experience can be frustrating, maybe even troubling at times. More often, however, it’s likely to be stimulating and full of opportunities.
To prepare for a global career, you might want to consider doing some of the following while a student:
- Major in international business.
- Develop your knowledge of international politics, economics, and culture.
- Study a foreign language.
- Take advantage of study-abroad opportunities.
- Interact with fellow students from other cultures.
If you had an opportunity to spend a summer working as an intern in a foreign country, which country would you select? Why? In what ways would the internship be valuable to your future career in business? How would you prepare for the internship?